Monday, March 21, 2016

Review: Multimedia Artboard

Arroyo 8x10 pastel by Michael Chesley Johnson
Pastels Girault on Multimedia Artboard Pastel Panel
Detail of above
You can see the texture of the pastel panel

Every once in awhile, a maker of art materials asks me to review a product.  For me, this is very enjoyable because I get to try something new and learn a little.  Recently, I had the opportunity to try a few new products from Multimedia Artboard.

Multimedia Artboard (MA) has been around for 30 years.  This board is very thin (1/32"), rigid and archival, and can be used "as-is" for oil and other liquid media.  For pastel and colored pencil, it comes in either of two grades of grit (#320 or #500) in a ground that is silkscreened on.  People love this board because it is pure white, which is great for glazing techniques, and it doesn't buckle with wetting and can be painted on both sides.

But one of the complaints I've heard about the unmounted board is that it is somewhat brittle and prone to chipping if dropped.  However, the new products solve this problem.  You can now get the MA dry-mounted to a 1/8" Sintra backing.  Sintra is a thin, lightweight but very hardy substrate made of extruded PVC.  It's much sturdier than foamboard and completely eliminates the chipping problem.  It's also a lot lighter than hardboard panels.

Another product is the Ultra-Light Artists Panel.  Oil-primed Claessen's Belgian linen, which is available in a variety of grades and priming levels, is dry-mounted to MA.  Besides being a traditional surface to paint on, the linen also reinforces the MA and, again, prevents chipping.  Or, you can get it dry-mounted to Sintra, which makes for a slightly thicker but more stiff board.  The linen/MA package is also available with no substrate but just a self-adhesive backing.  This lets you mount it easily to any surface you choose—hardboard, plywood, birch or even Dibond.

For my tests, I used the pastel version, mounted to Sintra; the plain (oil/liquid media) version, also mounted to Sintra (the "Ultra-Light Artists Panel") ; the linen/MA package, again, mounted so Sintra; and the adhesive-backed linen/MA package.

After using the pastel surface, I initially found it isn't quite "toothy" enough for my technique.  I tend to use harder pastels (Girault), and that's why.  A softer pastel, I find, holds just fine.  I first toned the surface selectively with the pastel, rubbing it in with a paper towel; I followed this with little strokes of these and then softer pastels to finish the painting.  I did spray on a little workable fixative after my first layers of Girault to hold the pastel better; I didn't, however, use any after adding the softer pastels.  In the detail image, you can see the initial toning plus the succeeding layers, and this will give you an idea of the tooth.  This was the coarser board (#320),

Toward Chicken Point 8x10 oil by Michael Chesley Johnson
On Multimedia Artboard mounted to Sintra

Detail of above

I next tried the Sintra-mounted MA with oil.  The MA is very absorbent, and if this doesn't suit you, the manufacturer recommends applying a coat of clear gesso first to cut the absorbency.  Rather than do this, though, I diluted a little paint with odorless mineral spirits and toned the surface first, in effect "priming" it so the next layer of paint went on effortlessly.  I like the rough texture of the board, especially when using a painting knife; it gives an "active" look to the paint that I find very pleasing.  I toned the panel first with yellow, and in the detail image you can see the rough edges created with the knife against this tone.

Early Spring on Oak Creek 8x10 oil by Michael Chesley Johnson
Painted on Ultra-Light Artists Panel (on Sintra)

Detail of above

Below the Rim 8x10 oil by Michael Chesley Johnson
Painted on Ultra-Light Artists Panel (on Sintra)

Detail of above

I then tried the Claessen's linen on Sintra.  I enjoyed painting against this rigid, lightweight subtrate.  The linen performed as one would expect from Claessen's—that is, perfectly.   In the detail shot, you can see the weave and how it grabs the paint.  I'm not sure what grade of linen this was, but I liked it.

The linen/MA package with the adhesive-backing is just like the one mounted to Sintra, except that you can mount in on anything.  I had a little trouble peeling off the silicone backing—it is a very thin sheet—but once I got it started with a knife point, it separated nicely.  You have to take care, though, that you are actually separating the silicone sheet and not separating the different layers of the Artboard.  Start at one corner, gently, and then it'll become obvious to you how it works.

MA is also now available in several different colors in both the pastel and oil/liquid media versions.   I have not tried these yet, but when I do, I will post an update.  But for now, you can see the full list here:

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