I first came upon Ampersand panels at a NAMTA conference several years ago. I was impressed by the high quality craftsmanship, the professional look and the range in sizes and finishes. This was just when Pastelbord™ had first come out, and Elaine Salazar gave me a sample to test. I hoarded it for the longest time, knowing it was too beautiful to use. But after attempting to create my own panels for a number of years, I found that Ampersand could do a better job at an affordable price for my needs. I’m never shy about selling a work on these panels, because I know they will last. I work in acrylics, the love affair I’ve had with them goes way back to junior high when I took a painting class during the summer. I find the medium easy to use and clean up and incredibly versatile. I know that there is so much more to explore in acrylics and I haven’t even scratched the surface. Since I work primarily with layers and layers of acrylic paint, and more layers of high gloss mediums and varnishes, I needed a support that would hold up to the weight of the paint. Some of my earlier large works were on canvas, but they began to sag and warp. It was an easy transition to panel for the security of having proper support and an archival surface. However, I’ve always liked the feel of working on canvas, even if the texture is covered up with layers of medium. So, I started working with Hardbord first, to test out how to apply fabric to the panel and work from there.
Sometimes, I will apply a completed painting to Hardbord™ and at other times, I will apply a fresh piece of canvas directly to the Hardbord to work. With either process, I coat the Hardbord in a few layers of Soft Gel Gloss or Varathane Polyurethane. I coat the entire panel, equally on all sides and edges, giving it plenty of time to dry. Then, I use Soft Gel Gloss to adhere the fabric to the panel, or the painting to the panel. If I am adhering just the fabric, I’ll coat the top with a mix of water and gel to pull the fabric to the surface, pushing it on with a soft cloth or hardware store brush. Turning the panel face down, I place weight (usually books) on the back to press the fabric evenly on the surface. Once the piece is thoroughly dry, I trim the edges with a sharp razor blade to show the unfinished cradle and then I finish as desired. Often I will apply a heavy coat of MSA varnish to the pieces once they are trimmed.
Once I started using Ampersand panels, I didn’t look back. I haven’t yet tried all of the surfaces, especially the newer surfaces that came out this year. However, I am thrilled with what each surface brings to my studio and art practice. I am continually working to develop my style and push myself, and these panels offer more and more ideas with each type of medium. I regularly use the Hardbord and Gessobord™ right now, but I’ve recently stepped into the Aquabord and Encausticbord, testing out more watercolor and mixed media. And who knows what the new year will bring? Thanks for reading my story. If you want to see more of my work, check out my website.
All things Ampersand, Karyn Meyer-Berthel Artist & Social Media Specialist Ampersand Art Supply Click here to explore the full selection of Ampersand panels and tools.
Princeton Brush has innovation and customer service at the top of the list. They are continually reaching to improve tools that artists can use, hence the Catalyst tools came along.
“The Catalyst design team realized a need for both tools and brushes that worked especially well with heavy paint. We wanted to give artists tools that answered this problem in a durable, yet elegant, way,” explains Virgina Cofer, Catalyst Production Manager. The Catalyst tools do just that. They are a FDA approved silicone shaped and molded in 6 different tips, sequential sizes and wedges in each. Since they are heat resistent up to 450 degrees, they work very well with encaustic and won’t scratch hot palettes. And, since they are silicone, they work quite well with acrylic, allowing the artist to leave the paint to dry on the tip before peeling off and tossing. No need to wash.
Since many of the Ampersand panels work beautifully with innovative techniques, mixed media and heavy bodied paints, these tools are a perfect choice. Encausticbord especially is structured for mixed media application and hot wax, so the blades and wedges can move easily on their surface. And since panels hold the weight of gels and mediums unlike canvas or paper, Catalyst tools can be used to pile on the paint. The pairing of Ampersand panels and Catalyst tools is a perfect match.
Even though the tools were designed to be used with any type of heavy medium in mind, they can be used with anything — even cooking and cake decorating if you’re so inclined. To see some innovative techniques with the unusual tools, peek at the Catalyst YouTube channel.
Janice Mason Steeves
To see the Catalyst blades and wedges in person, you can purchase via Dick Blick, Utrecht, Cheap Joes and Sax Art Supplies as well as many local art supply stores. You can also learn more about each shape from the Princeton Brush website.
Ampersand’s Warmest, Andrea Pramuk Marketing Director Ampersand Art Supply Click here to explore the full selection of Ampersand panels and tools.
Mixed Media Landscape, Trees with Collage 12086, Gessobord with 2″ cradle
Oil on Gessobord
“I have had a hard time settling on one medium and feel like a dilettante at times, taking up one medium and then wanting to learn to work in another. At age 76, I really don’t have the time to settle down to one medium when there are so many avenues to explore.” ~Nancy Johnson Standlee
Nancy Johnson Standlee grew up in a creative family that made do on little money and lots of ingenuity. Her parents passed down the gift of “make it yourself” when she was very young. “One of the earliest memories of my father was me complaining that my doll was bald. My daddy took the scissors to the family collie and got some snips of hair and glued them with regular old school glue which resulted in a good lesson to me in creativity,” she explains. Nancy’s interest in making things prompted many forays into collage, crafts, workshops and art classes. She has done batik, decoupage, gouache, acrylic, watercolor, oil and loads of mixed media. Retirement has allowed more time for the devotion to fine art including travel for workshops (several from Robert Burridge), memberships in several painting societies, and maintaining her online gallery in Daily Paintworks.
Tulip Collage, 12081 10×8″ on Gessobord 1″ deep cradle with collaged sides
Bold color, figures of red-haired women, and abstract movement are the staples of Nancy’s work. She is inspired by the many workshops she’s attended, other artist friends and colleagues, art books (as an ex. librarian) and the ongoing trial and error of new materials. Nancy’s thoughts on using good art materials means that her brown linoleum kitchen floor might be patched with duct tape, but her artwork, made with the best products available, tends to be more thought out and planned. Quality art materials lends to better art making.
Nancy came upon Ampersand panels during a workshop at the Bunkhouse in Texas. Dena Wenmohs, the owner of Bunkhouse, who also loves using Ampersand panels, took the group on a tour of the factory in Austin to share her enthusiasm. Nancy found that the prepared surfaces were easier to delve into, with no need to get into a woodshop or prime wood panels. Long ago, Nancy discovered the difficulty of trying to frame her own MDF boards without proper tools and know-how. The cradled Ampersand panels were the perfect fit for her limitations and desires. They were already stable, sealed and primed, and could be ready to hang in minutes without framing. Nancy leans towards the Gessobord™ as it work easily for her acrylic, oil paints, or mixed media collage.
Ampersand really does provide a surface for every style of painting and medium out there. With the variety of surfaces, it can be tough to choose which surface is right for you, especially if the medium is so versatile, like acrylic. Let’s take a look at the properties of both and what works best with this medium.
Acrylics, or acrylic dispersion paint, is relatively new to the art world, coming into its own as the paint it is today in the early 60’s. Acrylic paint is pigment that has been dispersed, or evenly homogenized and stabilized in an acrylic binder, which differs depending on the brand of paint you use.
Unlike any other painting medium, many raw materials may be added to provide a variety of working properties. Brilliant color and quick drying time are commonly known attributes of acrylic paints. A variety of additives can control the thicknesses, density, hardness, flexibility and gloss levels of the paint. As such, acrylics are a versatile medium, able to adhere to almost anything, work quickly as a watercolor wash or go on super heavy like alla prima oil paint. They can work as washes under colored pencil, pastel, graphite, charcoal or ink. And, they can handle specialized additives like marble dust, granite or pumice. Acrylics can also be printed on via an inkjet printer or they can be used to embed an image from a printer. Acrylics can be used to seal a watercolor painting, seal a raw panel, prime a raw canvas or “be the canvas” themselves. Acrylics are so versatile that it seems they would work on any Ampersand panel. And, while that is true, here are some thoughts about using acrylic on specific Ampersand boards.
Gessobord™, our #1 recommendation, was designed with acrylics in mind for both thin washes and thick strokes of paint. To make Gessobord, we use a professional quality acrylic gesso that is sanded to a finely textured and slightly absorbent finish. Gessobord works well with gel mediums, scraping tools, palette knives and heavy layering. And now, it comes in a 1 1/2″ profile that fits into standard gallery and floater frames or that can be painted or stained to finish.
Claybord™ excels with thinned acrylic watercolor techniques because it’s highly absorbent, vellum-smooth and extremely forgiving with changes and clean-up. Like Gessobord, it’s also now available in the 1 1/2” cradle.
With more fluid and thinned acrylic paints, only Claybord™ allows for additive and subtractive art techniques. Easily remove color or add lines and texture with the Ampersand scratch tools and oil-free steel wool adding dimension and clarity to your image.
Since Claybord™ is so absorbent, when trying to preserve color, always thin down your acrylics with the appropriate medium, like a matte acrylic medium, for example, rather than with water.
Aquabord™ is more textured and absorbent than Claybord and allows for a more even build-up of paint layers and stacked brush strokes similar to using a cold press paper. Since it’s designed for use with watercolor, it’s also amazing with acrylic wash techniques and mixed media.
Pastelbord™ is also a viable option because it offers a longer open working time with acrylics due to its clay, gesso and marble dust finish that is not only finely textured, but also absorbent. This unique ground allows seamless flows and washes better than on any of our other surfaces.
Pastelbord™ comes in three great colors and white already, but can be easily toned with an acrylic color wash for your own choice of under-painting color.
Encausticbord™, originally designed for the unique demands of encaustic painting, is also an ideal choice for those looking to use acrylics alone or with mixed media and collage. The surface is sanded smoother than the Gessobord and is also a bit more absorbent. Encausticbord functions well for all types of acrylic paint applications. We don’t recommend using acrylics with encaustic paint, however, because the wax will not permanently bond with it.
For Scratchbord™ art, acrylics can be thinned down and used to color the white scratched-in areas. Our Scratchbord is coated with jet black india ink, but reveals the white underneath when scratches are made — it’s a smooth white clay surface that accepts all types of watermedia.
All of the Museum Series Ampersand surface coatings I just mentioned are pH neutral, acid-free and archival.
For more information on specific panels with acrylic paint, check out the articles below:
Pastelbord™: A uniquely coated museum quality panel suitable for pastels, coated with a fine marble dust finish comparable to sanded paper except more durable and more versatile.
Since pastels are a fragile medium, they need a gritty surface to grab, especially when building in layers. Pastelbord can be used wet or dry with soft, hard, or oil pastels using traditional pastel techniques or even with acrylics. As with all museum series panels, the surface is pH neutral, non-yellowing and archival.
Try painting on Pastelbord with acrylics. Acrylic paint is known for drying quickly; however, Pastelbord’s open surface allows for the paint to dry slower, allows for lifting of the paint during working time.
Pastelbord’s ground options create a natural middle ground color for painting, so that the tone can easily be highlighted or darkened for dramatic work.
Pastelbord’s clay surface absorbs the pigmented washes well, consider mixing water with the acrylics to get a full rich color wash.
Transparent pigments work well to show the layers of color and still allow for absorption into the ground.
Drybrush works well on the rough surface of Pastelbord to show deep layers of color.
Since Pastelbord is now 40% off at retailers around the country, it is a good time to make a purchase. To find a retailer near you: Pastelbord on Sale.