Let’s Achieve Something Great Together 2 – Surface Preparation

As you’ll have seen from my last post on this topic, I started by making the wooden frames for my new painting and stretched linen over them. The next stage is to prepare the linen for paint. This is a process that can be seen across a wide variety of painting techniques e.g. when painting an external wooden door, you’d more than likely paint an undercoat directly onto the wood and then a topcoat. Within fine art painting, this surface preparation or priming has traditional undertones. But first, a little background information. Paint is a combination of colour pigment and something called binder that acts a vehicle for the pigment. With artist oil paints the binder is generally linseed oil, whereas with artist acrylic paints the binder is an acrylic polymer and water (amongst other things, which is kind of secret recipe depending on the paint manufacturer). If we were to paint an oil based paint onto canvas without any surface preparation, the oil binder would leach into the canvas and over time begin to rot the material. A primer, traditionally called Gesso acts as a middle man between the oil paint and canvas that prevents rotting. With the invention of acrylic paint in the mid to late 1940s, which as a water-soluble artist acrylic paint was later made commercially available in the 1950s by a company called Liquitex, the need for using Gesso is questionable. Today, Liquitex say that their Gesso “Provides the perfect “tooth” and adhesion to a wide variety of surfaces such as canvas, paper and wood”. We could choose to paint with acrylics directly onto a canvas without any surface preparation, and there would be no reason for this to affect its archival potential. There are other issues surrounding this subject, but it depends how much we want to geek out on paint and processes. As long as we tick the main boxes when creating a painting, we can leave the paint tech stuff to the archivists and the paint manufacturers. I use Liquitex Gesso for surface preparation.

Liquitex Gesso on Italian Linen – Lee Gascoyne 2012

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