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All Things Ampersand

Painting on Panel: Oil Priming

For those of you that purchase our museum quality panels, Aquabord™, Encausticbord™, Pastelbord™, Gessobord™ or Claybord, we complete the sealing and priming for you on the front of the panel.  However, for anyone who is choosing to do their own sizing and priming for oil painting, these instructions for priming in oil will be helpful.  Our Hardbord panel and the Unprimed Basswood Artist Panel both require sealing and priming before use.

All wood panels must be sealed (also known as sizing) before painting in order to put a barrier between the naturally occurring chemicals in wood and the painting ground. Support Induced Discoloration (SID) occurs when a panel is not properly prepared and these chemicals leach through to the paint on the surface. By choosing a denser panel with a low acid content, an artist greatly reduces their risk of SID. However, all wood panels should be sized (sealed) and primed before painting to ensure their longevity. 

Gamblin® Oil Painting Ground is our first choice in a good quality oil primer. However, the following instructions are virtually interchangeable with a number of other oil painting grounds if there’s one you like better or have more readily available. Gamblin® Oil Painting ground contains an alkyd resin vehicle that allows it to dry within a matter of hours. A number of other pre-made oil primers are also available and generally, they are made up of a white pigment, linseed oil and driers or solvents. Primers that use alkyd resin binder instead of linseed oil dry faster and are non-yellowing and more flexible than traditional grounds. Both may be applied in the same manner with either a large putty knife or a large stiff bristle brush. If you are using a traditional oil primer, it may need to be thinned with Gamsol® to a workable consistency enabling easy application over the sized panel. Never add oil to a primer. Its leanness must always be preserved.

Step 1 – Size and seal the wood
A size is a thin solution (often a weak glue) that is brushed directly onto a support. Sizing or sealing Ampersand’s uncoated panels is recommended to protect against SID. In fact, it is extremely important to properly seal any and all un-primed wood substrates to prevent support-induced discoloration that can cause your paint film to yellow over time. Hardbord™ is manufactured using Aspen fibers, a wood with a very low acid content, but still needs to be sized and sealed. The Natural Wood Panel™ and Unprimed Basswood panels are made with a thick basswood plywood top that has been sanded ultra-smooth. They are both seamless and knot-free and provide a perfectly smooth and uniform painting finish. When you apply the size and primer to the basswood surface, you won’t experience the raised wood grain fibers that can happen with some other rougher types of plywood; the surface stays nice and smooth. The basswood panels have solid wood cradles and braces that may be more susceptible to moisture and environmental changes than the birch plywood cradles we use on the Hardbord™. Therefore, Ampersand recommends that you prime both the front and back of the Basswood top to ensure long-term stability of the panel.  The best products we have found to seal wood are Golden® GAC100 [2 coats]  and Gamblin® PVA Size [4 coats].
Apply Golden® GAC100 directly to the basswood or hardboard surface with a 2″ paintbrush or putty knife. Apply to the front and back if applicable. Allow the GAC100 to dry completely and follow with an additional coat. Do not sand between layers. Before applying oil primer or the painting ground, allow the GAC100 to dry for 1-3 days so that the sealer can coalesce into a uniform film for maximum protection. If you’re using Gamblin® PVA Size, use 4 coats and follow the same application instructions as for the GAC100.

Step 2 – Protect and prepare the cradle
Hardbord™ is available in either a flat 1/8″ panel, with a 3/4″ cradle, or with the 2″ DEEP cradle. The Natural Wood and Unprimed Basswood panels are available in both a 7/8″ cradle and 1.5″ cradle profile. You have the choice of painting all the way around the cradle or leaving the natural wood showing for framing purposes. Be sure to size and seal the bare wood if you want to paint completely around the edges of the cradle. Or, to protect the wood from paint and primer, cover the sides of the panel with painter’s tape up to the edge of the surface. Do not remove the tape until the painting is finished. Painter’s tape does not leave a sticky residue like many household masking tapes that can be difficult to remove, and will leave a pristine surface underneath when the painting is complete. 

Step 3 – Apply the Oil Painting Ground or Oil Primer
Begin by mixing small amounts of Gamsol® with the primer to thin if necessary. You can test the right consistency by picking up the paint with a knife and shaking it gently. If it falls from the knife like soft butter, it is ready to use.

When priming with a putty knife [or wedge tool], begin by placing a portion of the oil painting ground or primer in the center of the [already sized] panel. Spread it in one direction, and then in the opposite, and finally in a diagonal direction. Clean the putty knife and run it over the ground to smooth and even out the surface. Also, prime the edges of the panel and the cradles if applicable. Don’t forget to apply GAC100 on the cradle edges first if priming them for painting. 

When the first coat of oil painting ground is completely dry (about 7 hours), lightly sand the surface with a sanding block using light grade 400/grit sandpaper. A second coat can be applied the next day or any time after the first coat is dry. If using basswood, for each additional coat to the panel face, apply the same number of applications to the panel back.

If priming with a brush, use a large bristle brush, at least 2″-3″ wide (proportionate to the size panel you are using), and apply the ground or primer with quick alternating strokes, working it well into the surface. After evenly distributing the ground or primer over the entire surface, finish by going over it lightly with a clean brush, carefully in straight lines, or use a short-nap [cotton] roller. Let the first coat dry, then sand and apply a second coat. At least two coats of ground or primer should be applied. The more coats of ground or primer that are applied, the smoother the surface will become. For basswood panels, follow the same instructions, but also prime the back. For each additional coat to the panel face, apply the same number of applications to the panel back

Step 4 – To Finish
Eliminate any unevenness on the finished primed surface by lightly sanding the panel after it has thoroughly dried. The finished primed panels should be allowed to dry completely at room temperature before painting. If you prepare several panels at a time, then you will have stock on hand that is dry and ready to paint when needed. 

Below is a video produced by Gamblin with Scott Gellatly, technical director, explaining how to prime a painting.



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.

Featured Artist: Claire Kendrick

Orange Lilies, 30″ x 30″

Claire Kendrick uses Encausticbord in much of her oil and encaustic work.  She shares with us her reasons for this choice and how she can push the boundaries of her paints because of Encausticbord.

“Using high grade materials is important when selling my fine art paintings. It is archival and that’s important to the artist, dealer and collector! The fact that these panels are made in the USA from sustainable forests make them my preferred choice. It’s also important that the panel is heat resistant as I like to use a blow torch to melt the wax and oil paint, I know that the ground is not only heat resistant it will hold the layers of wax without fear of cracking or separation.

When we think of botanical paintings, traditional, detailed paintings come to mind. This series of paintings shows the delicate, radiant, powerful beauty of plants and flowers in a contemporary style that speaks more about their character than the detail of every palm frond or petal–there is always more than meets the eye.
Florida Style, 30″ x 30″
It is my practice to always work with reference. I like to buy fresh flowers and set up the vase of flowers or whatever I’m painting and start with a strong composition. This is always my foundation.  As I begin painting, each brush stroke has to say something.  Putting down a mark and deciding to keep or remove, I try to ask myself if this mark adds something to the painting. The results are dynamic, energetic forms–they show the energy you put into the painting. The still life floral paintings have a life and vitality.
White Love, 30″ x 30″

Pushing boundaries, I take the paintings outdoors and use a blow torch to melt wax mixed with oil paint, giving a free-flow effect which I can manipulate or leave.  This is a process of constant editing, painting, taking away then reapplying paint or wax, building the image slowly in layers.  (Claire uses Old Holland Oil Paint and Gamblin mediums, including Neo Megilp and Cold Wax medium.)

You should paint as you live life; expression should be in your work. See the things of beauty you enjoy and fill your life with that energy.”

To see more of Claire’s work and read her blog, log on to www.cjk-studio.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.

Panel Painting Tips: How to Seal Hardbord Panels

 

Hardbord™ is one of the few panels we offer unprimed and unsealed as a raw wood surface. There can be great pleasure in working directly on raw wood. However, for long term stability, we recommend sealing all unprimed wood panels, including our own, to protect against support induced discoloration (SID), warping and adhesion issues. Whether you’re working in acrylics, oils, encaustics, alkyds or tempera, paint will adhere best to surfaces that have been properly prepared using archival practices.
 

 

A size is a thin solution (often a weak glue) that is brushed directly onto a support. Sizing or sealing is recommended to protect Ampersand’s uncoated panels from support-induced discoloration (SID) when using  acrylic gesso. If wood is not sized or sealed properly before applying the gesso, yellowing can occur because water [a solvent] can cause acids, occurring naturally in wood, to migrate to the surface. In fact, it is extremely important  to properly seal any and all un-primed wood substrates to prevent support-induced discoloration (SID) that can cause your paint film to yellow over time. Hardbord™ is manufactured using Aspen fibers, a wood with a very low acid content, but it still needs to be sized and sealed. Sealing only the “paintable” side will possibly lead to warping if moisture or pollutants leach through the raw wood cradles or backing. So, seal the entire panel for the ultimate protection.  

To see first hand the effects of SID on a panel, check out this video from Golden:

 


To apply the size, use a wide flat brush to lay on 2 layers of GAC 100 or 4 layers of Gamblin PVA size, allowing each to dry completely before applying gesso layers. For more complete directions click here to read about sealing with Acrylic Gesso and click here to read about sealing with Oil Ground.


Some artists prefer having this work done for them, and by all means, feel free to purchase a Gessobord™, Aquabord™, Claybord™, Encausticbord or Pastelbord™ to suit your purposes.  Gessobord and Claybord, along with Hardbord, Encausticbord and the Artist Panel are all on sale right now through the end of September.  Find a retailer near you:  Fall Sale

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.
Oils


 

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.

Acrylics

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
Pastels

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.

Ampersand Faces: Dana Brown

 

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.

 

To learn more about collage on Ampersand’s Claybord™, check out this article where Dana demonstrates his collage and image transfer work:  Image Transfer and Collage on Claybord

To see more of Dana’s work, follow his blog on Tumblr at:  danabrownstudio.tumblr.com