In the studio 2/1/15

I had my first painting session with Taking Note yesterday. Yesterday’s session will be the first of 12 or so. I can’t remember how many drawing sessions I had before I started painting–4 or 5 sounds about right.  Taking Note is 42″ x 60″ and it’s a refreshing change of pace to work on a large-scale figure after a lot of paintings with small-scale figures (sometimes very small-scale).

You can see the 48″ x 60″ Jane and Keith Aboard the Betty Jane in the background. I had my first painting session with it this morning.

The unfinished 'Taking Note' on the easel

The unfinished ‘Taking Note’ on the easel

These two paintings illustrate my current techniques for preparing painting surfaces. Taking Note has 3 layers of acrylic gesso over 2 layers of GAC 100 (GAC replaces rabbit skin glue). This provides a sturdy and flexible surface that also insulates the cotton canvas from the oil paint. Each layer is lightly sanded. I find acrylic gesso too rough for painting, even when sanded, so I always finish with a final layer. Taking Note’s final layer consists of oil ground from Gamblin with a mid-tone of neutral gray oil paint added to it. This final layer is applied with a brush and then lightly sanded. You can see it in the sitter’s arm, which is simply the unpainted ground. The resulting surface has plenty of tooth without being too rough and is mildly absorbent due to the chalk in the oil ground. It’s pretty close to ideal for me.

The under layers of Jane and Keith Aboard the Betty Jane have a different history. This canvas is from a batch of poorly prepared commercial canvases i wrote about awhile ago. I sanded the final layer of the commercially prepared surface which was far too rough for my taste. I applied the same oil ground to it that I used for Taking Note, but I applied it with a scrapper. The resulting surface is slick and nearly nonabsorbent. I do not like slick surfaces. I did not add neutral gray paint to the ground; the background surface is the white of the oil ground. The first layer of paint consists of broad, flat areas applied thinly enough to see the underlying drawing.  You can see the beginnings in the photo.

I used to think the most efficient approach was that taken in Jane and Keith Aboard the Betty Jane; that is, a white surface with a first layer of flat tones that define the final tonal masses. Lately, I’ve revised my opinion and favor the approach taken with Taking News: a neutral mid-tone throughout is most efficient and, therefore, best.

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