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All Things Ampersand

Project: Cradled Gessobord – The Seed Lady

This project was going to be simple and fast. I intended to rub Distress Inks onto a 12 x 12 cradled Gessobord and do some stamping with StazOn Inks. I had chosen Flying Seeds, Blossoming Woman and a long stamp with rows of dotted lines. I thought I’d enhance the woman’s hair with a light cream-colored pencil and hang it on the wall. Continue Reading >>

Panel Edges

Recently, we had a question about SID effecting the paint on the panel edges.  An artist was concerned about paint on the edges of the untreated panel, not cradle, and how that might effect his work long term.  Below, Dana Brown answers the question.

“The condition of SID is one of acrylic paint and acrylic dispersion ground (acrylic gesso). We make broad recommendations to sealing the painting surfaces of wood, as a separate step from priming, primarily due to the common use of acrylic gesso as a primer, but also to maintain a painting surface that is as acid-free as possible. It is also based on an understanding that proper habits can become good practice when using various materials. We know that sometimes artists will pick up a piece of wood to use as a substrate, not knowing its density or acid-level, and sealing the panel will give the painting a ‘fighting chance,’ of lasting.

Because of the differing characteristics of each paint type mentioned, I will address each separately.

Acrylics dripped over the edge (that thin, 1/8” thickness) will encounter some level of acids. It will also take on a level of discoloration. Support Induced Discoloration (SID) is not a dark blackening or even a dark browning of the paint film, and it is generally only noticeable in areas of white and generally only in the wettest of applications. This is why it is commonly associated with the applications of acrylic gesso, applied directly onto a wooden support. Areas of color mixtures or darker colors, especially when applied undiluted or more thickly, will not display noticeable discoloration in the same sense. If the entire acrylic painting is done onto an unsealed wooden surface, the levels of acids in the wood (which vary greatly from wood species and type) can cause damage to the artwork. The amount of acid or discoloration from a 1/8” edge is very small and will not put the painting in jeopardy of lasting or any continuous damage. The acid level in our hardboards is nearly neutral at that, and it is one of the reasons that we selected aspen as the overlay for our product. To sum up in reference to acrylic paint, if the drips or painted edge are white, applied quite wet, or thinly, discoloration may be noticeable. To prevent this, you can apply GAC 100 or PVA Size to the edges to create a barrier seal to the exposed, cut edges. For most painters’ practices, the effect of a few drips over the edge of a 1/8” thick panel is not damaging to the artwork or its appearance, and its durability is not at risk.

Gouache and oil colors are not susceptible to SID and the reason to carefully seal the panel before priming is again a rule of thumb, put forth by the general practice of acrylic dispersion grounds and acrylic based priming layers. The main issue with gouache dripping over the edge or being painted on the edge of a dark, brown panel is mainly that the edge may not be sufficiently absorbent to give a lasting mechanical bond between the paint and the panel’s edge. Also, the dark, brown tone may cause paint applications to look darker, requiring multiple applications.

For oil colors, there is also no risk of SID. The risk is more of great amounts of oil paint, directly applied to wood, soaking into the wood and oxidizing within the structure of the wood. This is even contentious amongst art conservationists and may be less of a risk than previously believed. The 1/8” thick edge of a panel will not allow for a risky level of oxidation within the wood support. The oils in oil colors will actually pass on some conditioning or preservation qualities to the wooden support, similar to applying oil to wooden furniture to recondition it.”

-Dana Brown
Artist & Customer Support at Ampersand

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The Effects of Deep Cradled Panels

Artist Rebecca Crowell shares her insights into the process of using multiples, originally printed in 2005.

“In the past few years I have been using multiple Ampersand 2˝ Deep Cradled Gessobord™ panels fastened together to achieve visual contrast in my work. I love the way the geometric shape of the panels adds structure to what is otherwise very flowing organic imagery. 

Various configurations of panels have also suggested new formats for my work beyond traditional squares and rectangles. Some of my multiple panel paintings are strongly vertical or horizontal, or have an irregular shape overall. I generally start a painting by movingindividually painted panels into various configurations on my studio wall.

I always have more than one painting in progress, so there are many possibilities in play.  At this stage, I rely heavily on intuition, moving the panels around until something strikes me as evocative and provides guidance for finishing the piece. I gravitate toward imagery that suggests places or situations in the landscape, as well as emotions, memories or states of mind.  At other times I begin my compositions with a particular format in mind. For example, I am very attracted to the strong vertical format and have used it in an extended series, but beyond these basic starting points I let the process of discovery take over. I approach every panel as if it is an individual painting, in terms of its composition and its level of development–and indeed, some panels do remain single, not part of a larger arrangement. My painting process involves building up layers of color and texture with oil paint, oil sticks, wax medium and a variety of tools.

When I have decided on a final arrangement, I have the panels mounted together by a woodworker with bolts through the cradles or with boards screwed on the back. The quality and durability of the wood materials used in the Ampersand Gessobord lends itself to this level of carpentry without affecting the stability of the panels.

Rebecca’s tools

I generally begin with one main color over most of the surface. Then as I layer the paint, I alternate between contrasting colors, dark and light, transparent and opaque. Texture results from a range of techniques, many carried over from my college days as a printmaker. These include the use of brayers, linoleum blocks, drawing tools, and natural objects that are pressed into the paint.

Studio wall

Scratching, gouging and judicious use of solvents reveal bits of the underlying layers. I am aiming for a surface that appears organic, with complexity and a sense of depth. I have found that Ampersand Gessobord is tough enough to take this rather strenuous application of paint. Because it is sturdy and rigid, I can apply plenty of pressure, and the surface of the panel remains intact no matter how much it is worked. Gessobord’s smooth, even surface is important to me because it never interferes with the appearance of the textures I create.
I have a fairly minimalist aesthetic, and appreciate subtlety. I analyze and edit as much as I actually paint, deciding what is needed and what has to go. How do I know when a painting is finished? For me there is a sense the painting is mysteriously itself, individual, as if it could be no other way.

Rebecca Crowell lives and works in rural Wisconsin, surrounded by woods and fields that inspire her nature-based imagery. Her work is exhibited regularly both regionally and nationally, and is included in many public, private and corporate collections.
For more information, please visit rebeccacrowell.com.

All things Ampersand, 
Karyn Meyer-Berthel 
Artist & Social Media Specialist 
Ampersand Art Supply 

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Painting on Panel: Cradling and Supports

Cradled panels in the warehouse

In order to give a panel extra support, many artists produce a bracing system (cradling) for their panels. While this is not an option for solid wood panels due to their expansion and contraction over time, manufactured panels are structurally sound enough to be cradled. For panels over 24″ cradling is advised. 

Elaine and Veronica inspecting panels

Cradles are generally a separate unit the size of the panel that is attached to the back using carpenters glue and C-clamps. Larger size cradles will generally have cross-braces, much like stretcher bars for canvas. When choosing a wood for your cradle, it’s best to go with high quality multi-ply plywood, as this will give you the best protection against warping. Solid woods are to be avoided, as they have a uniform grain that will warp over time in a thin strip. Do not nail or screw the cradle onto the panel, or you will have a blemished surface that is certain to deteriorate over time. 

Save yourself the trouble of all this carpentry work by using an Ampersand cradled panel. Only Ampersand builds their cradles by hand with premium grade 13-ply birch plywood for maximum stability and a clean, finished look from edge to edge. Choose from 3/4″, 1.5″ and 2″ Deep, all carefully made by hand in Buda, Texas. 
Ampersand Claybord and Gessobord panels are now available in a new 1.5″ Cradle Profile that offers you more flexibility for hanging and framing your work. Featuring a 1.5″ total depth, this new cradle profile is handcrafted with premium grade 13-ply birch plywood, designed to fit both standard canvas and floater frames. The cradle can easily be painted or stained to complement the artwork or primed with gesso to wrap the image around the edges.

For ideas on how to treat the edges of the cradle, consult this article on hanging and framing.

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.

How to Connect Cradled Panels

For artists working with multiple Ampersand DEEP cradle panels, bolting together their own panels is an inventive way to present their work. If you can drill a hole and have a little patience, bolting panels together and mounting hanging hardware is really no big deal.

Figure 1a


Bolting small panels together
(ex. 12˝x12˝ and smaller)

Bolting Materials List
Ampersand DEEP cradle panels
Crescent & socket wrenches
Electric or cordless drill
7/16˝ drill bit
3/8˝ x 2˝ hex bolts
3/8˝ nuts & washers
Pencil & ruler/tape measure

Step 1: Decide how the painting should be assembled.
Next, lay the pieces face down on a soft cloth or towel so as not to damage the painting surface. Caution! When turning the painting sections over, make sure you have arranged them correctly from top to bottom and left to right. Double-check again before drilling holes.

Figure 1b


Step 2: Measuring the placement of the holes. Line up the panels flush and hold them in place with clamps if necessary. Measure the center of the cradle frame and pencil-mark the two panels that are to be connected (fig. 1a). Unclamp the panels and measure the center of the side of the cradle from top to bottom using your center mark from the backs of the panel as your guide (fig. 1b). Placing the holes in the center of the side of the cradle will prevent the panels from pulling forward or pulling backward and will keep the panels perfectly flat.

Figure 2


Step 3: Drill the holes (fig. 2)
You may want to adjust the size of your holes and the size of your bolts depending on the size of your panels. For this demonstration on both the large and small panels, we used a 7/16” drill bit. Important: Drill the hole from the outside of the cradle to the inside. Repeat this process for all the cradles. The hole will be larger than the bolt so that you have some “wiggle room” for shoring up the panels. Sand the holes if necessary and vacuum or brush away any debris.

Figure 3


Step 4: Bolt the panels together (fig. 3-4)
We used a 3/8˝ x 2˝ bolt, one 3/8˝ washer and one 3/8˝ nut. Insert the bolt through the holes of both the panels to be connected. Put the washer over the end of the bolt and then attach the nut. Make sure the panels are flush together and adjust if necessary. Tighten the nut with a socket or crescent wrench while holding the bolt steady with a second crescent wrench. Repeat this process until all the panels are connected. Test the tightness of each connection to be sure they are completely secure. 

Figure 4


Bolting larger panels together (ex. 24˝x 24˝ and larger, fig. 5)
Larger panels may require more bolts if you’re assembling them into a straight line so as to prevent twisting. A general rule to follow is one bolt every 12˝-16˝. For this demonstration, we used two 6˝x 24˝ panels mounted to one 18˝x24 panel, creating a 24˝x30˝ panel in three sections. Since the piece was tall and narrow, two bolts seemed a logical choice. When you are working with larger panels, keep the panels clamped together tightly while drilling the holes through both panels simultaneously as illustrated in Figure 5. Follow the same step 4 above (fig. 3-4) to bolt the panels together.  

Any technical questions you might have about this process, feel free to contact me. Thank you for using Ampersand panels for your art; we appreciate your support!

Andrea Pramuk
Marketing Director & Artist
Ampersand Art Supply 

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