Painting Panels

As an artist, I have had plenty of issues with my paintings lasting through the years. I’ve had everything happen from paint peeling, cracking, bleeding through the canvas, or simply losing color intensity over time. I now know craftsmanship during the process of preparation of the panel and ground makes a huge difference with how long they’ll last. Over the years I’ve learned to be meticulous in my preparation through tons of research and experiments. I have made strides in my process to make my work last, whether it’s just a quick study or a month-long painting endeavor. I put the same amount of work into my substrates for my studies as I do my finished work because I keep all my old sketches and studies just in case I want to turn back to them for future projects.

What brings this post on? Well I’m glad you asked. This weekend I was able to start building some painting panels for the oil paintings I’m hoping to start this week. I hope this post is useful to someone, so they don’t have to learn the lessons I’ve learned the hard way. As mentioned, I am meticulous when it comes to the preparation of my panels, so it took pretty much a whole day to for the preparation and drying time in between. I start with a panel of hardboard bought from a hardware store such as Home Depot or Menards. I now prefer wood over canvas for the smoothness and it is more resistant to expansion and contraction from changes in humidity and temperature than canvas. I cut it down to the size I desire on a table saw. Recently I’ve been interested in the square as a form that defies normal convention and I feel it gives me a challenge for composition purposes, but that’s a whole different subject on its own. Maybe I’ll leave that for a different week’s post.

So on to the process of creating my panels. With it cut down to size I use an electric sander with 120 grit paper to scuff up the surface of the hardboard. This allows the layer of ground to adhere better and keep from chipping off or peeling. Using a tack cloth, I wipe away the residue of what I just sanded. This provides a surface that is clean and also offers a tacky surface for the next layer to adhere to. I then apply two layers of Golden GAC-100, sanding in between each layer. This product basically creates a barrier between the substrate and the gesso, so it doesn’t seep into the panel and cause it to warp or decay over time. After each sanding process I use the tack cloth to clean up and make it easier to adhere the next layer. The next layer is Utrecht Artists’ Acrylic Gesso. I love the thick consistency of this and it can be watered down if you prefer thinner layers. I prefer to put it on as thinly as possible in its normal consistency and sand in between coats. I use three layers of the gesso, sanding in-between, and then lightly sand the final layer. This should create a perfectly smooth and consistent top layer and will allow the painting to last for years to come. I hope this was helpful to anyone that wishes to make some long-lasting paintings!