Welcome to my Art Blog! I paint or draw most weekdays and sometimes finish a painting a day. I fondly call them my "Postcards from Paradise" because it's such a beautiful place the Lord made here for us.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

PVA Horror Tale

Although most of my paintings are done on prepared hardboard panels, or occasionally, canvas or linen on panel, I have used stretched canvas or linen a number of times.

Especially for larger works where the weight of thicker hardboard can be significant, fabric support has advantages. One of my largest early paintings, an abstract about 5 feet by 5 feet, is on stretched canvas. I can easily hang it on the wall myself. This would definitely not be the case with a painting on hardboard that size. And I've never found hardboard available that big anywhere.

Stretched canvas has its inherent problems, however. The most significant is that it stresses the paint layer because it changes with humidity more than a rigid support. Additionally, the traditional practice of sizing the fabric with rabbit skin glue, before laying on an oil ground, adds to the problem because the skin glue is easily affected by moisture in the air which also contributes to movement and subsequent paint cracking. Some kind of sizing is important, however, because using oil paints directly on fabric will rot the support.

Now skin glue is a pain to use, especially with linen (which can sometimes be temperamental and unpredictable, even after it is washed). I've always had to restretch linen after applying the skin glue sizing, which is an unwelcome step, especially nowadays when my hands are not what they used to be for strength and reliability. Overuse and arthritis are taking their toll.

Because I read that it is archivally superior to rabbit skin glue, I purchased a bottle of PVA sizing awhile back. The stuff is recommended by the National Gallery.

I've been using mostly hardboard panels for painting supports for several years, but this week I had occasion to use the PVA size, as I wanted a larger painting for a project. 

I had a few pieces of nice linen on hand and have used some of the same stuff through the years (with the skin glue). After doing a beautiful stretching job with the linen, I applied an undiluted coat of PVA to the stretched fabric, as per the directions on the bottle.

What a nightmare. After the PVA size dried, the linen was no longer tight. It was noticeably lax and had no bounce at all. With only a slight touch, the fabric was significantly moveable rather than being taut. (See photo, at left. I'm holding the canvas upright outside on the concrete and pushing slightly on the underside.) Adding paint on a lax support like this would be a comedy of errors.

I was unable to find any information online for using PVA sizing. Nor did I read of any problems others had encountered. So, I emailed the manufacturer. The sympathetic product manager answered my note promptly and informed me that the wording of the directions have been changed since I purchased my bottle. It is recommended to apply the product before stretching the fabric. Okay, bummer. I'll have to restretch it.

So I thought I would have another go at it, and applied the PVA to another piece of linen, this time before I stretched it.

After stretching it, the fabric was tight and smooth. This is not a complicated skill and I have done a lot of canvas stretching over the years with nice results. I'm still good at this even with my aging hands.

The result didn't feel right, though. Instead of having a desired bounce in the stretched fabric, it felt dead. Apparently the PVA destroys the "spring" of linen.

I wondered what would happen if I added water to it. This was a huge mistake.

When the fabric dried, it had expanded rather than contracted. And not just a little bit. Not only did it not have bounce, it was moveable by over an inch either way, front and back.

(See last two photos.)

The result was a complete failure. No way is this usable. I'm definitely regretting spending all that time on these two horrible canvases.

I will probably try using the PVA on cotton canvas to see how it behaves. I am guessing it will be less of a problem then the linen fabric. Or, I'm thinking I will simply stick to using primed hardboard panels for painting support, or fabric applied to panels.

For really large paintings, I can simply use an acrylic primer on canvas which I've done plenty of times. Acrylic has some disadvantages, but at least it doesn't kill the spring of the fabric like the PVA apparently does.

I would love to hear if other artists use the PVA for stretched canvas or linen, and results.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Two Charcoal Sketches

This lovely young lady, with her classic look, was the perfect model for these two little practice drawings.

I'm testing out some art materials again for a company and have sent them my comments on the charcoal pencils I tried out this time.

I'll tell you more about them at a future date. Until then, I hope you'll enjoy these sketches.

(top left image)
"Solo Smile" 11"x8.5"
Charcoal and chalk pencils on rust Canson
©2013 Diana Moses Botkin


(lower left image)
"Moment" 10"x7"
Charcoal and chalk pencils on rust Canson
©2013 Diana Moses Botkin

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Tuesday, October 15, 2013

October Challenge: Paint with a Palette Knife

Our painting puzzler this month is courtesy of Vicki. She chose for us to paint something using a palette knife. This is a first for me.

I've used the tool plenty of times to spread paint in large areas such as skies or fields, or to mix colours on my palette. But to do an entire painting with one? I've never even tried that before. 

I must say I was dreading this Challenge, as I was not at all confident that I could make anything look good without using my paint brushes. Much to my surprise it went pretty well for what I wanted to do, or at least mostly. I confess I used my finger a few times on that cloud edge! But the rest of the painting I managed to do with the knife.

(above) "Puff Top" Oil on hardboard, 6"x8" ©2013 Diana Moses Botkin

It did feel rather clunky to paint with the knife, and I missed my brushes more than once. However, I had a lot of fun with this exercise, which is one of our goals for the Challenge. That's worth a lot.

Please enjoy Vicki and Suzanne's knife paintings for our Challenge this month! 

(image at left)
Oil on paper, 7.5" x 7.5"
©2013 Vicki N. Ross

(lower left image)
"Flower of the Sun"
Oil on canvas,12"x12"
©2013 Suzanne Berry

Monday, October 7, 2013

Scotchman Peaks Plein Air Event, and a First Place!

(left) "Morning Smoke" Oil, 9"x10"
©2013 Diana Moses Botkin

The Lord gave us lovely painting weather for the weekend paint out: Indian summer conditions. It had been raining for the previous two weeks and had turned cold.
Mornings this past weekend for the plein air event were quite cold, and I was glad I had packed along a coat, hat, gloves, and my UGGs.

(left) "Evening at the Flats"
Oil, 6"x12"
©2013 Diana Moses Botkin

Not all the pieces I started were keepers, but I did bring these four  to a good conclusion without feeling like I'd overworked them.

(left) "Morning Chatter" Oil, 4"x8"
©2013 Diana Moses Botkin

I enjoy the plein air events for the cameraderie with other artists, and for the unique painting challenges of capturing a scene on location.

It is always amazing and inspiring to see the work each of the artists do in such a short time for a plein air paint out. With all the wonderful paintings hung for the show yesterday, I was especially pleased that one of my pieces was awarded the top prize (the first painting shown in this post, at the top).

And three of these four sold right away at the Opening at Out Skirts Gallery. Yay for good homes for these paintings!

(last image) "Evening Tracks" Oil, 6"x6" ©2013 Diana Moses Botkin

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Testing and Practice, Too

(left) "Sway" 8.5"x11"
Pastel on Canson paper
©2013 Diana Moses Botkin

Here is another little sketch using the few sticks of colour that I'm evaluating for the art materials manufacturer. This was drawn with white, black, grey, brown, and earth red (like that last drawing I posted).

Since these are student grade pastels, they work a little differently than what I'm used to with my professional brands. However, they do work, and it's fun and interesting to try to get some practice drawings done while testing the sticks.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Testing Materials

I've been asked to try out some new art materials for a company and evaluate them. It's been interesting comparing the new stuff with my usual tried and true brands I've used in the past.

Sometimes it takes awhile to get a feel for new materials, so I'm still sizing them up. This little sketch was done with just a few colors: white, black, grey, brown, and earth red. I'll tell you more about it in a month or so, but for now I'll just say that it's an honor to be recruited for such a task.

(left) "Inclination" 11"x8.5" Pastel on grey paper
©2013 Diana Moses Botkin