Saturday, February 5, 2011

Still Life with Red Flowers - SOLD

"Still Life with Red Flowers", 10 x 12 In, Oil on Museum Board
You may wonder about the boards I often use for small paintings--museum board. This is a surface that I learned about back in the mid-90's from William Reese, who recently passed away. I purchase the 100% cotton rag museum board in 32 x 40 4-ply sheets, getting the Risings brand because both sides are good, unlike some other museum board that I've tried. I seal both sides of the board with Gamblin PVA Size, then apply three coats of gesso on one side with a 6" fine white roller. Since I do three coats, I try to make it fairly smooth. If you use a less fine roller, the surface may be too "pebbly" by the third coat. The surface will be slightly rough (if you use the absorbent gesso), so you can lightly sand it. Then I can cut the boards to the sizes I want to work on with my mat cutter. They are wonderfully lightweight for travel. I take a couple of pieces of foam core to tape the boards to for painting to give them stability.

Most acrylic gessos are slick once applied. Some people like to paint on a slick surface, but I prefer a more absorbent surface. The only gesso I've found to be absorbent is Liquitex Basic Gesso. I can usually find this at my local Michael's or Joanne's. I once bought the Liquitex Pro and found it to be as slick as plastic, but I have mixed small amounts of that in with the Basic to make the Basic slightly less absorbent. I have no idea about the archival results of using this type of gesso--there are big discussions about this on various networks. This discussion on Plein Air Artists is about using lead primer as a ground.

William Reese was my first plein air instructor. He studied with Sergei Bongart and was a wonderful painter. I highly recommend both of his books, and his wife, Fran, has put out a DVD with instructions about drawing parts of the horse from Bill's final days.


  1. Very pretty! Love the way you painted the flowers. Thanks for sharing how you do the surface you paint on. I never knew about those. I sometimes do my own gessoed boards but will look into what you use.

  2. This is a very nice painting...Your use of color is luminous and I love the brushwork.

    Very interesting information about the museum board. I can see that this would be a much simpler way to generate a nice selection of smaller size panels for painting. I was going to buy more canvas panels, but like this idea much better. Where do you find the Risings brand?

    Mr. Reeses's work is wonderful that you were able to study with him.

  3. The color harmony in this piece is so nice. Beautiful.
    Checked out Mr Reese' website. Wonderful artist. Thanks for sharing your info on making panels.

  4. Thank you for this great info. Have you had any trouble with warping? I used to paint on gessoed acid-free matboard (similar) and it did warp some with weather changes, despite being gessoed on both sides. Your prep sounds good, I'll have to try sealing with the PVA glue. BTW the DickBlick "professional" gesso sold in their stores is super absorbent. I don't see it on their website.

  5. I've added in some additional information about how I do this to this blog and the source for the Risings museum board. Its actually Gamblin PVA Size (it is glue I think, but is called size). I brush it on with a big 4" brush. If you only do one side, the board will warp, so you have to do one side, let it dry, and do the other side. Doesn't take long to dry. I have big 40 x 60 pieces of foam core that I lay the museum board out on to dry--you don't want them hanging over the edge of a table. One time I tried having a lightweight pre-primed linen dry mounted to the museum board for a trip. It was perfectly fine until I decided the night before leaving that I should seal the back with the PVA size. That caused irreparable warping. Also you need to make sure that you use 100% cotton museum board, not matboard--I've had problems when I mistakenly used matboard.