Friday, February 17, 2012

Use Quality Materials But Don't Be Afraid to Experiment!

Last night brought another opportunity to admire the work of Edward Curtis, the premier Western photographer, who traveled so extensively among the North American Indian tribes. I adapted this painting from a black and white photograph and added a background from a picture I took in Sedona, AZ last year. I decided to experiment with grounds and I used a support I made myself: a sanded and gessoed 1/2" thick piece of birch. I like this surface for plein air painting because it's so absorbent and it hastens the speed of the drying. The uneven texture of the gesso offers a bit of variety to the paint application too. If you're an artist, you know we're always looking for new ways to explore a subject and sometimes a change as simple as what you paint on can make a huge difference.

Let's talk about materials for a minute. I have watched so many students struggle with cheaply made canvas and student grade paints that I think it's important to begin painting with artist quality materials immediately! How can a beginner judge whether they will like painting if the results they get are dictated by their materials? The answer is that they can't. Low quality paint will almost always result in chalky mixtures and dull color because the fillers in the paint will overpower the pigments.

What you paint on is just as important as the paint you use to paint it with. Quality materials save time and insure your painting will stand the test of time. I once went out plein air painting with some fellow artists and one of the gals showed up with mat board to paint on. I have used acrylics on gessoed mat board but oil paints should never be used on paper supports because they're not compatible. We were painting in a public place and my artist friend actually found a buyer for her painting and sold it immediately. Great for the artist- but not so good for the buyer when he finds out his painting will begin to seriously deteriorate in a few years.

If you're going to invest the time and effort in painting make sure you do a little research and purchase the best materials you can afford. Don't be afraid to experiment but don't compromise the quality of your work if you intend to sell it by using substandard grounds. 

 11" x 14"
 oil on gessoed wooden panel

showing the gessoed support
and how it differs from a canvas texture

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