Thursday, January 18, 2018

A Study of Aluminum Panels for Painting, Part 1

Recently, I was reading some postings on an artist forum.  One posting in particular caught my fancy.  It regarded an artist who was very gravely concerned about making sure their works were preserved and so was agonizing over substrates and archival-ness of various materials.  This painter had become convinced that aluminum or copper panels were the absolute best thing ever.  Given my background as an engineer, I know that these materials, especially copper, can be rather expensive.  So I initially conceived of this posting as a lesson in seeking the best cross-section of competing parameters of cost/price/archival concerns/etc.  However, upon doing further research, I myself became much more intrigued by the use of aluminum panels.

It should be no secret that I have a very profound love of working on wood panels.  Very rarely do I use canvas, linen, or any other fabric substrate.  The reason is very simple.  I love the resistance of wood panels.  I like to be able to push, grind, and prod the paint as well as put down gentle, single strokes.  There is something magical to me about the glassine quality of paint moving fluidly across a hard and smooth surface.  I usually only resort to canvas when I want to paint large and worries such as weight and warpage of wooden panels become significant.  So my interest in aluminum panels mainly concerns using them as a means to paint larger with a similar handling as a wooden panel but with lessened weight and warping concerns.  I have no interest at all in copper because of it's malleability and higher density than aluminum.

My initial line of research was to price out artist ready aluminum panels, still with the mind that they would be rather exorbitant.  I was very much mistaken!  In fact, large panels of 4mm thick aluminum were about the SAME price as an equivalently sized canvas of medium to low quality level!!  If I was to use linen, it would be almost twice the price of a same-sized aluminum panel.  This jaw-dropping find fueled me to undertake a little study.

I found 3 small scrap pieces of aluminum panel.  These were all raw material with no surface treatment.  I believe that many of the commercially available panels are anodized which provides for a level of bondability for primer and paint.  These do not have that.

3 Little Panels, Ready for Cleaning

Step 1 was to make sure the panels were nice and clean.  Nothing will destroy the ability of materials to bond together quite like oils like the ones typically exuded from us humans.  To do this, I used Isopropyl Alcohol and cotton balls.  Alcohol is very nice and volatile and will cut well into most all organic oils such as those left from fingerprints.  I scrubbed with amply dampened cotton balls until the cotton came away relatively clean looking.

Panel 1, clean

Panel 2!

And Panel 3..

Look at some of the grime (and Sharpie ink!) on those cotton balls.

Some of the literature I read discussed being able to paint directly onto the anodized surface.  Since these panels have no surface treatment of any form, I wondered how they would take paint with no primer.  One of my common techniques is a nice wash using mineral spirits so I decided to check that out on the long aspect ratio Panel 1.

Wash on raw panel

After a day of curing, I checked the integrity of the paint film. It is not uncommon for a wash to be a weak paint film.  However, this wash totally failed to bond to the panel at all.  I was able to totally wipe it away with a finger.  The gesso I typically use is rather absorbent so the weak paint film is able to bond with it without significant pigment loss or dredge-up when applying the real paint.  So, at least for these non-anodized panels, washes directly onto the unprimed surface will not work. 

Oops! This part didn't work right!

Coming soon, part 2 - Priming!

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Skanderborg, Denmark

Skanderborg, Denmark
6X8, Oil on Panel

Here is another one from Denmark!  This one was also started in plein air in the town of Skanderborg and finished in the studio.  The mosquitoes here were ravenous little devils, way more aggressive than any mosquitoes we have here in Arkansas.

#2 of 50

Sunday, January 7, 2018

A Study of Mountains and Sunset

A Study of Mountains and Sunset
6X8, Oil on Panel

Here is my first of 2018!  This is a little sunset study of the vista above Marshall, Arkansas.  I took the photo for this over Thanksgiving.  A 30X40 version of this scene is in works right now.

#1 of 50

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

The Names In The Rock

"The Names In The Rock"
6X6, Oil on Panel

This is Frederiks Kirke in Copenhagen.  I had done this piece with the intention of submitting it for the Randy Higbee 6X6 competition but never got around to doing any more in this size.

This piece was actually completed in 2017.

Monday, January 1, 2018

More Not-Goals for 2018

So as I discussed in my 2017 year-in-review post, I thought last year was pretty successful.  It marked a solid turn-around from the slump that occurred in my life after the death of my wife in the summer of 2014.  She was my cheer leader and did a whole lot for me, both in terms of spreading my art with shameless promotion and also with encouragement.  She knew and understood what I was working towards, style-wise.  She followed the work of artists I admired to understand what made me like them.  Even though, she herself never pursued art in any way, she learned a lot about it in order to better understand what drove me and help me to better myself.  That is a rare thing to have.

So while I have not fully recovered, I have had some help in dealing and learning how to keep moving forward.  And I hope to continue this trend into 2018.

One huge goal I managed to accomplish in 2017 was getting my work into a third gallery.  It is a beautiful space in a quaint downtown in a small town in southern Arkansas.  The owner seems to be a wonderful person and I look forward to working with him to provide work of interest to this area.  However, I remain realistic about the prospects here.  Art is not a priority in the town in which this gallery is located.  Because of this, I will set my primary "not-goal" of 2018 to pursue a fourth gallery.  I will put some focus into a gallery in a larger city outside of Arkansas.  However, I will also be willing to find another gallery in-state if it is in a decent sized town or a town with a good art community, Hot Springs would be ideal.

1.   Get into a 4th gallery!  As discussed above, I will be looking for some very specific criteria here.  Either in a city modest sized or larger city out of state or an Arkansas city that should experience some relatively high traffic volume.  There are not many cities in Arkansas which fit this criteria so I should be able eliminate possibilities rather quickly.

2.  Start making my own frames! My online frame supplier of choice has discontinued more and more of my favorite styles of frames.  I really cannot afford to have a local company make my frames.  I bought a very nice used miter saw about 10 years ago and have yet to put it to use.  All I need is a corner pinner and I'm ready to start trying this.  I will target having this going before April.

3.  Make 60 blog posts...yes, I'm going to try for this again. It's totally achievable, especially if I blog more about works in progress or process related things.  No problem, lol.

4.  Complete 50 paintings...yes, I'm going to try to do this again too!

5.  Hang in 3 national shows.  I bested my goal of 2 last year so let's go for an improvement.  I would like for 2 of these to be outside of Arkansas.

6.  Line up a solo show for either end of 2018 or 2019.  Most likely this will be in 2019 because most galleries and arts centers will have already booked 2018.

I think you can see a theme beginning to develop here.  I am aiming for 2018 to be a year to establish footholds as a more regional artist with goals tied to out of state venues.

Friday, December 22, 2017

2017, A Year in Review

2017 was, by most standards, a really good year for me.  I set out this year with some pretty big goals in mind and I managed to accomplish the more important of those. I made not just 2 but 3 national level shows and sold one piece that made a show out of state.  That is a first for me.  Sales-wise, 2017 was not my best year ever but sales are rebounding after the death of my best representative and cheerleader.  I had an absolutely awesome trip to Denmark.  Every painting of Denmark I have attempted has turned out to be satisfying at least.  Some have been pretty awesome in my mind.  Over the course of the last 3 years, I have had a lot of baggage to carry around and many unfinished tasks of the heart and soul that just have never seemed to want to come to a conclusion.  2017 saw some of those things come to a conclusion and some others that will finally close early in 2018.  I had a period from around August until November where I did very little work as I faced those demons that have been haunting me.  I was even forced to take on some other responsibilities in my personal life in that time frame that will not be able to be finished until around midway through 2018.  I am hoping these will not have the darkened cloud effect that has been hanging over me the past 3 years.

1.  Get into another gallery
  • Frame of Mind, Camden, AR
2.  Make 60 blog posts
  • 50
  • My third highest post total ever so that's not too bad.
3.  Complete 50 paintings
  • 37
  • Not all of these have been published yet but will be in time.  I think this is my highest yearly painting total ever so while I did not make my goal, I can't complain about this.
4.  Hang in 2 national shows
  • Art at the Center in Overland Park, KS
  • South Arkansas Art Center Juried show in El Dorado, AR
  • Small Works, Mena, AR
5.  Hang in 4 local or regional shows
  • I just kind of ran out of options to enter.  At the end of the day this one was not quite so important to me.
So, there it is.  This will be my last post for 2017.  We will be going to Florida and Texas again but I will not be painting in Florida this year.  I have never really managed to produce anything there I liked anyway.  I'm not sure why that is.

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Holidays or whatever floats your boat and a Happy New Year!