Saturday, February 25, 2012

Prepping Panels



About four times a year, I spend a few days preparing panels for oil painting, maybe 40 or so at a time.   I have enough tables and other flat surfaces for the prep, but once the last coat of gesso is laid on, I like to move them out of the way so I can embark on other projects.  Although after a day acrylic gesso may feel dry, it really takes several more days for it to fully harden.  If you don't let it cure long enough before stacking, the acrylic will stick.  When you separate the boards, some may be blemished.

One way around this, I've heard, is to interleave waxed paper.   But here's a system I've come up with.  It doesn't require drying racks and doesn't take up table space.  I find a little corner somewhere in the house where I can stand up the boards.  You might start building a house of cards in the same way.  Below is a photo of the arrangement.  That's my usual batch of about 40 boards.  You can see how this arrangement saves space.  It may not work, though, if you have a dog, cat or small children.  It is, after all, a house of cards.  Still, you can make a surprisingly sturdy construction.




Someone asked me how I make my boards.  I wrote on article for The Artist's Magazine on this very topic (December 2011) issue.  But here's my favorite recipe.  I start with hardboard ("Masonite"), and if it's the tempered variety, I rub it down with alcohol first to remove surface oil.  Next, I brush on a thin layer of Gamblin PVA.  For most of the boards, I follow this with two thin layers of Golden Acrylic Gesso, randomly applied with a trim brush, the kind you use for painting houses.  I also put a coat on the reverse side to even out warping.  Finally, I sand just lightly at the end, as I like a bit of surface texture.  This makes a semi-absorbent surface that works for me.  I always save a few boards, though, to treat differently.  After the PVA size, I apply a coat or two of either Golden Heavy Gel or Golden Matte Medium.  These dry clear, allowing the hardboard's natural golden tone to shine through.

6 comments:

Helen Opie said...

I've switched to Maranti (Luan in the US) panels for several reasons: they are more dimensionally stable in damp climates, they weigh a lot less, and they are easier to cut with a utility knife, although usually I have the mill cut them to the sizes I want. If I paint larger than 12x16, I cradle them, but do so after I've made the painting to save weight in the field and to stay on my easel better. After the painting is fully dry, I glue strips around the perimeter, weight them (with recycled plastic jugs filled with water or sand), and then add cross strips as needed so there is never an area larer than 12 x 16" uncradled.

opie said...

What an ingenious setup! I've put a few supporting each other as you illustrate, but never thought I could build outward "forever". Thanks so much for making my next panel-prepping session so much easier. I have a collection of tables liberated from roadside trash that I set up for this purpose on the concrete slab outside my basement, my outdoors studio in season. I string a tarp over the slab for shade and light rain shelter.

Michael Chesley Johnson said...

Thanks for your contribution, Helen!

Shahzad12394 said...

Nice post! www.seattlepaintingexperts.com

Danielawashere said...

In the photo of your studio, the painting that is fifth from the right, at the top, looks a lot like the Blue Mountains ('3 Sister's they call the 3 peaks), silly question but have you been there and is this painting of that location?

Michael Chesley Johnson said...

Hi Daniel - No, all the paintings are Arizona scenes (Grand Canyon, Sedona), except for one from Zion National Park in the top left. I do hope to get to Australia some day!