Before I say anything else, in case people don’t care to read all the way through this, I would just like to point out that I’ve added a lot of new work to my website. Please take a look and let me know what you think. Now, on to the story.
While working on a 12×12 series (see here and here), I got the idea that it would be fun to work even smaller, so I bought a dozen 8×8 panels. So far, this hasn’t turned out as expected; it’s been a struggle trying to get these tiny paintings to a satisfying state. I don’t know why this is, but it’s the same with textile works. (At least a painting on a wood panel doesn’t have the placemat problem.) But I can’t force it, and so those have been placed aside for the moment.
So when small doesn’t work, what’s the answer? Go big, of course!
Now, I must work within certain limitations, the most obvious of which is that since my studio is a room in my house, working large is a challenge. The largest possible painting I can do is 48 inches (the width of my work table). Since it was the dead of winter and we were having a series of frigid days at 10° F and below, that was the determining factor.
I had 3 panels made at this size – the most I could afford at the time. And since my studio room isn’t big enough to accommodate working on these flat all at once, the obvious solution is to take over the entire house. My mostly unused living room became the site of panel prep. Here’s the first stage, after a complete dust removal with a vacuum cleaner and a damp rag, a filling of teeny-tiny nail holes, and two coats of Golden GAC100. Right now it looks so beautiful, I would almost rather make a nice table out of it than use it to paint on.
I’ve found a great local source of panels: Space Gallery in Denver. These are beautifully made, furniture quality. Much better than anything I could do myself, and reasonably priced. They also seem to have a source for the raw materials that’s far superior to what I was able to get from Home Depot. So, if it’s within the budget, why not pay for a professional-quality product and use the time and energy saved for what you really want to do, which is make art? And yes, if I never have to see that scary table saw in action again, it won’t bother me too much.
Bonus: I get a chance to check out the latest show at Space Gallery, one of my favorites, and experience the unexpectedly wry humor of the director, artist Michael Burnett. Michael also gave me a great tip the last time I was there, which is to give the back of your panels a coating of your prep medium. This helps to equalize the stress between front and back and hopefully eliminate the chance of warping.
Well, since I needed painting substrates more urgently than I needed furniture, I eventually went on to the next phase of prep, gesso.
I like to put it on in thin coats with a roller, and I do three coats, letting each dry completely before going on to the next. This gives me a very nice even surface. I’m not completely sure why that’s important, since I will henceforth do a lot of things that will make it very UNeven, but that is now my ritual, for what it’s worth. To do three at a time, I also need to use the front entryway.
Now that warmer weather is on the way, I’m excited at the prospect of being able to work outside. I have a fantastic deck on the back of my house, and I just need to get set up out there. I plan to do some larger works out there when I figure out all the logistics.