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All Things Ampersand

Featured Artist: Natalie Oswald


Natalie Oswald is a fine artist and illustrator living in Seattle Washington.  She is represented by Pacini Lubel Gallery in Seattle.  To see more of her work, visit natalieoswald.com

Exploring new mediums and techniques keeps your painting process exciting and can lead to stylistic breakthroughs. I enjoy working in layers and playing with decorative elements such as gold leaf and repetitive patterns in order to make my painting surfaces richer and more interesting. Beginning my painting with Ampersand Gessobord™ is essential to my process. Many of the techniques I use require a rigid support with a smooth and consistent surface—Gessobord has both of these qualities. I prefer the 2″ deep cradled boards as they can be finished on the sides and hung without additional framing. The new large sizes of deep Gessobord are ideal for creating my large and dramatic works.

Gessobord is a wonderful surface for patterns made with stencils or block prints. For this painting, I carved a koi design into a soft rubber block of Safety-Kut™ using Speedball® linoleum block cutters. I mixed acrylic paint and Golden® Acrylic Glazing Liquid (this keeps the acrylic from drying too fast) and applied it to the block with a rubber brayer (fig. 1). I positioned the block face down on the panel and applied pressure with a rolling pin to transfer the image. I repeated this process multiple times (fig. 2-3).

Creating Depth with Layers
Unlike printing on paper, a print on Gessobord will have a slightly textured quality because it is not as absorbent as paper. This unique look is magical under layers of acrylic paint. For this painting, I applied several acrylic colors over the printed koi patterns in thin layers. Quinacridones and other transparent pigments are my favorites as they allow the patterns to show through.  Sanding through the paint layers or applying metallic paints can also create lovely and aged-looking results.

Applying Gold Leaf
Gold leaf adds a dramatic touch of sparkle. Gessobord is an ideal surface for gold leaf because it is rigid and smooth. You can apply the leaf directly to the panel or over the acrylic paint layers as I have done here. Brush on a thin layer of Daniel Smith Quick Size (fig. 4) and wait ten or fifteen minutes until the glue is dry yet still tacky. Gently apply the gold leaf to the sizing using the backing papers or a squirrel-hair brush (fig. 5) and then remove the excess leaf (fig. 6).

Adding Imagery in Oil or Acrylic
The final layer of this painting was painted using traditional oil techniques. I used Daniel Smith Oils and painting mediums to paint two very detailed Japanese cranes (figs. 7-8). The elaborate printed surface underneath compliments the two birds nicely. My favorite brushes are the Daniel Smith Series 85-01 Oil Blender brush for softening brush strokes and the Series 44-12 Rigger to create flowing lines. To finish the painting, I use Golden® MSA UVLS Gloss Varnish to protect the delicate gold leaf and to give the painting a uniform glossy surface.


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.

Mounting Watercolor Paper on Panel

A post from New Hampshire artist, Dustan Knight:

I am a true believer in watercolor and I wanted to give my watercolors the size and presentation that would allow them to compete with works on canvas. However, when I considered the glass and framing costs for my large size paintings it was truly daunting. Ampersand Art Supply has helped me solve this dilemma by offering an acid-free cradled panel that I use as a support and frame for my watercolor paintings. Golden has a range of acrylic gel mediums and varnishes that allow me to finish the watercolors without the need for glass. The results have elevated my traditional watercolor paintings to a new level of intensity and accessibility.

Here are the steps I follow:

  1. I use Ampersand’s Claybord because the surface is acid-free and will not affect my paper when mounted. This rigid smooth surface has a beautiful birch frame glued flush to the back edge of the panel. It gives my watercolors a whole new look!
  2. I cut my watercolor paper a bit larger than the panel size.
  3. I soak the paper just enough to give it a cloth like flexibility.
  4. Next, I layer Golden soft gel medium on the Claybord panel as evenly as possible.
  5. I then lay the wet watercolor paper on the gel coated Ampersand Cradled Smooth Claybord panel, working bubbles out gently.
  6. As the paper begins to dry, I begin painting into it using wet into wet watercolor techniques.
  7. I let my piece dry completely (I usually wait a couple of days) before carefully laying Golden’s soft gel medium over the painting. I concentrate on lighter areas first and darker areas last, paying close attention to avoid smearing. I let it dry and repeat this step a couple of times.
  8. I then trim the edges of the paper and decide whether I wish to paint or stain the edges of the cradle frame or leave them in their natural birch color.(9) As a finishing step, I varnish the piece with Golden’s UV resistant medium. 

Dustan Knight has an MFA from Pratt Institute and an MA from Boston University in Art History. She is a working artist, winning awards and exhibiting throughout New England. She also offers workshops, writes regional reviews for Art New England and teaches as an adjunct professor at several local art colleges. Please visit her web site www.dustanknight.com to see a monthly updated selection of her current artwork.

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

Painting on Panel: Support Induced Discoloration

You may have heard the term “Support Induced Discoloration” or SID in relation to sealing panels or even gessoing a canvas.  And SID is the one reason that Ampersand encourages sealing panels before priming, but what does it really mean and how does it effect art long term?

Support Induced Discoloration is a relatively new concept to the art world, new because acrylic dispersion paints are new.  Support Induced Discoloration occurs when acrylic paints change color due to pulling up toxins or residue in the substrate.  The fluids in the paint leach into the substrate, through the primer and pull up the residue, leaving behind particulate in the paint that discolors it.  This is most apparent in transparent gels and mediums but also occurs to pigmented paint.  Gesso or primer is not sufficient in preventing discoloration, so sealing or sizing is always recommended.  

You can prevent SID from affecting your own work by properly sealing wood panels before use.  For more information on Sealing (or sizing) panels, refer to our previous post:
Painting on panel sizing.  OR, You can purchase one of Ampersand’s already sealed and primed panels, such as Gessobord™, Encausticbord™, Claybord™, Aquabord™ or Scratchbord™.  All of these panels have been sealed with Ampersand’s Archiva-Seal™ technology.

In the early 1990’s, Golden Artist Colors did some significant research with Buffalo State College to discover support induced discoloration and test the degrees of discoloration on different supports, with different acrylic mediums and primers.  The results from these experiments led to what we know today about SID.  

“SID contamination often goes undetected. In most cases, the paints applied contain a sufficient level of pigment, thus a strong enough color, to conceal the yellowing. However, in a transparent glaze and especially in thick translucent gel layers, SID becomes quite noticeable. SID can transform the appearance of an Ultramarine Blue glaze into a lower chroma, greenish color. Gesso alone will not stop SID, and different gels and mediums have varying degrees of blocking capabilities. The best product Golden Artist Colors produces to prevent SID is GAC 100. This thin medium works best when 2 or more coats are applied directly into the support. Once dry, the canvas can then be primed and subsequently painted with less potential for discoloration. Pre-primed canvases can be sealed with GAC 100 as well. Apply one or two coats onto the surface, and follow with at least one coat of gesso to regain tooth if needed.” — From the GAC website

Golden has neatly packaged the effects of SID on a masonite panel below in video format.  You can see for yourself in a few minutes how drastically a piece of art can change in a matter of weeks if the work is not sealed properly.


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.

Painting on Panel: Acrylic Priming

We have reviewed how to size and seal wood and how to prime it with oil primer.  Some of you may prefer to use an acrylic primer, or an acrylic dispersion ground for you work.  Our best recommendations for the process are below.  

Golden® brand acrylic gesso is our first recommendation.  However, these instructions are virtually interchangeable with a number of other brands if there’s one you like better or have more readily available. Gesso is a flexible liquid ground that seals, protects, and gives “tooth” to wood panels, which promotes good paint adhesion. It comes ready-to-use, but can be mixed with water for thinner applications. Golden® Gesso is available in Black or White, and can be mixed with Golden® Acrylics to produce a range of colored grounds. Gesso can be applied with a brush, roller, putty knife, Catalyst™ wedge #W-06 or sprayed on. Dilution of the Gesso is only necessary for spray application, but may be desired for brush or roller applications as well. When diluting with water, use a maximum dilution of 25%. Any mixture within this range offers little risk of cracking or other adverse effects.

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 is recommended to protect Ampersand’s uncoated panels from support-induced discoloration 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 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 size and gesso 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 gesso, 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. For instructions on different ways to prepare your cradles for presentation, consult this article: https://ampersandart.com/featuredartist/featured-artist-pramuk1.html

Step 3 – Apply the Acrylic Gesso

Thin the gesso with up to 25% water for the first coat so that it will flow more evenly on the [sized] panel. Use a 2″-3″ brush for the first coat and a foam roller for subsequent coats. Begin by working the gesso back and forth with the brush in one direction and then in a cross direction with a little pressure so that the gesso penetrates the panel better. Apply gesso to the side edges of the panel and the plywood cradle if applicable. Don’t forget to seal the cradle with Golden® GAC100 first if you are going to gesso the edges for painting. 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 gesso both the front and back of the basswood top to ensure long-term stability of the panel. Allow the front of the basswood to dry completely, then, gesso the reverse side.
Step 4 – To Finish
After the first coat of gesso is dry, smooth out any rough spots with light grade sandpaper. Apply a second coat of gesso with the foam roller (or brush). Allow it to dry and then sand again. For best results, apply a minimum of 2 coats of gesso and sand in-between. Subsequent layers of gesso will produce an even smoother painting surface. For spray-application, you may have to apply more than 2 coats to achieve a film similar to a brush application. 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.

The fall sale is on!  Hardbord, Gessobord, Claybord, Encausticbord and all Artist Panels are all on sale, 20% to 60% off at a dealer near you!

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.