Supports: Wood Panels June 5, 2017 11:45 2 Comments

For the past year I've been using more wood panels than canvases to paint on, because I like how I can lean my whole arm on them, which helps steady my hand. I was concerned that they are a lot heavier, but I weighed them and the difference between the weight of a cradled panel and of a gallery-wrap canvas was small, like 10%, at least at the size I've been painting, 18 x 24". I've been using American Easel brand cradled wood panels with no problems. 

Then I saw that Blick had their own brand of wood panels on sale, so I bought five. Right away I found that the Blick panels were thinner and the cradling was narrower and was stapled together. So okay, I said to myself, I will use these up and then go back to American Easel panels.

The first Blick panel I used was okay ("Spirits of Air" on the right), although surprisingly I had a problem with the paint in one small area flaking right off. This was the first time that had happened to me. I sanded the area and painted over it. So I considered that I learned something, but I was still puzzled about why it had happened. Had I used too much water in one of the glazes? Or I didn't wait long enough for a layer to dry? Or I got a little too free with the hairdryer, which I use to dry a layer fast? I still don't know.

The second panel had issues. The panel itself had a dip in it. I felt it when I was sanding the gesso, and it prevented me from getting a thoroughly smooth surface. It was the first time I'd worked on a panel that was uneven. But it was a small area about the size of my palm, so I thought it was minor enough that I could go ahead and use the panel anyhow. So I did. About halfway through the painting, I noticed two small chips near one corner, where the veneer was lifting off. I was able to fix that with soft gel and paint over it, but it disturbed me. I went ahead and finished the painting because I had already invested a lot of time in it.

I was examining the painting after finishing it and getting ready to put a coat of soft gel on it when I found another chip, a bigger one, on the side. It was more noticeable than the ones in the lower corner that I'd fixed, and to me it meant something was wrong with how the veneer was sticking to the panel underneath. I decided I could not sell the painting, only the prints from it. It made me mad.

I posted about the painting on Facebook, as I usually do, and mentioned I couldn't sell the original on account of issues with the support, but someone wanted the painting anyhow. I was so happy to sell it for a reduced price after describing the chips. The support's imperfections actually became a part of the painting's meaning for my collector. Total coolness!

I still felt angry about the support's issues, but I thought it was a one-shot deal. 

But it wasn't. Three of the remaining panels were seriously warped, as in the panel itself was wavy. 

I knew that the cause was not how I had stored them. My apartment is not damp, and I stored them flat in an area where they would not get banged around. So I called up Blick and they had me return them for a refund.

I immediately went and bought some American Easel panels from Blick. And when I got them, I found that holy cow, three of them were warped so much that they did not lie flat.

This made me wonder about how panels were being stored at Blick's warehouse. I thought maybe I should try buying them directly from the manufacturer. Or try another manufacturer, like Trekell, whose panels are less costly but shipping is no joke. 

Blick sent me replacement American Easel panels and made a note to their warehouse that the panels be checked for warping before they ship them out, so that's great. I thank them for that. When I got the panels, none of them were warped (YAY!), but two of them had dings in the sides, one of them a substantial ding in the corner that I am working on sanding and filling. These dings were in the panels before they went into the shipping box. So I will no longer buy panels from Blick. It's too much work. I will try some other providers and see if I fare better. Or maybe try Ampersand Hardboard panels. Thing is they are heavier, and according to reviews, are not immune from warping either.

But this issue did make me wonder if I should switch to painting on canvas. Golden makes a medium (GAC 400) for stiffening canvas over which you then gesso. This would solve my issue of the surface of canvas being too springy, but since it can't be applied to a primed canvas, I would have to stretch the canvases myself. Am I willing to do that much extra work?

Not while I am still running a shop and promoting my book. Maybe in the future I will have enough time to give that a try. 

Meanwhile, I've started my next painting on an American Easel panel that is nice and straight. Gessoed yesterday with three coats Golden regular gesso and two coats of their hard sandable gesso (which can't be used on canvas). I wet sanded it this morning. I love the surface I get this way, which has texture but not too much. The sandable gesso surface is way less rubbery than regular gesso too. I'd really like to continue working on these panels in this way instead of being forced to change to canvas. We'll see what happens.