Friday, April 8, 2011

Painting Studio Tech by Paul Baldassini

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“Successful people do the things that unsuccessful people are unwilling to do.”     — John Maxwell

Studio Tech 1
My current studio is in the basement of my home in Middletown, CT. The large, dry basement has been remodeled with about 2/3 of the space taken up by my studio and studio storage. Like most basements in the average American home, the ceiling is only 8 feet high which, for the most part, dictates the maximum height of my paintings, rarely more than 24 inches. Which is just fine for me since I like to paint on wood panels and can purchase 2 x 4 foot "handy panels" at just about any lumber yard and cut them down to size. This I do in my shop, which takes up the back half of my attached garage. I do all of the messy stuff there including preparing panels, stretch linen canvas, or on occasion, make stretcher strips and frames.

Shop & tools
In the shop are a handful of industrial-quality power tools including vintage 1953 5 1/2 hp Delta 10-inch, Unisaw, Delta 14-inch bandsaw, Delta 10-inch motorized miter box (aka chop saw) for cutting frames, Cummins Machinery 5-speed drill press, heavy-duty Milwaukee router, and a light-duty Stanley dome-top router. Rolling chests of drawers contain a great many tools including hand-planes, chisels, hammers, screwdrivers, scribes and measuring tools. Hanging from racks are dozens of Jorgenson wood clamps and bar clamps of various sizes. These I use to build cradles for panels or build frames when necessary. Frames are assembled using an old Stanley No. 400 Mitre Vise.

I assemble stretcher frames or cradle panels using premium wood glue and a pneumatic Porter-Cable BN 200A 18-gauge Brad Nailer. To stretch linen canvas I use a Stanley-Bostich EHS-300 Electric Tacker, 5/16-inch T50 staples and wide-mouth canvas pliers.

Maximum use of a minimal amount of space
The small floor plan conveniently accommodates two painting areas: a rolling easel for oils and a pneumatic-lift drafting table for watercolors. In between is a heavy rolling 26 x 48-inch work table with a 1/4-inch glass top for storage of paints, brushes, mediums and solvents. In the opposite corner is a professional graphic arts workstation with twin monitors, trackball and digital stylus. There is an Epson Stylus Photo R2400 inkjet printer used for producing the high-quality photographic prints for my photo restoration clients and reference prints for my studio paintings.

Opposite my easel and drafting table is a large glass sliding patio-style door which provides ample east/south-east light most of the day. Additional lighting is is provided by two 4-foot overhead industrial light fixtures each fitted with two OTT-LITE VisionSaver fluorescent tubes. 65-watt Phillips Daylight floods provide overhead lighting.

Low-tech meets high-tech in the studio
My easel is an antique French-made upright floor design of unknown manufacture. It is large and heavy and features a machined steel hand-crank mechanism for effortlessly raising and lowering the transom that holds the canvas or panel. Under the transom is a built-in paint box on top of which I have added a larger modified transom that measures 12 x 36 inches. On top of that is a piece of 1/4-inch beveled-edge plate glass which serves as my palette. In between the transom and glass is a piece of photo-gray or neutral matte board whose value is similar to an underpainting grisaille. This arrangement is ideal for me for several reasons: 1. It sits directly below my painting surface so I can easily mix colors and apply paint.  2.There is minimal distance my arm has to travel to get to the paint or that my eye has to move to see it — for the most part, just up and down.  3. Its easy to clean with a scraper blade, solvent and a rag.  Below is  a photo of easel and work table.

The part of the easel that holds the top of the canvas or panel in place has a dado along the top edge in which slides a 32-inch wooden bar onto which I affix and hang my reference image. Almost always a photograph, and occasionally a sketch, it conveniently hangs to the left and a little above eye level and requires very little eye movement to see it — for the most part, just left to right.

While painting I also keep the same reference image displayed on the large display monitor (a new HP  ZR24W incredible graphic arts display monitor) — usually in grayscale — just in case I need to open up a shadow to examine detail that appears overly dark on the print, and to compare values. I can also zoom in to enlarge an area of my reference image to clarify and reveal detail indistinct in the print.

Thanks for visiting.