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I would like to create the most archival stretched linen surface for oil painting, as far as my budget allows it.
First of all, I plan to use lead ground in the last one or two layers in the process. However, I was thinking about including acrylic grounds, so that I don't use up the expensive lead ground that fast. However, there seems to be a division in the art world, where some swear by the use of sizing before lead grounds, whereas others just apply four coats of acrylic gesso. Again, I've also heard on the wetcanvas forum, that acrylic gesso alone will leave the canvas susceptible to deterioration from the back (because canvas is not sized). The implication for me in this case is that maybe I should use some sort of sizing (PVA, GAC etc.), then acrylic gesso and then the lead ground, for the utmost archival property.
At the end of the day, my question is basically: how to prepare the most archival lead ground without necessarily breaking the bank?
Some guidance would be very much appreciated!
Move this whole section up, swapping places with the section above it.
First some words about sizes. The purpose of a size is twofold.
One is to cut or even out the absorbency of the substrate. The other is to
isolate the substrate from the binder in the ground. Sizes were essential when
using oil grounds on fabric to prevent the fabric from becoming greasy from the
absorbed oil and to prevent the acids in the oil from attacking the cellulose
in the canvas. Sizes were also applied to wooden panels, primarily to even out
the absorbency of the substrate. The wood would have different absorbencies between
the grain lines and the wood between them. Applying a gesso or even oil ground to
an unsized panel may result in a surface that had alternating bands of more and
less absorbency. This would be the death knell for a tradition egg tempera
painting which relies on a evenly absorbent surface.
It is not necessary to apply a size to a fabric that will
receive an acrylic dispersion ground. The binder in the ground would size the
fabric as long as enough coats were applied. This is not to say that one should
not size the fabric in such a case. Sizing with a couple of coats of acrylic
dispersion medium or thinned acrylic dispersion gel creates a surface that better
allows for a smooth application of acrylic dispersion ground. It also prevents
the unsightly and uneven absorption of the ground to the reverse of the canvas.
This is less disturbing to see on cotton duck but is really sloppy looking when
the same is done on a linen support.
As long as ample applications of acrylic dispersion ground
are applied to unsized fabric, it protects the canvas in the same manner as
having sized it. I still maintain that the procedure I mentioned above creates
a more satisfactory canvas.
I see no reason to use a PVA size below an acrylic
dispersion ground. It provides no more rigidity (I have read that it provides
less) and only adds another heterogenous material to the mix.
As to your outline plan. I see no problem with sizing the
linen with acrylic dispersion medium, applying a few coats of slightly thinned acrylic
dispersion ground. The more coats, the more rigid the surface. The amount of
water would depend on how viscous the ground is out of the jar. You do want
some leveling before drying to retain the mechanical tooth. I would aim for
ease of application but certainly not so thin that it is watery or able to penetrate
through the size layers. I would apply these grounds with a wide spatula rather
than a brush, or initially with a brush but smoothing with a wide spatula. It
creates a far superior surface than does brush application alone unless one is
intending on exploiting the inevitable textured, brushy surface. These layers
would effectively fill in a good deal of the interstices
After the above has dried a couple of days one could spatula
on a coat of thinned lead white in linseed oil (you want a slurry that is runny
but not watery . Apply an additional layer after it is allowed to dry enough to
take a fingernail test and if absolutely necessary for the intended degree of
Now after writing all of the above, many will tell you that
the lead white ground is not absolutely necessary. I personally prefer the feel
and the manner in which it accepts oil paint of a well applied lead white oil
ground. Others disagree. I remember back when I was in art school, one of my
classmates in a figure painting class who had always painted on self-prepared acrylic
dispersion grounds on cotton duck canvases. One day they tries to work on a oil
ground after seeing that I used them and our discussions about the difference.
This student became so frustrated by the change is feel that they ended up
slashing the canvas with an e-xacto knife before the end of that 6-hour studio
I will ask our
moderators from Golden Artists Colors to comment as well because they may have
a different take on this. Additionally, they have done many, many tests on the
rigidity of acrylic dispersion grounds and the adhesion/permanence of oil
paints on such grounds
Thank you so much for the exhaustive answer, I am obliged!