Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Linen, Canvas, Panel....What's It All About?

"Turn For Home," 24 x 30 oil on canvas

 I had a great question on my Facebook page yesterday.  It was noted that I use a number of different supports when I paint, and I was asked how I decide which support I'm going to use for a painting. As the answer to that question is not a short one, I decided a blog post was in order.

Now....where do I begin?  Sometimes many factors can come into play with my decision...and  other times, it's as simple as what I have on hand.  Each surface has different atrtibutes, so it may be a matter of what I'm hoping to achieve with that particular piece.  I think the simplest thing to do is go through each type of support I have worked with, and what kind of painting that support lends itself to.

First off, we can group supports into two types - flexible and rigid.  Rigid supports are more durable by definition - ask anyone who has had a stretched canvas torn or damanged.  Paintings on rigid supports are also thought to stand the test of time better - they are far less likely to crack and fall right off the support than stretched (flexible) works.  I don't paint in heavy layers, so I don't expect to see any of my paintings part company with the support in my lifetime, but cracking is still a possibility once the work leaves my control(ie. if the painting is taken off the stretcher bars). I tend to favour rigid supports - partly because they aren't as easy to damage, but I also like the firmness they provide.  They are also somewhat easier to frame, because they don't tend to have as deep a profile as stretched canvas.

I do still work on stretched canvas from time to time.  Sometimes this is just to change things up (there is a different feel to working on flexible vs. rigid), and sometimes it's because I need an odd size for a commission work or something else I have planned, and it's easy just to cut a piece of linen or cotton and ask my framer to make up a stretcher frame in the appropriate size. For larger sizes, warping of a panel can become an issue, so often that means working on stretched canvas.

Types of rigid supports I use:

1.  Gessoed masonite - just what it sounds like, this is about 3 coats of acrylic gesso applied to masonite hardboard panel.  Sometimes I will add a bit of marble dust, which increases the absorbency of the surface, so the painting dries faster.  If I'm working on a small study, I'll use this because the drying factor allows me to complete it more quickly.

"Twine," 8 x 10 oil on gessoed panel - study. You can actually see the texture of the strokes of gesso on panel - it's not perfectly smooth like a commercially-prepared surface would be.

2. Shellacked masonite - again, just what it sounds like. Shellac creates a sealed, non-absorbent surface, so the oil paint glides very freely over it.  If I want to do something nice and loose, this is pretty much the ultimate choice!

"Baby Grace," 5 x 7 oil on shellacked masonite - completed in an hour, so nice and loose!

3. Linen panel - oil-primed linen canvas adhered to masonite panel with acid-free book-binding glue.  The ones I make are with Artfix ultra-smooth portrait linen, and it is just an amazing surface to work on.  This particular weave of Artfix is very smooth, and with the firmness of the panel behind it, it creates, to me, a very paint-friendly surface. So far I have only prepared small panels myself, so I've only used it on small works.

4.  Raphael linen panel - this is a commercially prepared support, oil-primed Raphael portrait linen adhered to birch panel. It's my favourite commercially prepared support, and what I use for commissioned portraits the majority of the time.  The quality is exceptional.  The surface is a little bit slicker than that of the Artfix panels I make myself, so it takes a little bit more work in the early stages, but it's worth it in the end! If money were no object, I would paint on Raphael panels more often than not!  Instead, I reserve them for commissions and gallery work. The downfall of the Raphael panels is they are made in Italy, and I have to order them through one of the American art suppliers, so I try to keep a variety of sizes in stock and hope I have what I need, when I need it!

Up close and personal with a WIP on Raphael linen panel. Linen tends to have a more uneven weave than canvas, and you can see it here below the even more random brushstrokes with which I toned the surface.
5. Raymar panels - Raymar makes several different panels using different canvas types, both cotton canvas (acrylic-primed) and linen (oil-primed). I often use their cotton canvas panels for smaller studies - I tend to keep a supply of them readily available so I always have them to work on. I've also used some of their portrait linen panels.  They're nice for a change, but close enough in price to the Raphael panels that I would stick with Raphael for the larger work. Their appeal - made in North America, easy to get, lightweight, archival and professionally made.

Flexible supports are much simpler:

1. Cotton canvas (stretched) - these can either be bought commercially, or as I mentioned, I'll buy the canvas and either stretch it myself, or get my framer to do it (I don't really like stretching canvas, so that's my preferred option!). The pre-stretched ones are typically a lower quality canvas than the ones I stretch myself (okay I know, the ones my framer stretches) so I will often apply a couple of extra coats of gesso for a smoother surface.  Again gesso is absorbent, so the surface has more grab.

"Hush," 14 x 18 oil on linen - this is a coarser-weave Artfix linen - it was a fun change.

2. Linen canvas - Linen comes in a variety of weaves, from very fine such as the Artfix portrait linen I have, to quite coarse. It is also typically oil-primed, therefore non-absorbent, so the paint moves more freely than an absorbent surface.  In either case of stretched canvas, as I mentioned earlier, I tend to opt for them when I either just want to change things up, or I need a large or odd size quickly.

"Strategizing," 15 x 28 oil on linen - this one is the super-smooth Artfix portrait linen.  Ridiculously expensive, and took some getting used to, but it was great for those sleek racehorse coats and powerful muscles.

That was actually a lot more difficult than I thought it would be, and I'm sure I could have babbled on more and still left things out.  So you see, it's part size, part complexity, part texture, part whim!  On the flip side, I use Old Holland oil paints almost exclusively!

If this inspires any other questions, ask away! 

Saturday, February 15, 2014

The Other Half of the Entry, 2008 Version!

Gracie and Billy then..."Boy Meets Girl," 8 x 16 oil on Raymar
Well, I can't talk about Gracie's birthday without recalling the arrival of Billy the following day.  Gracie and Billy were opposites in a lot of ways.  Sweet little filly, big, tough colt.  Billy was a real challenge from day one. Fortunately he's grown up to be a wonderful young man, now progressing beautifully in his new career!  It's so nice to see the babies grow up.  I'm sure I've mentioned it before, but Billy is now known as Parker,  and you can see what he's been up to on his new owner's blog, A Filly's Best Friend.   I'm hoping Gracie and I might be able to take a field trip this year and have a little reunion of the Foals of '08!  It would be fun to see them together.  Gracie has caught up to her old friend size-wise, but I think she might be the one who is a little more of a challenge now! *cough*chesnutmare*cough* 

Happy Birthday Parker!  Looking forward to seeing great things from you this year!

Handsome baby boy!

Friday, February 14, 2014

Well You Didn't Forget *Her* Birthday, Did You?

"Fire Filly," 8 x 10 oil on canvas

You're right Leo.  You're right.  Perhaps that has something to do with Gracie's birthday falling on the same day as a holiday a lot of people seem to celebrate, but yes, I don't tend to forget Miss Gracie's birthday.  Gracie's birth was kind of a big deal, because her mom, Twine, had aborted he first foal, so the safe arrival of a particular little chestnut was extra-special.  I guess Gracie was just extra-special from day one!  I finished the above painting yesterday, of the big mare on High Goblin Alert. ;-)

Minutes old.

Tiny filly has grown into tall mare, but lost none of her playful, gregarious personality along the way.  Happy Birthday to my favourite chestnut mare.  :-)

All photos are copyright protected. The foal pictures are copyright 2008 EJKimaging.

A day and a half old.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Birthdays Are Overrated, Right?

"Reciprocal," 8 x 16 oil on panel

Today is Peaker's birthday - Peaker being the first foal that was born on my little farm that wasn't mine (cough*Monster*cough). She was born one very cold February morning, eight years ago, first foal of her mom, Too Clever.  I remember it was cold enough I went and bought a foal blanket for her...and when I put it on her, Clever decided she was an alien, so I had to take it off.  Poor little Peaker!  She grew up tough!  Last I heard Peaker was in Minnesota.  I hope she is doing well, and that she shows up on my radar again.

After remembering Peaker's birthday, it occurred to me that I had completely let Leo's birthday slip by!  Yesterday marked five years since my goofy boy arrived, and he's been causing trouble ever since.  He even broke his halter yesterday.  In hindsight, it was almost as if he was trying to get my attention. Haha! 

Both Peaker and Leo have been models for my paintings.  Above is the most recent one featuring Leo (and his buddy growing up, Spider), an 8 x 16 oil on Raymar panel called "Reciprocal."  Below is on of my favourites of Peaker, galloping through the snow with her friend Maria, both of them yearlings.  This one is 11 x 14 oil on Raphael panel.  Both paintings are still available; if you're interested, let me know!

The next birthday is one I never forget.  Anyone want to hazard a guess whose that might be?  ;-)

"Fresh Snow," 11 x 14 oil on linen

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

What is Blue and Orange and Reminds Me of Summer?

I think I have actually finished a "real" painting that's been in the works for a while.  The process I used for it does actually have something to do with the painting I'm posting today.  This larger WIP was rather involved - what started out as a challenge of sorts with fellow artist/photographer Renee Fukumoto, sort of dissolved into something far away from the intended task....but I'm getting sidetracked.  All that is for another post.

You may recognize the fellow to the right.  There is a story behind Kim Santini presenting me with the plush Smurf toy in Saratoga a few years ago, but that's one of those inside jokes I sadly can't share here, haha.  It has morphed into the emergence of Spa Smurf, who has his own Facebook page....something for you to peruse one day when you're looking for avoidance tactics.

I've been meaning to paint Smurf for a while now, inspired by Kim's paintings of various toys and dolls (if you don't get distracted by the animals, have a look at them on her site). While my palette is a lot stingier than Kim's, the simple use of Cadmium orange for the ground does the trick to provide some punch.  I'm going to save discussing complimentary colours until I post the "challenge" painting...but that's what I'm making use of here.  Yes, it was actually intentional!  Sometimes I do pretend to know what I'm doing.  ;-) Our blue friend is 10 x 8 oil on canvas. 

Sunday, February 02, 2014

Falling Back on Photos

You know it's feed time when the widgets start eating the fences...or each other.
I have been painting.  Really I have.  It's just that sometimes I feel as if I'm posting endless WIP updates on my Facebook page, and never actually finishing anything.  I'm trying to keep my focus to one painting right now, because it's been a WIP too long, and it's very close to completion, so I really just need to keep my head down and get it done!  I WILL be heading to the easel after I finish writing this post.  I think - or hope - a couple more sessions will see this one ready to sign. 

Brigitte and Rachel, two-year olds home to grow up.
 In the meantime, the ponies have been providing me with fresh inspiration for new paintings.  At the top of the list is the always-entertaining widgets!  It doesn't matter which version I have on the farm....the widgets are always beggin to be painted.  If I can just get to them all, I'll have a really fun series!

Monster, the old lady on the farm at fourteen!

So for now...everyone was being particularly photogenic today.  The only one I didn't get a pic of was Leo.  Don't feel sorry for him, I've got lots of pics of the boy, so missing one today wasn't a slight!

Star, with Polly peeking over her back.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

"I'm sorry 2014, We Seem to Have Gotten Off on the Wrong Foot, Can We Start Over?"

"Hello, I put in for a transfer to Florida, did you receive it?"

That's how I've been feeling these days.  January has been somewhat of an uphill battle, through snow no less (literally, as of yesterday, as well as figuratively!).  I really don't like to whine about the weather - yes, I know, it's January, this is Canada, we get winter - but this year I admit I'm finding it hard to ignore.  Why did I stop spending winters in Florida, again?

I had a project for January - I moved Jubie, the last of the broodmares seeking a new career, to a boarding stable so I could get on her and better her chances of finding a new home.  Started off with a couple of days on the longe line, then we got hit with the first cold snap.  Sorry, but my craziness doesn't quite extend to getting on a mare who hasn't been ridden since she left the track in 2008 (and had quite the reputation) when it's -16 C (or less!).

Put it off for a couple of days...then the lights in the indoor arena weren't working. As I was getting there after dark, well....again, not going to get on said mare in the dark, thank you!  Next day I arrived while it was still daylight – of course the lights were also working by this point.  :-)

Jubie was a superstar, very sensible, no silliness. Yay!  A few days later....another cold snap.  Okay, the words POLAR VORTEX were being tossed around with abandon on the news.  There go a couple more days of riding.  Next – my stomach gets hit with something.  I think I've decided it was the medication I started taking for my bad ankle, but either way, it was a rather violent reaction that sent me crawling to my bed in between trying to manage the horses and doing stalls.  After about three days to recover from that, I felt strong enough to get back to riding!  Two days in a row, before....a return of that -20-something weather!
Swishy knows how to deal with the Polar Vortex.

By this point I'm just feeling beaten up and spit out, and desperately locking my eyes on that predicted high of -6 for Saturday the 25th.  Naturally that's when the predicted 2-4 cms of snow turned into about 20cm...so Saturday was spent moving snow, getting hay, and the usual horse chores.  I still felt guilty for not getting up at the end of the day to ride.

I did, however, managed a bit of painting, which, needless to say has been rather hit-or-miss this month, for no good reason.  When I decided on Friday afternoon to hit the easel, I really didn't mean for that to be literal – but yes, I managed to whack the back of my hand on the edge of the piece of plexi that rests under my palette - hard enough to actually cut my hand.  It kind of felt as if the easel was telling me, "You're not worthy, come back another time!"  Yes, okay, winter is doing my head in.  ;-) I decided to fight back and try painting with my left hand.  I did end up working with my right (dominant) hand, but it was an interesting exercise I should try more often.

Left hand....okay so you can at least tell it's a horse!

So, here we are, with a week left in January.  The weather isn't looking to be a whole lot friendlier this week, but I hope I manage to get a few rides in.  Perhaps I'll even manage to paint some more.  But who is with me, come January 31st....what say we celebrate the Chinese New Year and start over?  :-)

Back into the comfort zone....dominant hand...working title "Fire Filly!"