Alaskan Artist - Elise Tomlinson
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05/13/2004: "Linen vs. Cotton Duct Canvas vs. Panel vs. ???"

Iím having this sort of painting crisis where I canít decide what surface I want to paint on. I like the idea of painting on panel (Masonite) but I have some issues with it. It seems no matter how many times I gesso the surface, it still soaks up oil paint too quickly, so it becomes more like painting with acrylic than oil. Also, When Iím working with a larger piece of panel, it sometimes starts to bow out, kind of warping from being wet (while gessoing) and Iím not sure how to correct for that either.

The canvas that I was originally so happy with (Vincent Masterpiece Masterwrap 12 oz cotton duct) has started to let me down. The surface has some weird patterns to it, the way itís weaved, and if you leave a canvas out without painting on it right away it loosens up and the canvas gets kind of indented where it touches the stretcher bars in the back.

Iím considering trying the Vincent Masterwrap oil primed linen, but Iíve never worked on linen before so Iím not sure what to expect. Itís kind of expensive and I have to buy in bulk to get affordable shipping so I donít want to order a bunch and then hate them.

So, Iím taking a poll, if you paint with oil paint, what is your preferred painting surface and why?

Replies: 9 Comments

on Thursday, May 13th, Howard said

With larger sizes of Masonite you will need to build a support to stop them from warping much like you need a stretcher for canvas.
If the work isn't too big you can try priming the backside as well. That might help get rid of some of the bowing.
Framing the work will also get rid of the warping on smaller pieces, but it has to be a good sturdy frame.
If you are trying Masonite you might want to try real honest to god gesso, rabbit skin glue and all. It has a much harder finish than the standard acrylic gesso's. Of course it requires cooking, but I hear it's an exceptional painting surface.

on Thursday, May 13th,">Jake said

The differences between cotton canvas and linen canvas can vary a lot depending on the brand. What I think makes more of a difference is if it's listed as fine or coarse, the weight, and how it's primed.

I personally use a fine grade acrylic primed belgium linen and it's a nice tight weave.

The stretcher bars are also important and I build my own for those too so I don't know much about the prestretched stuff.

I've never used masonite before so not much help there either.

on Friday, May 14th,">Stacy said

I've always preferred Masonite, since the surface can be so smooth and hard, but I have just recently decided that I'm going to try oak, poplar, or mahagony panels- what the old masters used :). I've read that oak is very versatile (and of course the Mona Lisa is on poplar.) Have you tried any other types of wooden panels?

Like Howard said, you should try sizing with rabbit skin glue which is waterbased. That way, it will protect your canvas from any deteriation that occurs from oils. Of course, these are long term effects, and may not have to do with the problem you're having. Then prime it with gesso (both sides to prevent warping, or maybe use latex paint on the back side which has worked for me on larger pieces, and is cheaper I imagine).

on Friday, May 14th,">Stacy said

I don't know if this will help any more or less, but to clarify...

"Traditional gesso - rabbit skin glue and gypsum plus white pigment is for SOLID supports ONLY. Its too brittle to use on canvas. Gesso has never been considered archivally sound." -Michael Skalka
Conservation, National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC

I've also read elsewhere that RBG is not as archival as modern acrylic gessos. This may be beside the point, but it really does just come down to the decision on how you want to preserve your work during your liftime and afterwards.

As for soaking up your oil paint, I'm still stumped why it would be doing that right away. :confused:

on Friday, May 14th,">Elise said

Thanks everyone for all of the excellent info. I have one question though, whey Michael Skalka said that gesso wasn't archivally sound, was he referring to tradional gesso or modern acrylic gesso?

on Friday, May 14th, Stacy said

Michael was talking about the traditional gesso.

on Friday, May 14th,">Elise said

Thanks Stacy! btw, I asked in a previous message if you're Stacy Morales, my friend that moved away a couple years ago and I never heard back.

on Friday, May 14th,">Jackie said

E~ I haven't done any painting for about 6 years...but a while back I took an iconography class. In that, the instructor took us through preparation of wood panels using 1/2 to 3/4" birch plywood (the expensive stuff). After the board is cut to desired size, you sand it lightly, then apply successive coats of gesso (3 or 4 coats worked); sanding with wet/dry very fine paper between each coat, rinsing the sludge in clear water, then drying before the next layer of gesso. He recommended good quality acrylic gesso. We used acrylic paints for our icons, but the surface was ideal for egg tempera. It is a silky, almost porcelain quality surface to paint on - I suppose it would be good for oil as well. As for your confessed impatience - in class, we prepared several panels at once, which you could certainly do. Cheers! :cool:

on Saturday, July 3rd, Hamish Grant said

Hi, I am enquiring if anyone has a source in the United Kingdom for rabbit skin glue and Belguim Linen. I would be grateful for any information regarding these products. I am wanting to prepare my own boards. Thanks and regards Hamish :doze: