Thursday, April 23, 2015

Scroll Landscape: Part 2

William O'Connor

"Well begun is half done."- Aristotle

Moving onto the next stage of my scroll landscape project, I made the decision to not execute one large painting from my sketches, but three smaller pieces.  Three panels make for a series called a triptych.  This has a long artistic tradition in both western and eastern art, so helps inform my choice of doing a trilogy of related paintings.

This choice dictates how large the paintings should be. Mentally designing what the paintings will look like framed and hung together as a set on a wall.  Basing my format on Japanese scroll paintings, I commit to three 12"x32" paintings.  Large enough to individually have presence, but small enough that when combined into a triptych do not become overwhelming.

Once the choice is made, I have to begin with the preparing of the support and ground of these paintings.  This can be very personal to each artist, and really depends on what medium you want to use.  I know that these will be oil paintings so stretched canvas, wood or masonite are my most realistic options.  

I choose to work on 1/8 inch masonite.  This is a medium that I'm familiar with and have worked with extensively.  I like this support because it is readily available, and is easy to customize in size and surface.  I start with two 24"x48" sheets of masonite and begin with soaking the board with a spray bottle and then washing on a first coat of gesso. 

 This coat is put on very wet with a sponge brush.  Continuous, gentle, soft brush strokes in cross hatching directions continues until the paint becomes tacky.  This in then left to dry overnight.  Its important to allow this drying time. The masonite will warp into a disturbing arc, but the overnight drying allows it to dry taught and flatten.  If you try to rush the drying time by putting it in the sun or in front of a heater, it will dry unevenly and the warp will not come out.

Day two the sheets are measured and cut into their desired dimensions for the triptych panels.  I actually get four 12"x32" panels and two 16"x24" out of the two sheets.  Another bonus of the 1/8" masonite is that it can be cut with a utility knife. ( with some elbow grease)  As a student or working in a small studio this is a big advantage because with wood or 1/4" panel you will need a circular or table saw.  The sized panels are sanded.

 A second coat of un-watered-down gesso is put on with the same technique using a sponge brush.  For a fine smooth finish the brush needs to be undamaged.  Any flaws in the brush's edge with create streaks and ruts in the surface.  This thick liberal coat painted on using ever lighter and lighter cross hatching brushstrokes until the paint is tacky.  Allow this coat to likewise dry overnight for even drying.

On day three I like to use a large block sander with a fine grit in a circular motion to sand the gesso into a smooth egg-shell surface.  Sanding sponges of varying grit are also available for this application.  You can vary the texture of the surface at this stage.  In some images I've done where I know the details of the composition before I begin I can apply gesso paste or gel to create texture for rocks or grass etc, but also sand the areas where the faces and details will be perfectly smooth.  It will take at least another day or two (depending on humidity) for the panels to completely dry.

With the gesso dust washed off and the triptych panels placed on my easel with all my inspiration reference and sketches I'm ready to start painting.

I still have not decided on which three compositions I will render, but since these are personal paintings I will give it some time to consider the triptych both as a set and as individual images.  The next  oil sketch stage will be done with the panels together.  With the panels prepared and waiting I can begin any time that inspiration strikes, until I find a break in my schedule, or procrastinate until the eleventh hour.

Thanks for following, and keep checking back to see the next stage.  I'm interested to see what happens.


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