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MITRA Forum Question Details

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  • Alternative Oil Painting Grounds?ApproveRejectUn-ApproveSubscribeUn-Unsubscribe
    Question asked 2017-08-11 18:33:34 ... Most recent comment 2017-08-13 14:09:17
    Grounds / Priming Health and Safety

    Hello MITRA folks,

    Do you know if there are any alternatives to rabbit skin-based, solvent-based and acrylic-based grounds for both canvas and panels? I have read that methylcellulose can be subsituted, and a reference to shellac, but have read nothing definitive and scientific. This would be for oil painting, and I am looking for a low VOC, solvent-free, easy-to-use solution that would also be archival (or a support for oil painting that needs no ground (and no solvents to clean it) at all. 

    Thanks so much for any thoughts!


Answers and Comments

  • EditDeleteModerator Answer

    It sounds like you might be asking about sizings as well as primings. PVA sizing is available as a ready-to-use preparation. For the ground, you might try an oil-based primer thinned lightly with ​solvent-free, walnut-based alkyd medium. Also, since you mention support materials that can be used with no in-studio prep, why not consider factory-primed canvas and panels?

    By the way, in deference to Mr. Gottsegen who certainly would have pointed this out, and at the risk of sounding like a nit-picker, I want to mention that the term "archival" is often used when artists really mean "durable to the standards of permanent art". I know this doesn't help directly answer the question, but I'm pointing it out because writing here makes me miss Mark.

    Matthew Kinsey, Utrecht Art Supplies
    2017-08-11 20:22:38
  • EditDeleteModerator Answer

    I guess one question is what is wrong with the materials you mentioned? What is the desire or need for an alternative? Knowing your motivation might help in selecting something. Is it just curiosity and novelty? Or a particular quality you are after? Also are you looking to paint on panel or canvas of some kind?

    In terms of alternatives sizing methylcellulose can indeed be used as an alternative to rabbit skin glue​ and it is something I have done a couple of times, a long time ago, but beyond that personal experiment, and the fact that it is used as a size for paper, I do not know of scientific studies about its use on canvas. And as Matte mentions, PVA is also viable - though just as synthetic as acrylic, if for some reason that is an issue.

    As for a substrates you can paint on directly, keep in mind that painting on a substrate always has the drawback that the future of the work becomes intimately bound to the future of the substrate itself. With no intervening ground what happens to the one happens to the other. That said, there is a history of painting directly on copper, and one can also paint wood with no primer, and there is also an Oil Paper made by Arches that can be painted on with no additional prep and has a nice feel.

    Hope that helps.

    Sarah Sands, Senior Technical Specialist, Golden Artist Colors
    2017-08-11 21:20:00
  • ApproveRejectUn-ApproveUser Comment

    ​Thank you Matthew and Sarah for your speedy and insightful perspectives on my questions. My impetus in asking these sorts of questions is that I'm looking for a way to avoid (or greatly diminish) my exposure to solvents, including ammonia. There is solvent-free oil painting approach (Gamblin's solvent-free mediums and M. Graham's walnut and walnut alkyd mediums, for example) that I've been using successfully for some time, but finding a similar approach for the size and ground has been frustrating. Though there are many fine acrylic-based gessos and sizes out there, they all have their fumes which can linger for some time, in my experience. I have a small working space within my home, and this is an issue. PVA sounds like a possibility. Matthew, your suggestion of an oil-based primer thinned lightly with something like M. Graham's walnut alkyd medium is something I will look into. Would a procedure of PVA size on a wood panel, followed by this walnut alkyd thinned oil-based primer (i.e. Gamblin Ground comes to mind) be an approach that you'd support technically? (I do understand that issue of "archival" as Mark G. wrote about, and was just using that term for the general idea of "durable.") As for using factory-primed canvases and panels: many I have tried have been frustratingly absorbant, especially for a solvent-free painter who wants to scrub in the first layer instead of using a solvent-thinned imprimatura or toning. In the past, I've added several layers of gesso to factory-prepared canvases which does work better, but still leaves me with those fumes for a good while. I have been pondering using a factory-primed panel or canvas and then scrubbing in a thin imprimatura layer of Titanium White oil paint slightly thinned with walnut alkyd medium (or M. Graham's Titanium White Rapid Dry), in order to make further paint layers go on more smoothly. Do you think this approach would be "archival" in that durable sense of the word? Or would you recommend any other approachs to making too-absorbant grounds more user-friendly? Thank you in advance for your suggestions!


    2017-08-11 22:03:03
  • EditDeleteModerator Answer

    ​What you are suggesting here may certainly work...keep in mind if you are dealing with a ground that you find too absorbent you could always try to rub a bit of the alkyd medium that you are using into the surface first thereby avoiding the need to apply additional priming layers.

    Kristin deGhetaldi
    2017-08-13 00:26:28
  • EditDeleteModerator Answer

    ​This procedure and issues surrounding the practice are also mentioned here.

    Brian Baade
    2017-08-13 13:48:42
  • ApproveRejectUn-ApproveUser Comment

    ​Kristin, thank you! for that suggestion that simply rubbing a bit of walnut alkyd medium into a too-absorbant ground would be completely acceptable/durable.♡ I'd prefer to let the ground touch-dry before proceeding, as opposed to "painting into a couch." Would both approachs work, do you think?

    2017-08-13 14:04:20
  • ApproveRejectUn-ApproveUser Comment

    ​Thank you for the link, Brian. I'll study that post. Much appreciation for MITRA and all of your staff's accumulated wisdom and experience. Best, Susan

    2017-08-13 14:09:17

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