My artwork often involves combining several techniques and materials. Ampersand Claybord is great for this kind of work because of its versatility. The strong, rigid panel can take the pressure of an image transfer process without bending or tearing. Its smooth surface allows for a clean transfer and collage materials make a perfectly flush connection. The fact that Claybord is an archival surface is an added bonus.
Image Transfer and Collage: A Demonstration by Dana Brown using Claybord™
My artwork often involves combining several techniques and materials. Ampersand Claybord™ is great for this kind of work because it is so versatile. The strong, rigid panel can take the pressure of a transfer process without bending or tearing. Its smooth surface allows for a clean transfer and collage materials make a perfectly flush connection. I also really like that Claybord is an archival surface and that the panel is well sealed and primed.
For this demo, I combined a color copy transfer with collage. I began by selecting an image for the transfer. I chose a family photograph in digital format. I resized it and reversed the image left-to-right on my computer with image software. I flipped the image because in the transferring process, it will print in reverse. Once the image was ready, I printed it out on a color copier. Alternatively, you can resize and reverse a printed photograph by using a color copier directly.
Positioning the image
Next, I prepared the 9″x12″ Claybord with 3/4″ cradle for the transfer. I used a 3″ foam brush to apply Daniel Smith’s World’s Best White Acrylic Gesso to the surface. This layer should be evenly applied so that it adheres well to the color copy and doesn’t dry too quickly. Daniel Smith’s gesso works great for this step because it is already the perfect viscosity right out of the can.
Apply pressure before flipping over
To make sure I positioned the image correctly, I set the color copy face-up on the table and lay the gessoed Claybord face-down onto the image. Then, I applied pressure to the back and flipped the panel over.
Burnish the image with a rubber brayer
The next step is to burnish the image to the panel. The purpose of this step is to make sure that the gesso adheres properly to the ink from the copy. You can smooth the back of the image copy with your hands. While this works, it can result in a inconsistent and irregular transfer. Likewise, too much pressure can either tear the paper or squeeze too much gesso out from under the paper causing faint areas or areas with no transfer at all. The method that I find works best is to use a rubber brayer, rolling from the middle out to the sides using medium pressure. This pushes out any air bubbles and achieves a flat, even bond. Make sure to go over the entire image thoroughly with the brayer or it can result in an uneven or poor transfer. For a good bond, it is very important to make sure there is enough gesso on the Claybord, especially on the surrounding and outer edges of the panel.
Rubbing the paper off gently
Once the gesso is dry, begin removing the paper from the surface, so that the ink from the copy is left intact in the gesso layer. This is done by dissolving the paper with water. Slowly remove the paper by dipping your fingers into the water and gently rubbing it off the surface. This part of the process generally takes 2-3 passes to remove all of the paper lint. The first pass allows you to remove most of the paper as well as the excess paper hanging over the sides. Be extra careful with the edges of the image so that you do not peel or rub the ink away too. This is the most fragile area of the transfer. For best results, start rubbing from the center of the panel outward and in one direction only or the edges of the image might peel up. Do not be afraid to re-wet the area if the paper is not rubbing away. After the first pass, I allow a few minutes for the surface to dry slightly. This makes it easier to see where the paper lint is still on the image. These areas will look “faded” or “dull”. When finished, the transfer surface will feel consistent and smooth.
There are many different uses for image transfers. Because the surface is Claybord, you can paint, collage, print on, or even scratch into the transfer with Ampersand Scratchbord™ tools. I decided to collage on top of the transfer. I “drew” shapes by connecting small magazine strips to make lines and curves. I used Lineco neutral pH adhesive to attach the tiny papers to the transfer. To finish, I brushed Golden® soft gel medium over the artwork to seal it. Then, I attached hanging hardware directly to the back of the cradle.
Jennifer Redstreake Geary, both a full time mom and full time graphic designer is also a prolific artist who is highly sought after for her work in watercolor and pastel. Her work as an artist began before kindergarten, and she found solace in drawing throughout high school and college. Only recently, did watercolors found their way into her repertoire when a friend introduced Aquabord™ to her as an alternative surface to paper.
“Savanah With Green Gloves”, 8″ x10″, 2011, watercolor on Aquabord
Poor materials turned Jennifer off to watercolors years ago, when her first workshop included flimsy paper, poor brushes and a cheap watercolor pan. So turned off in fact, she refused to try another class or to ever use watercolor again. An admirer of Jennifer’s pastel work suggested she try again, but this time using Aquabord and much better paints.
“I was skeptical,” Jennifer explains. “How could this be any different than painting on paper? I took it home along with a palette full of Daniel Smith watercolors that she squeezed for me to try. I painted a cactus fruit. It was ‘love at first brush stroke’, so to speak.” It was the color and control Jennifer had over the working surface and paint that drew her into painting. Since Aquabord is rigid, the surface doesn’t wrinkle like paper and with an absorbent surface, the paint glides on, layers easily, and is simple to remove in subtractive techniques. “Using Daniel Smith watercolors along with Aquabord is the perfect marriage, to me, of mediums. I feel as if I am creating ‘GOOD’ artwork for the first time,” Jennifer shares. To finish her pieces, Jennifer uses 3-4 coats of varnish, a Krylon Satin Varnish, sprayed evenly in opposing directions for ideal coverage.
“Golden Eyes”, 9″ x 12″, 2011, soft pastel on Pastelbord
Since Jennifer also teaches classes in her spare moments, she has introduced her own students to Aquabord. New artists can really benefit from using quality supplies when they begin with a medium. Unlike Jennifer’s own first watercolor class experience, her students walk away with a successful piece, and they return to her classes.
Long before Jennifer started using Aquabord, though, she was using Pastelbord™ and Hardbord™. Since it was drawing and soft pastel that first drew her into arts, she found her way to Pastelbord via the advice of another good friend. Hardbord was another natural gravitation for her collage and mixed media work. The Hardbord surface takes gesso well, after being sealed, and is a perfect solution for mixed media. The cradled frame is ideal for these pieces as they are ready to hang when complete and sell quite well for her at art festivals and on Etsy.
If you would like to experience Aquabord firsthand with a seasoned painter, Jennifer teaches watercolor classes at the Tullahoma Fine Arts Center in Tullahoma, TN. To join the class or learn more about her work and commissions, contact her via her blog or website: www.redstreakeart.com.
Dana Brown knew he was an artist before he entered elementary school and even began introducing himself that way at the time. He was drawing all of the time and continued to work realistically through college. It was his day job in art materials that brought him to a desire for the abstract in his own paintings. Understanding color relationships and how oil paint worked coincided with his full-time job as well as leaked into his art.
Dana is most likely the voice at the other end of the line when you call Ampersand or whose inbox you reach via email. Like most other Ampersand employees, Dana wears many hats. He answers customer questions about technical information, works on order requests, and travels to retailer stores to train staff, set up displays or conduct workshops. And yet, panels are not Dana’s only area of art material expertise. Before arriving at Ampersand, Dana worked with Gamblin® Artist Colors, Portland-based oil color manufacturer. Since the art materials industry is fairly small, Dana was already familiar with Ampersand panels before coming to work at the factory in 2006. So, Dana has a very good understanding of quality and how the end result is affected by his choice of materials.
Investing in good materials “means taking [his] work seriously,” says Dana. “I invest a lot of time and effort into my artwork and I want to know that it will look the same next year or even 100 years from now.” With so many different artists out there making use of the range of available materials, it makes sense that there are a lot of options. However, each artist needs to choose what works best for their style, their process and intentions, not to mention their medium of choice. “When you have high quality materials, certain struggles disappear,” he explains.
His own artwork has improved greatly with his knowledge of Ampersand’s panels and his awareness of how the surface actually effects the finished image. Since working with Ampersand’s many artist clients, Dana has had the chance to get to know all levels and styles of work, what those artists need, and how their own work is influenced by the substrates they choose. He has then had the opportunity to put into practice what he has learned from understanding good materials and watching other artists around him. It has given him the opportunity to take a closer look at how the substrate influences the work just as much as the paint.
For artists looking to change their practice to panels or try out panels for the first time, Dana shares how the differences are surprising. There is a lot of control in painting on prepared panels. There is no uneven texture or discoloration to conceal and colors are more accurate. Painting on a perfectly smooth surface, like Claybord™ or on the slight “tooth” of Gessobord™ that Dana uses, allows the light to hit the pigments evenly. Each brush stroke goes down as intended, without the canvas texture affecting the surface. However, the panels allow for paper or canvas to be mounted as well, providing an archival rigid substrate without the need for framing. For artists still interested in painting on a canvas-like texture, there is always the Artist Panel™, which offers a canvas texture along with the stability of an Ampersand panel.