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Friday, June 28, 2013

Painting on Panel: Sizing


All wood panels must be sized, or sealed, before painting to contain the natural chemicals within the wood that can break a painting down over time. Support Induced Discoloration (SID) occurs when a panel is not properly prepared and these chemicals leach through to the paint on the surface. By choosing a denser panel with a low acid content, an artist greatly reduces their risk of SID. However, all wood panels should be sized (sealed) and primed before painting to ensure their longevity.

Traditionally, panels were sized (sealed) with hide skin glue before applying the Gesso grounds. However, current research has shown that hide glues like rabbit skin glue do not completely seal the surface, and deteriorate over time. Conservators consider a PVA size or acrylic resin a superior modern substitute for hide skin glue. If you are sealing your own panel such as Ampersand’s Hardbord™, we recommend using GAC100 from Golden®. This is a superior sealer for panels. Its high resin content seals the panel very well and forms a good film on the surface. GAC100 also forms a good foundation for proper adhesion to layers of gesso. With Ampersand’s coated surfaces such as Claybord and Gessobord, Ampersand uses their Archiva-Seal technology to seal their panels prior to applying their painting grounds. This technology employs a specialized method to apply their proprietary sealers so that the actual fibers of the board are sealed. This sealing process creates a barrier between Ampersand’s acid-free coatings and the hardboard surface, ensuring that an artists’ work will be protected over time.

Prior to sealing, make sure your panel is clean of any dust or debris. Some experts recommend that you slightly sand the surface of the panel to ensure good adhesion. Note that Ampersand Hardbord should not be sanded. Removing the top layer of tempered fibers can cause the panel to warp when gesso is applied. Next, apply GAC100 liberally with a brush onto the panel. Take a putty knife or spatula and work the GAC100 into the fibers of the panel while it is still wet. Smooth it out and let this first layer dry. Next, apply two additional coatings with a brush, letting each layer dry in between coatings (no need to sand between layers). Make sure that the sealer is evenly distributed throughout the surface. It is highly recommended that you seal both sides of the panel to retard moisture penetration on the front and back and to equalize both sides of the panel to prevent warping.

All things Ampersand, 
Karyn Meyer-Berthel 
Artist & Social Media Specialist 
Ampersand Art Supply 

Click here to explore the full selection of Ampersand panels and tools.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Painting on Panel: Cradling and Supports



Cradled panels in the warehouse
In order to give a panel extra support, many artists produce a bracing system (cradling) for their panels. While this is not an option for solid wood panels due to their expansion and contraction over time, manufactured panels are structurally sound enough to be cradled. For panels over 24″ cradling is advised. 
Elaine and Veronica inspecting panels

Cradles are generally a separate unit the size of the panel that is attached to the back using carpenters glue and C-clamps. Larger size cradles will generally have cross-braces, much like stretcher bars for canvas. When choosing a wood for your cradle, it’s best to go with high quality multi-ply plywood, as this will give you the best protection against warping. Solid woods are to be avoided, as they have a uniform grain that will warp over time in a thin strip. Do not nail or screw the cradle onto the panel, or you will have a blemished surface that is certain to deteriorate over time. 


Save yourself the trouble of all this carpentry work by using an Ampersand cradled panel. Only Ampersand builds their cradles by hand with premium grade 13-ply birch plywood for maximum stability and a clean, finished look from edge to edge. Choose from 3/4", 1.5" and 2" Deep, all carefully made by hand in Buda, Texas. 

Ampersand Claybord and Gessobord panels are now available in a new 1.5" Cradle Profile that offers you more flexibility for hanging and framing your work. Featuring a 1.5" total depth, this new cradle profile is handcrafted with premium grade 13-ply birch plywood, designed to fit both standard canvas and floater frames. The cradle can easily be painted or stained to complement the artwork or primed with gesso to wrap the image around the edges.

For ideas on how to treat the edges of the cradle, consult this article on hanging and framing.

All things Ampersand, 
Karyn Meyer-Berthel 
Artist & Social Media Specialist 
Ampersand Art Supply 

Click here to explore the full selection of Ampersand panels and tools.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Featured Artist: Nilda Rosa Rodriguez

Colored pencil on Pastelbord
"Another artist mentioned the Pastelbord surface to me.  At that point, I was designing many pieces in colored pencils and wanted to try a surface that was not paper.  Upon trying Ampersand Pastelbord, I was delighted to see the high compatibility that medium has with colored pencils, and that all my techniques could be applied with great results and no frustration."  -Nilda Rodriguez
Colored pencil on Pastelbord

Florida artist, Nilda Rodriguez, is a multi-media, working artist, teaching and traveling regularly for the Society of Decorative Painters and her own studio, Tolebrush.  Nilda's love of art began at a very young age, drawing family portraits.  Her painting began when a friend took her to tole painting classes.  Working in acrylics became her steady medium for years while she learned how to use oils from videos and her own steady practice.  In 2007, though, Nilda took on colored pencil.  With her natural gravitation to drawing, the medium came easy to her and she had her work with instructions published in The Decorative Painter, the official magazine of the Society of Decorative Painters.  Since then, she has had many other projects published and continues to work in all three mediums regularly.

Nilda demonstrating at the SDP conference
Nilda most recently attended the Society of Decorative Painter's Annual Convention , from May 13-18 in Illinois, and shared Pastelbord™ in a workshop with attendees.  She found Pastelbord through another artist and uses it for its durability, versatility and its quality.  Nilda explains further, "I think that your final product is as good as your materials.  If you use poor quality brushes or surfaces then you are not able to achieve an excellent final product.  I have tried many types of paper and the results are not as good as what can be achieved with Pastelbord.  It is important to use a surface that will be compatible with colored pencils and that optimizes the techniques used while coloring.  I like the vibrancy that the colored pencils display when applied on a Pastelbord.  Pastelbord is my choice because you can apply different mediums without perforating it.  Furthermore, there is something to be said about a surface that has sturdiness and some weight and mass to it; there is a psychological quality where the artist and admirers perceive the finished piece as having more value and durability."

Colored pencil on Pastelbord
For students trying Pastelbord with colored pencils for the first time, Nilda offers the following advice:

  • Use light pressure when applying the layers of pencil.  To release some of the pressure on your surface, try holding your pencil further away from the tip.  Holding the pencil very close to the tip gives you more control, but places more pressure on the surface.
  • Use a well sharpened point.  Working in circles can allow one to rotate the pencil to always have that freshly sharpened point.
  • Consider painting the background with acrylics first, and then transferring the drawing to the Pastelbord.  (Pastelbord does come in a range of colors, but acrylics coat the panels nicely and stay wet long enough for blending the colors.  Acrylics also take colored pencil well on top of Pastelbord.)
Nilda's oil on Gessobord
Nilda finishes her work by burnishing with a colorless blender or Gamsol and then applying a few more layers of pencil.  She uses the Grumbacher Acrylics and Oils final varnish in a spray coat and the varnishes with JW Right Step Gloss Varnish applied with a soft cloth.


Even though Nilda has a full seminar scheulde and studio practice, you can often find her posting new work on her blog and website: Tolebrush.com 

All things Ampersand,
Karyn Meyer-Berthel
Artist & Social Media Specialist
Ampersand Art Supply

Click here to explore the full selection of Ampersand panels and tools.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Painting with Casein on Panel

Work by Steve Quiller
Casein colors are paints made by mixing artists' pigments with a solution of Casein, a milk protein. They are usually applied with a brush on a wall-board panel coated with gesso (Claybord or Gessobord). Canvas cannot be used, because dry casein is the most inflexible of the permanent paint binders and becomes increasingly brittle as it ages. For the same reason, the palette knife should be used with restraint, as the paint will crack if laid on too thickly; a heavy impasto should be avoided. The colors dry rapidly to a pleasing and durable mat finish, although some artists varnish their pictures to obtain a glossy finish more characteristic of oil paints. Caseins may be used to produce effects ranging from smooth areas of flat color to the robust textures of semi-impasto, for which a full bristle brush is used. Casein is also frequently used as an underpainting for oil paints and glazes.

Besides the mat quality of casein colors and their high drying speed, some artists prefer them to oils because they can be mixed with water. Although dried casein paint may be damaged if spattered with water, it is not readily water-soluble and will resist dampness. A casein painting may be sprayed with Formalin (or spray fixative like Krylon® UV Resistant Clear Coating #1309 (Matte) or #1305 (Gloss) to increase its resistance to moisture. It may be cleaned with Acetone. In the later 1940's, manufacturers of artists' materials brought out complete lines of improved casein colors in tubes and the technique became quite popular in the United States.

The preceeding information was a selection from Ralph Mayer's book, "Art Terms and Techniques."



Claybord is particularly receptive to this versatile pigment but Gessobord may also be used if a less absorbent surface is required. The smoothness and absorbency of the Claybord surface is very similar to a 'traditional' gesso panel made with chalk and hide glues. Casein requires the use of a rigid surface to prevent cracking and aging. Claybord or Gessobord is the perfect solution to saving you many hours of painstakingly preparing your own panels. 


All things Ampersand, 
Karyn Meyer-Berthel 
Artist & Social Media Specialist 
Ampersand Art Supply 

Click here to explore the full selection of Ampersand panels and tools.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Painting on Panel: The differences between HDF and MDF


To continue our series about Painting on Panel, I've pulled together information on the differences between HDF or High Density Fiberboard and MDF, Medium  Density Fiberboard.  I realize these posts are rather on the technical side, so please post questions if you have them.  We are here to help you make good choices for the longevity and beauty of your art.  


Hardboard is most commonly associated with Masonite, as this was the first “brand” of hardboard invented by William Mason in 1942.  Hardboard is often confused with high density fiberboard (HDF) or medium density fiberboard (MDF).  Producers of these different panels use reconstituted wood (saw dust and chips) and use different methods for manufacturing that in turn produce panels that have different characteristics in terms of density and internal bond strength. One of the most significant differences between Hardboard and fiberboard panels (both MDF and HDF) is the method of manufacturing. MDF and HDF panels use a dry process method and use synthetic binders or formaldehyde based agents for binding the wood fibers.   In comparison, Hardboard uses a wet/dry process method that relies on the natural binders within the wood to cement the fibers together and make the wood solid. 

The wet/dry process used to manufacture Hardboard has several advantages. The wet process method produces a smooth-one-side (S1S) panel, while the wet-dry process produces a smooth-two-side panel (S2S). Both processes explode the wood particles using steam pressure, and float them in a large vat of water, which pulls out many of the naturally acidic agents within the wood. The wood fibers are then randomly aligned parallel to the surface, and using heat and pressure, are made into a solid core panel. Ampersand’s Hardboard also has an added overlay of a neutral aspen fiber layer.  This process allows a very uniform and very strong panel, making it one of the best substrates for painting, laminating, and construction.  While still a relatively light-weight panel, Hardboard has a significantly higher density compared to MDF panels with a much higher tensile strength and internal bond than MDF and most HDF panels.


Ampersand’s Hardbord is made using a proprietary manufacturing wet/dry process that produces a superior solid core panel of unequaled strength and longevity. Ampersand’s Hardbord is made from FSC (Forestry Stewardship Council) certified forests.  This third party audit system employed by Ampersand’s supplier ensures chain of custody forest management and fiber sustainability.  This is the most stringent accreditation in the industry. Our aspen fiber overlay provides a more pH neutral wood content and even uniform fibers. Ampersand’s Hardbord outperforms all other HDF’s and MDFs in the market with regard to moisture resistance and strength.   

As mentioned earlier, Ampersand’s Hardbord is made using the natural binders in the wood. No added formaldehydes (NAUF) are used in Ampersand’s Hardbord, providing a virtually VOC free panel.



What you need to know:
• Hardboard panels are probably the best value on the market for artists today.

• Tempered panels produced within the U.S. no longer have the topical oil content they once had.  However, very small amounts of tempering oil continues to be added to the integral fibers.  Linseed oil is the natural agricultural oil use in the manufacture of hardboard.

Pros:  
• Hardboard is more dense than MDF and HDF, making it less prone to warping while still lightweight.
• Hardboard is a very uniform and stable surface without a grain, making it easier and faster to prime.
• Only natural binders used.
• Provides a pressed steam ironed surface to create a smooth gessoed panel.

Cons:
• Larger panels can become heavier.
• Flexibility of the surface requires thicker hardboard to be used for larger paintings.



Medium Density Fiberboards (MDF) and High Density Fiberboards (HDF) are engineered panels that are made through a dry process that completely breaks down the particles of wood and reconstitutes them into a new panel using heat, pressure and a binder.  One of the most common binders used in their manufacture is urea formaldehyde, leading to potential problems with out-gassing. MDF typically has a density of 600-800 kg/m³, as compared to hardboard, which has a density nearly double that of MDF (1,450 kg/m³). HDF panels come closer to the densities of hardboard but are still normally 10 lb/ft³ lower in density than hardboard, making them more porous and more prone to warping, especially in an 1/8” thin version.   More layers of sealing and gesso are required to eliminate the fiber raising that happens with MDF and most HDF’s on the market.   MDF and HDF technology is rapidly changing and we will see better MDF being produced without formaldehyde as the binder and MDF that is much more dense and less prone to warping in the future.

What you need to know:
• If using MDF/HDF, make sure to seal the surface with several coats of Gesso and a good acrylic seal like GAC 
• Even with cradling, there is a high potential for these panels to warp over time
• MDF is not a high-density board. Fibers are very porous, and have a tendency to swell when painted, leaving a very uneven surface.

Pros:
• Lightweight and inexpensive.
• Original organic structure of wood completely broken down to allow for consistent specifications.
• Future potential – could be a good panel in the future as technology improves density and binding material used.

Cons:
• Not a dense panel – high tendency for warping in thinner versions.
• Porous, therefore not easily primed.
• Forrmaldehyde based resins primarily used for binders.
• High acidic content.
• Fibers swell when gessoed.

There are more posts coming on this important content about panels.  Stay tuned for feedback from other art material manufacturers and conservators.  

All things Ampersand,
Karyn Meyer-Berthel
Artist & Social Media Specialist
Ampersand Art Supply

Click here to explore the full selection of Ampersand panels and tools.