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All Things Ampersand

Featured Gallery Artist: Bryan Sylvester

Bryan Sylvester
Earth Echoes, 24″ x 18″, acrylic on Gessobord

Bryan Sylvester specializes in spiritual, contemplative art, focusing on Mandalas.  The Vermont based artist is also a Reiki practitioner.  You can find more of his work at his website www.briansylvesterart.com

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.

Acrylic Painting on Claybord by Rock Newcomb

A few years ago, I discovered the advantages of painting on Claybord™. Paintings on Claybord, as they move from my studio to galleries all over the world, are not affected by the humidity and temperature changes that cause the contraction you experience with canvas. The luminosity of the clay surface along with the sgraffito techniques I use make my paintings come alive.

Step 1: Sketching and Laying in Patterns and Washes
Since Claybord is forgiving, I can draw and rework pencil drawings right on the surface.  After sketching, I used a mixture of Burnt Umber and Mars Black to lay in the bold dark patterns on the pots. Claybord is very absorbent so your paint will dry quickly. Using subtle washes, I then concentrated on the shaded areas on the prehistoric Indian ceramics. This began to develop form in space. Make sure you use a matte medium when diluting your acrylics with water to preserve the integrity of your paint.
One of the great advantages of Claybord is the layering of color you can achieve. Using warm earth tones (sepia, burnt umber, raw umber, transparent red iron oxide and cadmium orange), I established the ground and the background. To further develop the form of each object I used many layers of very diluted sepia and raw umber washes, which warm the objects.

Step 2: Creating Texture and Detail
One of the advantages of Claybord is that the thick clay surface allows me to incise right into my paintings. I carved, sanded, and erased through the acrylic paints with sgraffito methods to cause the ceramics to look very, very old. I use razors, scratch knives, or just about anything to work the clay surface of the board. I then painted in areas with sepia, and highlighted them again by scratching back to the white of the board or to a lighter layer of color underneath. Using these sgraffito methods you would swear there were pits and holes in the ceramics. After I finished carving into the surface, I went over all the painted patterns on the ceramics where they are in direct light and applied a 50/50 wash of titanium white to reemphasize the light. Then, I cut in highlights to define the worn spots 

Step 3: Creating other Textures
Both the Claybord’s surface and rigidity provide me an opportunity to experiment with different materials, often using mixed media at virtually any stage of the painting. For example, I wanted the petroglyphs to appear as they had been pecked into the stone background. I sketched the images of four quail and a vortex and then brushed art masking fluid onto these drawings using a small stiff brush in a pointillist style (small dots) allowing some of the under painting to show through. I then painted over the dry masking fluid with a wash of sepia and red iron oxide and then peeled off the masking fluid, which revealed a somewhat darker background with a lighter image of the quail and the vortex. Then, I darkened the ground with sepia and red iron oxide, which gave it the appearance of the texture of stone, and added diagonal stripes of what appears to be mortar.

FinishingOne of the exciting aspects of finishing a piece on Claybord is the ease of framing without glass. To protect and finish off the piece, I airbrush two to three coats of Golden’s UVLS polymer varnish (70% gloss, 30% matte, 100% water). Strain the mixture through a paper towel (doubled) each time before using. Now my collectors can enjoy the luminous quality of my work without glass!
Rock Newcomb 
Ampersand Art Supply 

Click here to explore the full selection of Ampersand panels and tools.

Featured Artist: Lori Wolf Grillias

Andy’s Story

I have tried your other boards, but hands down, I find Claybord to be the most sensual surface I have ever painted on!!  The smell, the silky surface and the way, no matter how I lay those watercolors down, there are always unexpected surprises that arise.  I feed off of being in the moment, responding to the mediums and the physicality of the materials.  Other boards just don’t provide the variety that Claybord offers me.”  ~Lori Wolf Grillias

Class Management

California artist, Lori Wolf Grillias, is both a full time teacher and a full time artist, working her own art and magic primarily when she has teaching breaks.  Lori works full time in 4 elementary schools plus at the Children’s Creative Project and at the San Luis Obispo Museum of Art.   When she isn’t teaching, Lori works on Claybord, in mixed media.


Lori’s inspiration is the world around her, the physical surroundings, the people, history, dreams and thoughts.  Lori’s work is a reflective journal of her world that she carves out of what otherwise might be seen as an abstract piece.  She explains, “When I start a piece, and I usually work on 4-5 at a time, I use watercolors, wet on wet.  After several layers, I use acrylic and scrape it away, rather than using a brush.  For me, this technique gives me a much more irregular surface.  When the painting feels like it has been formed by natural forces, rather than made by the artist’s hand, I know I have reached the next step.  I use Caran ‘dache water-soluble wax pastels to draw into the piece, bringing figures, machines and structures into the forefront.  Once the narrative between all the figures ‘make sense’,  I go back to acrylic and define even further.  The materials are a HUGE part of this art adventure.”

Eagle Rising

Lori met Catherine Eaton at the young age of 12.  It was then that she knew she was an artist herself, meeting such a talented artist and wonderful person.  Lori shares, “She took the time to help me understand acrylic paint, how to use the tools the right way and dream big!”  Lori’s formal studies in college only heightened her passion, where she had encouraging professors and learned to find her own voice.  It is no wonder that Lori loves what she does as both an artist and instructor, having good teachers in her path.  

Lori will be showing at the Architectural Foundation in Santa Barbara in 2015, and 
this summer, Lori will be teaching a class on the versatility of Claybord at the San Luis Obispo Museum of Art; you can find more of those details on their website.

To see more of Lori’s work and resume, refer to her website: loriwolfgrillias.com/home.

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.

White Own

Ampersand Faces: Karyn Meyer-Berthel


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.

Porcelain Blue

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.

Sealing and Varnishing Art Work on Ampersand Panels

Sealing and varnishing finished artwork on Ampersand panels is extremely important especially when framing without glass. Be sure to select a varnish that is appropriate to the type of paint you are using. Provided below are a few basic suggestions for sealing and varnishing several popular mediums using products we have successfully tried and tested on our panels.

Watercolors & Gouache

Seal watercolors or gouache with several light coats of spray varnish (or fixative), being careful to spray outdoors during warmer months or in a well ventilated and heated area during colder times of the year. We recommend the Krylon® UV Archival varnishes.These spray varnishes offer advanced non-yellowing protection against fading, dirt, moisture and discoloration. The Krylon® UV Archival varnishes contain superior levels of UV light absorbers and are removable for conservation purposes. For additional protection against scratches during transport and also ultraviolet light, follow the application of Krylon® spray varnish with Golden® MSA UVLS or Golden® Polymer UVLS varnish. About 4 coats brushed-on, provides a very durable archival finish and is also removable for conservation purposes.


Ampersand panels do not lessen the drying time required for oil paints before varnishing. Allow the oil painting to dry for 3-6 months before applying the varnish. A good choice is Gamblin’s Gamvar that is easily applied using a soft natural hair brush. Unlike varnishes made from natural resins like Damar and mastic, Gamvar does not yellow with age or become more difficult to remove. It contains a UV stabilizer and offers some measure of protection to less lightfast pigments, depending on how heavily it is applied. For tips on application, Gamblin offers this video demonstration.


For Acrylic paintings, a light coat of an acrylic varnish like Golden® MSA UVLS or Golden® Polymer UVLS varnish is advised. Problems such as smoke damage, handling blemishes and dust or dirt accumulation on the surface of the painting can be removed along with either varnish type. Golden® varnishes offer protection from UltraViolet (UV) rays generated from the sun and consolidate the artwork with an even sheen. Gloss varnishes can intensify colors while Matte or Satin Varnishes soften the color and minimize glare. Alternatively, Gamblin’s Gamvar [see varnishing oils] can effectively be used to varnish acrylic paintings.  

This is a Golden video on the Proper Spray Application of MSA varnish

Sealing pastels with spray fixative tends to dull the color of the pigments, so we recommend all pastels be framed under glass. The glass protects the fragile nature of the pastels while also keeping their colors true to life. For tips on matting and framing pastels, consult this article.
Sealing Scratchbord™ (formerly Claybord Black)

Seal finished Scratchbord™ art with a spray fixative like Krylon® UV Resistant Clear Coating  or use the Krylon® UV Archival Spray Varnish. The fixative [or spray varnish] will dissolve fingerprints or smudges and will protect the surface from dirt and moisture. For best results, first remove all loose dust and debris from the surface with a soft brush. Then, spray with 2 – 3 coats [as directed on can] in a warm, well ventilated environment during low humidity.