Monday, August 22, 2011

Avoiding the Clones! Pre-Production and Constructing A Wood Panel

Sufficient pre-production and preparedness, or a lack of it, can make or break any project. One of the most important elements of painting is constructing and priming the painting surface. The pre-painting stage cannot be ignored, as it plants the seeds for a painting to develop its unique character!

For example, go into any art store, such as Blick, and find the canvas section. This section has stretched and primed canvases ready for painting, giving us the option of skipping the entire pre-production process altogether. The problem I have with these ready-made canvases is that they are mass machine produced, clones created with standard dimensions and impeccably uniform surfaces. Sometimes they are made with weak wood stretcher bars or cheap canvas. Most of the time, that drab uniform surface of a clone will remain in the texture of the completed painting. A painting should be a unique individual object, not an outgrowth of a clone.

So, the best way to avoid the clone is to construct and prime each painting surface individually. Here, I've decided my next painting will be on a solid wood panel.

Since the painting will be an addition to the "obsolete law book" series, I want it to remind us of the bookshelves on which these books once sat, so I decided to use the bookshelves themselves as the painting surface.

Here is a synopsis on how it was constructed:

After aligning the three bookshelves together, I used an electric miter saw to cut 2x2 bars to the correct dimensions. These bars are used for reinforcement and to hold the panels together. I used wood glue to attach everything, holding it all in place with clamps and masking tape. After the glue dried, I nailed the reinforcement bars in place. But because nails may slip out over time if the wood warps slightly, screws are necessary to prevent this by minimizing warping:

The panel was then flipped over and the surface was sanded down, smooth to the touch and free of splinters. After the sides were also sanded, the construction stage was complete. With dimensions of 48" x 33", this is what it looked like:

With a sturdy wood panel constructed, priming the surface was the next stage. I used three layers of gesso, sanding in between layers. Careful consideration is given to priming, as it will affect the texture of the final painting. In this case I used an old brush to spread the gesso in a smooth but slightly uneven manner with subtle irregularities. This sets the stage for the painting to develop its unique qualities in texture and presentation.

And now it is time to paint!

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