|ON MY EASEL: Friends, oil study, 11" X 14", on acrylic primed canvas board, a Richard Schmid no-no.|
Nonetheless, practice, practice, practice
ON MY READING STAND:
The Companion To Alla Prima II, by Katie Swatland, a colleague of Richard Schmid's. It is a book about Richard's materials, tools and techniques. In other words, it's a technical book on fine art painting from surface preparation to the final finish varnish. It was just releases and is currently my morning reading.
In the first chapter, Richard says:
It cannot be stressed enough the profound effect that a surface can have on the behavior and working properties of our materials, and how helpful exploration in this field can be to the painting process.
On page three, all the acrylic primed canvas boards I bought for daily sketch exercises had become a waste and had to be discarded IF I wished my paintings to last for centuries. Lead primed was the only acceptable painting ground. This was distressing--but I did want to know how RS achieved the marks he made on his canvas and I did suspect it had something to do with how he prepared his canvases.
By page 35, after cutting the canvas bolts to desirable sizes, mounting them to cardboard (lighter to carry out on plein air adventures), putting on rubber gloves, opening the windows and mixing the lead primer in a masonry jar with a tight, sealed lid, I had questions: "Is acrylic primed canvas so horrible?"
No and yes. No, if you don't care about the longevity of your paintings. Yes, if you do.
Acrylic is inflexible. Over time, (how long, nobody has said because nobody knows. Atmospheric changes play a part), it will crack and any oil layers on top can separate and fall off leaving only a ghost of what was there. An acrylic base is porous. The staining pigments can never be removed entirely. Erasing errors for making corrections is impossible. Lead primed surfaces, however toxic to dogs and children, offer:
ARCHIVAL PERMANENCE--Elasticity--durability--flexibility--and the lead ground is non absorbent. The paint sitting on top allows for complete erasures if major corrections are ever required. (Maybe you have to make corrections, but I never do. :-))). As I interpreted the text, a lead primed surface is compatible with movement and adapts to atmospheric changes over many years, whereas acrylic primed canvases don't.
SURFACE QUALITY. Lead priming your painting surfaces yourself allows you to choose the texture you want and manipulate it as you wish. The whole surface does not have to be consistent. RS's broken brushstrokes in some areas and not in others were predetermined when he finessed the nearly dry lead primer with a trowel and brush making some areas smooth and others rough. Ah ha! I knew there was something tricky about those beautiful brush strokes and the way they grabbed the ground.
I have never wanted to make my own painting surfaces. It's hard work, messy and requires lots of space, which I don't have. Yet cut, primed canvas mounted to cardboard for light-weight toting appeals to me for those open studio sessions I signed up for in the Fall. Having a textured ground that adds interest to brushwork really appeals to me, indeed Richard's brushstrokes were what made me a fan, so I might give it a try? I put Lead Ground in my shopping cart at Blick's.
Schmid's bottom line is fine art begins with a sound foundation. You know it and I know it. The average art buyer has no idea. They judge a painting by it's cover. What they don't know is the cover is not only the artist's skill with drawing, values, color, edges and harmonious composition, but also the a result of the quality of the base structure.