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“The meek shall inherit nothing.” —Frank Zappa
Studio Tech 2
Painting supports and preparation
As I mentioned earlier I prefer to paint on a rigid surface and my choice of substrate for large studio work is 1/2-inch MDF (Medium Density Fiberboard). Home Depot sells 2 x 4 foot pieces for under $8 and I cut them to size on my table saw. These panels are noticeably heavier than a stretched linen canvas of similar dimensions but they never warp and require no cradling. My method of preparing a panels is as follows:
Panel only. Using 150-grit sandpaper, rough sand one side of the panel and apply two coats of Sandable Hard Gesso (I use Golden) or Premium White Latex Exterior house paint (I use Behr from Home Depot) to that side and the edges, sanding in-between coats. Since the 1/2-inch panels don’t warp there is no need to apply Gesso the back. Whichever one you use, mix in a bit of Raw Sienna or some other yellowish acrylic paint to tint the first two coats or won’t be able to see final coats of the Williamsburg Oil Painting Ground on top.
When dry to the touch I apply two coats of Williamsburg Oil Painting Ground thinned with just a touch of solvent to make it a bit easier to apply. Baking the panels out in full sun will make them dry to the touch in a couple of days, otherwise it could take over a week to put on the second coat. A light sanding between coats if optional depending on how smooth a surface you desire. You can produce an almost burnished eggshell-like finish with multiple coats and sanding with 600-grit sandpaper but I find that sanding with 320-grit between coats works just fine. Let dry, even after baking in the sun for at least two weeks before using.
Linen mounted on panel. Cut a piece of linen about an inch or so all around larger than the panel and have it ready nearby. Using 120-grit sandpaper, rough sand one side of the panel and apply one coat of Sandable Hard Gesso to that side and the edges. When dry, spread a on a generous coat of bookbinders glue (I use Lineco Neutral pH Adhesive) with a high-quality housepainting brush all over the surface. Carefully attach the linen making sure that the threading runs in a parallel direction to the length of the panel. I use my hands to make sure that there are no bubbles and the linen is firmly attached. Then I dip the brush in some glue and grind and paint it into the entire surface of the linen. Then, using a 4-inch Speedball soft rubber brayer I roll all over surface back and forth slightly stretching the linen until I’m sure it is firmly attached with no bubbles anywhere, crimping and pressing all around the edges. When done I cover the surface with wax paper, lay another piece of MDF on top and place heavy books or objects on top and let dry overnight.
The next day, remove the weights and wax paper. Using a single-edged razor blade carefully trim away the excess linen. Sand the rough surface down so that its smooth and run the sandpaper over the edges a bit. Apply two coats of Williamsburg Oil Painting Ground as described previously and let dry, even after baking in the sun, for at least two weeks before using.
A palette that works for me
I struggled for years to find a palette of colors that works for me. Seemingly endless substitutions of colors that I read about some other painter was using, warm-cool palette, limited palette, expanded palette, must have this color, must use that color and so on. I tried many tubes of paint from many manufacturers and now have a huge collection of tubes of paint I’ll probably never use again. If you’re reading this then you know what I mean.
So, after years of trial and error, and countless coloring mixing swatch charts, I finally have a stable palette of colors that I’m comfortable with, and can reliably mix the right colors when I need them. Below is one of the color swatch charts. They are a LOT of work and you’ll use up a LOT of paint but they are definitely worth doing. You’ll be amazed at the extraordinary range of colors that exists within your personal palette, many of which you may never have mixed before. Send me a note and I’ll tell you exactly how to do it and where to get the 1/4-inch painter’s masking tape that you’ll need plenty of to do it right.
Arranged along top edge of my palette from left to right the tube paints I use are: Gamboge Lake Extra (Old Holland); Cadmium Yellow Medium (Rembrandt); Raw Sienna (Williamsburg); Chinese Orange (Sennelier); Fanchon (Napthol) Red (Williamsburg); Quinacridone Magenta (Sennelier); Perylene Crimson (Williamsburg); Burnt Sienna Deep (Blockx); Viridian (Williamsburg); Ultramarine Blue French (Williamsburg); Indigo (Williamsburg); Warm Grey (Sennelier); Titanium Zinc White (Gamblin).
For a medium I use Maroger Painting Medium from Old Masters, Flemish formula.
My watercolor palette is pretty much the same pigments as the oil palette with a couple of additional colors. They are: Indian Yellow Orange Lake Extra (Old Holland); Cadmium Yellow Medium (Old Holland); Quinacridone Gold (Winsor Newton); Chinese Orange (Sennelier); Permanent (Napthol) Red (Holbein); Perylene Maroon (Daniel Smith); Quinacridone Magenta (Winsor Newton); Quinacridone Burnt Orange (Daniel Smith); Phthalo Green (M. Graham); Ultramarine Blue (M. Graham); Indigo (Holbein); Quinacridone Violet (DaVinci) and Brown Madder (Holbein).\
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