We had the pleasure yesterday of visiting artist Stella Alesi’s opening at the Ladybird Wildflower Center in Austin, TX. Stella has been a longtime user and supporter of our Ampersand Gessobord over the years. All of her paintings in the show are painted on Gessobord™. We took a few pictures of the installation to share with you. If you are in the area, you should make it a point to visit both the Wildflower Center and the show. The paintings are located inside the Carriage House and are showing in conjunction with Richard Reynolds who does large scale photographic prints on canvas. None of the photographs were enhanced or color corrected, the paintings are just that good! Enjoy!
In the past, I painted on stretched canvas, gessoed Masonite boards, and other wood panels for a very long time. Then, I discovered Ampersand panels about ten years ago when I was first introduced to encaustic. I purchased some small 5”x7” Claybords to use for experiments and ended up doing a series on them using vintage postcards and encaustic.
“Arrived Alright”, 5”x7” postcards and encaustic on Claybord, 2003
Around the same time, I began using the cradled Claybords for my oil paintings. I loved drawing with charcoal on the clay surface and also rubbing thin layers of oil paint to achieve a luminous light.
Lisa Pressman, “At the Moment”,
24”x24”, oil on Claybord™, 2005.
Lisa Pressman, “Walking the Line”,
36”x36”, oil on Claybord™, 2010.
Today, in the studio, I have 4 – 36”x36” cradled Claybords up and working for my upcoming show at The Rosenfeld Gallery in Philadelphia, January 2011.
Recently, I was asked by Ampersand to try out their new product specifically made for encaustics called, Encausticbord.They wanted to see what I thought of their new product in comparison to the Claybord I have been using over the years. Happily, I created a list of my top five favorite things about this new surface to share with you.
Top five reasons to use Encausticbord
I love when I bring home my nicely packaged and ready to paint Encausticbords. I am so busy with the multitasking of a studio practice, my art business, teaching, and family responsibilities, the faster I get going in my studio, the better. No building, no sanding, no gesso, no drying…just get working. They are gallery ready. Paint, wire, deliver, done!
2. The Surface
The surface of the new Encausticbord™ is very smooth, easy to draw on and whiter than white. It is as great as the Claybord to draw on, but more absorbent with more tooth, so the inks, charcoals and pastels really soak in as opposed to on the Claybord where their tendency is to “slide” across the surface. When you apply wax to the Encausticbord™, the light showing through the layers is bright white vs. the soft eggshell or cream color of the Claybord.
3. Multimedia Compatible
In my work, I combine wax, ink, charcoal, collage, soft pastels, R and F pigment sticks and oils. I have found that all of these materials respond beautifully to the Encausticbord™ surface.
4. Absorbent, Durable and Tested
I like to know that I am using a product that is tested for absorbency, durability and archival quality. The ground was tested by both R&F Handmade Paints and Ampersand, so I am confident that there will not be any cracking. It is also resistant to extreme heat from not only heat guns, but also torches. The larger panels are structurally braced, so I haven’t experienced any warping.
5. Great for teaching, demos, workshops
I have found that by using Encausticbord with beginning students, it eases the learning curve because it is already the right surface for encaustic and needs no preparation. There is no second-guessing as to whether or not the ground will perform.
She began her studies in ceramics, sculpture and painting at Douglass College, NJ and finished with a Bachelor of Art. Next, she received her MFA in painting from Bard College.For more information about the artist and her exhibition schedule, visit her website and her blog.
• Claybord™, Hardbord™ or Gessobord™ 1/8˝ flat, 3/4˝ cradled or 2˝ deep cradle
• Primed or un-primed canvas or linen
• 2˝ paint brush or trowel
• Golden® Soft Gel Gloss Medium or Lineco Neutral pH Adhesive
• Golden® GAC100 to size Hardbord™
• X-acto™ Knife
• Damp cloth or paper towels
• Rubber brayer or plastic squeegee
• Large heavy board
• Water jugs or heavy weights
Many artists today choose to mount their flexible canvas or paper to rigid supports for a number of reasons. One is to preserve the painting qualities of canvas or paper while gaining the advantages of painting on a panel. The other is that flexible supports are more susceptible to changes in temperature and humidity that can contribute to deterioration of the paint film over time. You can counteract the instability of fabrics and paper and make your paintings more archival by mounting flexible supports on an Ampersand™ panel.
There are many ways to mount a flexible support to a panel. I chose the archival practice that was easiest to do and worked the best. The materials suggested can be mixed and matched in order to suit your purposes. For example, you may substitute paper for the canvas or the Lineco adhesive for the Golden® soft gel medium. After a few attempts, you will develop your own personal preferences.
Ampersand Claybord™ and Gessobord™ are the easiest, least labor-intensive choices in archival substrates for mounting. Because both panels are sealed with the Archiva-Seal™ barrier and then primed with acid-free grounds, it is only necessary to apply adhesive since no sealing is required. Hardbord™ and other types of un-primed woods like plywood, on the other hand, do require sealing—see the extra step. Another time saver is to choose a pre-primed canvas or linen so you don’t have to gesso or prime after mounting the fabric to the panel.
1. Begin by trimming the fabric to size. Allow for a 2˝ overlap around the panel (not shown). Note: if you plan to wrap the canvas around the panel, you will need to seal the edges and back of the panel with GAC100 (see Extra Step at bottom). Otherwise, go straight to step 2.
2. To maximize adhesion, thin the Golden soft gel medium with a little water and apply it over the front of the panel (Lineco, not necessary). Be sure to coat the sides of the panel so that the fabric adheres properly all the way to the edge. I usually apply extra gel medium or glue at the four corners because they are the most vulnerable to lifting. Keep applying medium or glue until you have a fairly thick evenly wet coat. Quickly move to the next step.
3. With the fabric ground side face down, position the panel wet glue-side down in the center and press down firmly. Clean any extra glue off the back with a damp towel to prevent your panel from sticking underneath while drying (3a). Flip over the canvas together with the panel and go over the surface from the center out using a rubber brayer or squeegee to remove any wrinkles, lumps or air pockets (3b).
4. Cover the face of the fabric with either wax paper or butcher paper (something that will not stick to the glue) and place a heavy larger board over the top. I used a larger shrink-wrapped panel. Weight the board down with jugs of water or something heavy and allow it to dry overnight (not shown). If you’re doing multiple panels at once, place wax paper or butcher paper in between the panels. Use the larger board with weights at the very top of the stack.
5. The next day, take out your panels and place them one at a time face down on a clean surface for cutting. Using a fresh X-acto™ knife, cut flush around the edges for a perfect and clean look (5a). If you would rather wrap your corners (1/8˝ panels only), apply gel medium or glue to the back where the fabric will overlap and quickly pull the corners in to fold (5b). Brayer or squeegee over the folds to smooth. Clean up excess glue with a wet towel. No weight is necessary in this step, but do allow the panel to dry thoroughly. The panels will be safe to paint on or gesso in 1-3 days. Extra Step: When using Hardbord™ or any other un-primed wood panels as your substrate, follow the same instructions above, but add this important step first. It is important to correctly seal all un-primed wood substrates to prevent support-induced discoloration that can cause your paint film to yellow over time.
Extra Step: When using Hardbord™ or any other un-primed wood panels as your substrate, follow the same instructions above, but add this important step first. It is important to correctly seal all un-primed wood substrates to prevent support-induced discoloration that can cause your paint film to yellow over time.
Apply Golden GAC100 directly to the Hardbord with the 2˝ paint brush or trowel. Allow the GAC100 to dry completely and follow with an additional coat. Do not sand between layers.
Before applying the adhesive in Step 2, allow the GAC100 to dry for 1-3 days so that the sealer can coalesce into a uniform film for maximum protection.
First, we always recommend Claybord for Egg Tempera. Here’s why:
1) It has a very absorbent ground that is made with kaolin clay. Claybord provides a very smooth and absorbent surface similar, in behavior only, to a “traditional” non-acrylic gesso ground or the chalk grounds used during the Renaissance. Over the years, we have continued to increase the absorbency of the Claybord.
2) We have never used rabbit skin glue in the Claybord formula. Our tests showed that Claybord’s clay ground, when made with a minimal amount of polymer binder instead of rabbit skin glue, holds to the substrate much more effectively. Note the added plus of Ampersand’s “Archiva Seal” barrier technology. Prior to applying the absorbent clay ground to the substrate, we seal the rigid hardboard with our panel sealers to ensure that over time, you do not experience support induced discoloration that can come from a poorly prepared wood panel.
3) We have strong relationships with many professional egg tempera artists that use Claybord successfully for their work. We have received only a couple of calls over the years about lifting, but in talking further to the concerned artists and other egg tempera painters, we have found that individual technique is most likely the cause, not the painting surface.
Listed below are a few good practices to follow when working with egg tempera on Claybord and most other surfaces. These practices are provided by artists who use Claybord exclusively for their work as well as from Robert Massey’s book, Formulas for Painters The important keys to working with egg tempera on Claybord are: a) How you apply the first layers of paint and b) Ensuring that you allow each layer to dry before beginning any fine detail work
When using egg tempera, begin by using three to four thin washes of paint over the entire panel, allowing them to dry thoroughly in between. The first four layers should dry overnight to allow good adhesion for subsequent layers. Use a very large brush and stay away from detail work in the beginning stages. After the preparatory layers are finished, alternate to smaller brushes. Continue painting in thin layers, allowing adequate drying time in between. Gradually increase the paint thickness as the layers develop. Repeat the previous step many times, gradually narrowing the size of the brush as the painting progresses. The paint consistency in the final stages should be relatively thick so that the vibrancy and character of egg tempera is thoroughly enhanced. After adequate drying time is complete, buff the finished painting with a soft cloth and frame as desired.
Artist Joseph Mancuso explores California with Pastelbord™ from Ampersand
Autumn in California is a colorful time of transition that provided the inspiration for “An Owens Valley Autumn”. If I see something like this that sparks an idea for a painting, I prefer to quickly record the idea and completely work out the composition in a pencil drawing on paper before I begin. For this painting, I selected a large grey Pastelbord™ made by Ampersand Art Supply. I prefer this board because of its surface and durability. It can absorb wet applications and many layers of pastel. I use a grey board because it is neutral in value and it helps me to judge color and values more accurately.
(Step 1) My first step was to draw a rough sketch on the board using my finished drawing as a guide. I use a light valued pastel pencil or hard pastel in this step because I want the sketch to disappear as I lay down my subsequent pastel layers. Once my line drawing was complete and all the large shapes were placed, I began my second step.
(Step 2) I began blocking in color using a hard pastel, working from background to foreground. I was equally concerned with putting down color and establishing values at this point, so I tried to keep the colors fairly neutral in preparation for the subsequent steps.
(Step 3) The next step involved a combination of blocking in color and applying alcohol washes. The Pastelbord is ideal for this stage because it accepts pastels perfectly, allowing me to use dry and wet layering techniques simultaneously. I used an alcohol wash to develop the larger shapes. I prefer rubbing alcohol because it dries fast and I can paint quickly without waiting. This is a wonderful part of the process because some interesting transparent and opaque effects can occur depending upon how much I load the brush with alcohol. I normally use a #6 or #8 flat watercolor brush for this process. During this stage, I can be looser and more spontaneous with my strokes while maintaining control to achieve the results I want.
(Step 4) My fourth step began once I was satisfied with the under-painting and when most of the larger shapes were covered. I then layered soft pastels on top of the alcohol washes from Step 3. I added the finishing details by alternating between the dry soft pastels and alcohol washes to complete the painting.
(Step 5) The fifth and final step was the slowest part of the process. I stepped back from the painting to view it from a distance. I also used a mirror to look at the painting to see if it worked in reverse. This technique helped me to check the composition, color, edges and value with a fresh perspective. After close inspection, I added in any final highlights and smoothed various edges using the softest of pastels. When I feel that I am nearly finished with a painting, I always ask myself, “Is this the visual representation of the feeling I want to convey?” If the answer is yes, then the painting is complete. Then, it is time to begin working on the next piece and the process begins again.
About the Artist: California-based artist Joseph Mancuso is widely published and exhibited. He is also a signature member of the Pastel Society of America. For more information about the artist and to see more of his artwork, please visit http://www.mancusofineart.com/.