Thursday, January 20, 2011

Spectrum and Surface Prep

A lot of paperwork, snow shoveling, and non-illustration things have been eating my time of late.  While not doing a lot of painting, I'm winding up to the next couple pieces, which means a bit of surface prep.  What that means for me is taking a piece of 90 pound, hot press watercolor paper, and printing a sketch on it.  Then I wet the paper and, using acrylic matte medium, paste the paper to a piece of masonite or hardboard.  Next, I use a brayer to push out the excess matte medium, and let it dry.  This is followed by 3 coats of matte medium over the sketch's surface, letting it dry completely between each layer.  Finally, after the last coat is dry, I use a fine sandpaper to smooth the surface and finish it off with an even finer Scotch-Brite pad.  All in all, total prep time can take the better part of a day, depending on how warm it is in the house, as drying time can be greatly affected.

I learned to do this from both Donato and Todd Lockwood's descriptions on their respective websites.  I'm sure I do little things here and there differently, but the overall effect is the same.  I'm not sure where they learned it, but it's been my preferred way of doing things for a few years now.  The end result is a nice, relatively smooth surface with little or no texture that I find to be easy to work on.  But that's just me.  And I guess Todd and Donato.  And everyone else I know who does something similar.

The smoothness is important to me because I have grown to dislike the texture of canvas for some reason.  While I've painted on canvas many, many times in the past, I've always found the texture to be a bit distracting under certain circumstances.  Admittedly, I'm a little weird and particular about things, but I feel it's important to really like the surface you work on, no matter what it is.  If you hate it, you'll be working against it the entire time, which makes for a terrible experience.

Anyway, the good news is that the prep process is not all that labor intensive.  The bad news is that I can never really get into a good working rhythm doing something on the side because I'm constantly having to stop and turn my attention to the painting surfaces to slap a coat of matte medium down or some such.  So, surface prep days are often less than productive for me outside of the surface prep itself.  Such is life, I suppose.

On a completely unrelated note, there are eight days until Spectrum entries are due.  If you're even remotely considering submitting something, I highly recommend it.  As far as things like this go, it's pretty inexpensive, and the cost of submission is a write-off, so there's that.  If you get in, it can be a nice ego boost.  I'm not saying that getting in will solve all of life's problems (in fact it won't), but like the lottery, you have to enter something to even have a chance to begin with.

A shorter entry today, I know.  Probably a blessing for everyone's tired eyes.  If there happens to be something you're curious about, or a question you want answered, feel free to post something in the space below.  There's an excellent chance that someone reading this will have a question that I won't think of on my own.

Well, I'm off to slap some matte medium down...


  1. (delayed post)- I noticed that trying to mount a printed sketch works but every time ive tried/ wetting the paper tended to also make the ink run. Ive heard laserjet ink doesnt do that/ but those tend to cost an arm and a leg. What have you been using to print?

    1. I had a similar problem with my old inkjet printer. My current model doesn't have this problem. I would guess that the ink formulas are different, as the paper I've been using is the same.

      I currently use an Epson Stylus Photo r1900. It's a large inkjet printer. Output is 13" wide x infinity. It's reliable, with the only downside being that because there are so many ink cartridges, and because these cartridges are depleted at varying rates depending on what is being printed, it feels like I have to change a cartridge every time I print something.

      Still, the ink doesn't bleed at all.

    2. Huh, it seems the printer industry thrives on the secrets of their ink since its always a surprise with new printers. lol Thanks for the info.

    3. True, but to be fair, how we're using the printers is well outside the intended use. Most people avoid getting so much as a drop of liquid on their printouts. We're dunking ours then slathering copious amounts of it all over them.

      Ink life is already better than the lifespan of many pigments in our paint. It's only a matter of time before ink is also more permanent and archival.


I welcome all comments, questions, and discussion so long as you keep it civil.