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  1. #1
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    Painting on paper?

    I have no idea how to even ask this question, so I apologize if I make zero sense. I tried to search the forums, but I have never gotten along well with the search function on this website (it hates me, I swear).

    So, if I have a completed drawing that I like, but it's on crappy paper (like an old sketchbook page or something), is there a way to attach it to a quality surface so that it can be painted over (with oils or maybe acrylics)? I thought maybe if I glued it to a wood or masonite surface, and covered it with some clear coating or heavy-duty sealant first then maybe it would work...

    I've painted over sketches before (just for practice, nothing serious), and it looks lovely for a few weeks but then the oil starts seeping into the paper and it looks like I've covered the page in lard. Would some strong coats of sealant prevent this, or will the sketch paper under the paint always eventually be destroyed?

    'Cuz life is full of your regrets, and I should be one...
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    It is better to transfer it to a more suitable support, using a lightbox or a projector or even a grid (although grids are a chore to use). I suppose you can glue the sketch onto masonite, and then seal it with acrylic medium, but you say that the paper is "crappy". If it's not acid-free, it will degrade the paint slowly. If you want your work to last long, it's better to use quality materials.

    As for oil - there is a reason why people generally don't paint with oils on paper or on anything unprimed. Oil destroys unprimed supports. You have to seal the plant stuff with glue and gesso before it will survive contact with oil paint - and it's really cheaper to buy clayboard than to try and gesso paper, frankly.

    Acrylics can work on paper, however - they are water-based. Or you can use gouache or watercolor.

    I think you ought to get a copy of an "artist's manual" that lists the materials and technical stuff, so you don't stumble into these silly mishaps that can easily be avoided with a little knowledge.

    Also, it's only a hunch I have that you might need this tip, but here it is just in case:

    Sketches are cheap. Don't get attached to them too much. They are tools for figuring out stuff, the artistic equivalent of a notebook or thinking aloud. If you think that you might not reproduce the thing again so you must use the initial sketch, or that a sketch is such a huge investment of time and effort that you must use it, then you are rushing into things. If that's the case, practice sketching until you can do it quickly and dependably - and repeat the successes, not accidentally produce them.

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    Hey PuppyKitten! This is an old master technique that worked well for me. I agree with arenhaus though about life span of the art work.
    -With a spray bottle get the original paper throughly wet on both sides. If the drawing starts to deteriorate because of the water too much stop.

    -After you've soaked it, let it sit for 15-20 min to expand.

    -Get a nice piece of masonite and some artist acrylic medium, matte or glossy your choice.

    -Apply a thin coat of the medium to the masonite and the back of your drawing.
    Then lay or roll the drawing on board trying to decrease the amount of bubbles in between the two acrylic medium layers. You can use your hand or a squeegee to get out any remaining bubbles.

    -You can apply a thin coat at this point on top of your drawing to help protect the paper, then let it all dry. You can sand it once its completely dry to get out brush marks but thats up to you. Hope this helps, I look forward to seeing the piece!

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    Quote Originally Posted by PuppyKitten View Post
    So, if I have a completed drawing that I like, but it's on crappy paper (like an old sketchbook page or something), is there a way to attach it to a quality surface so that it can be painted over (with oils or maybe acrylics)? I thought maybe if I glued it to a wood or masonite surface, and covered it with some clear coating or heavy-duty sealant first then maybe it would work...
    This is a common technique among illustrators to avoid having to transfer/redraw a sketch. Donato has some info here. You may want to photocopy it onto better paper first, both to ensure that the paper is acid free (although most artist's sketchbooks are), and to preserve the original sketch, both for posterity and in case you screw things up. Also, photocopying means you aren't restricted to the original's size. As long as the paper is locked up under several coats of acrylic medium you won't have to worry about the oil attacking and discoloring the paper. Oils can also be used on paper that has been isolated with shellac or animal glue.


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    Quote Originally Posted by arenhaus View Post
    and it's really cheaper to buy clayboard than to try and gesso paper, frankly.
    I gesso paper for painting in oil. It's quick and easy and my one tub of acrylic gesso has lasted for quite a while. I'm sure it's not the best technique if you want archival art work, but for my first stumbling steps into oil painting, I don't really care.

    I do however wonder what to do if I still want to paint on paper but want something more archival. I'm not sure, but I think gesso is porous, so the oil will seep through. I tape my paper to a support and then gesso it, and I've noticed that after a short period of time the oil is seeping through to the other side of the paper along the borders between the part of the paper covered by gesso and the part that was covered by tape. But will it seep through even on the gesso covered part given enough time?

    I gather that if you just gesso raw canvas, it's not protected, you have to size, i.e. seal, it first, traditionally with rabbit skin glue. Does this mean I could do the same thing to a piece of paper, first seal it, maybe even with cheap plastic glue, and then gesso it?

    Also, this thing about priming with acrylic medium, like Elwell mentioned. I saw Donato do it in the download, and apparently you don't need the gesso at all! What are the pros and cons with this method as opposed to rabbit skin glue and gesso? Could you just use rabbit skin glue without the gesso?

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    A friend of mine from the Art Inst of Boston once blew up a sketch at Kinkos, glued it with gel medium to illustration board, coated it liberally on both sides, worked out the air bubbles, and then painted over it when it dried. First in acrylic, then in oil. The final product was excellent.

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    We always used transfer paper: Take another sheet of paper and go over the entire side with an ebony pencil until it's pretty much solid graphite. Place it graphite down over the surface you want to transfer to (the canvas or what not) and then put the original over that (or a copy of the original). Trace over every line, and voila. The pressure transfers some workable lineart to paint over. Cheap and easy.

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    Woohoo! This is exactly the help I needed. I'm pretty sure the pages are acid-free, so I will look into these techniques promptly!!

    Ninjac, just the advice I needed, thanks!

    Elwell, that link in particular is really great! I'm so excited!

    Tas, I'm glad to hear it turned out well. Was it "archival" quality in the traditional sense?

    Serpian, I like your idea of using gesso on the paper first. For practice paintings prior to the final piece I bet it's really useful. However, I could never use rabbit-skin glue. There's no way I'd justify the death of an animal in order to facilitate my mediocre art.

    Arenhaus: They aren't sketches in the practice sense. They're completed drawings that happen to be on sketch paper because until recently I had to do many of my pieces on the only sketchpad I had available with the intention of finishing them in photoshop. I want to do some in traditional paints, but I'm not going to redraw a scene that already took days or weeks to fully develop and render after many thumbnail practice tests to get the composition just right. I just want to glaze them. They are already finished pieces in their own right. In fact, many of the drawings I have in mind I haven't even STARTED yet, but I just want the freedom of drawing them on a sketchpad in the future because frankly, I hate drawing on the canvas and watercolor paper I bought. Don't like the texture for graphite work, only paint.

    Last edited by PuppyKitten; May 16th, 2010 at 04:52 PM.
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    Serpian: Yes, before you gesso you must size the support with glue. Presumably you can do that with paper too; but at that point you might as well use board, panel or canvas - something that's more durable than paper.

    I am not sure how durable the cheap plastic glue would be as sizing. In these matters I prefer to err in favor of caution, though, and presume that it isn't stable enough.

    Puppykitten - I was misled by your initial description of them as "sketches" on "crappy paper". I believe the proper term for what you describe is "cartoon" or "cleanup" or "scale drawing".

    Well, regardless of how valuable it is, if you want the very same drawing as your support, gluing it on masonite, sizing it with acrylic medium and applying a light coat of diluted gesso would probably suit you best.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Serpian View Post
    I gather that if you just gesso raw canvas, it's not protected, you have to size, i.e. seal, it first, traditionally with rabbit skin glue. Does this mean I could do the same thing to a piece of paper, first seal it, maybe even with cheap plastic glue, and then gesso it?
    I'm assuming you're talking about acrylic "gesso?" If so, then you do not need to size the support with anything else, the acrylic ground will act as a size. If you're using traditional gesso (gypsum and marble dust, which should never be used on a flexible support) or an oil ground then you do have to size with something. Preferably a PVA size instead of rabbitskin glue, as animal hide glue is hygroscopic (meaning it expands or contracts depending on moisture and will most likely cause eventual cracking especially if used on a flexible support). The reason you need to size is because the oil will rot the organic fibers (whether cotton or linen canvas, paper, or board).

    Last edited by jpacer; May 16th, 2010 at 03:53 AM. Reason: clarlarified some grammar.
    "Contrary to the belief of the layman, the essential of art is not to imitate nature, but under the guise of imitation to stir up excitement with pure plastic elements: measurements, directions, ornaments, lights, values, colors, substances, divided and organized according to the injunctions of natural laws. While so occupied, the artist never ceases to be subservient to nature, but instead of imitating the incidents in a paltry way, he imitates the laws."-Andre Lhote

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    Sorry for being unclear arenhaus. They are not sketches at all (nor are they cartoons). They are fully rendered illustrations of figures and scenes. They just happen to be on a jumbo-sized sketch pad. If the pad has too much acid, I will buy a better pad for future paintings and finish the current paintings in photoshop instead. Thanks for the info!

    Last edited by PuppyKitten; May 16th, 2010 at 05:25 AM.
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    jpacer, yes it's acrylic gesso. I guess cutting off the part that isn't covered by gesso would stop the oil seeping through even there.

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    Drying oils have acid content that they release as they cure. You don't want that to come into contact with the paper. External sizing will prevent that, but you need to apply enough coats. Acrylic medium, such as Golden's GAC 100, works well but you'll need 3-4 coats, same with acrylic primer and hide glue. These sizes also involve water, which needs to be completely evaporated before painting over it with oil. That takes longer than you might think, especially if you've soaked the paper to stretch it first. I'd give it at least a couple days. One of the reasons I prefer shellac is there's no water required, 2-3 coats is enough to prevent oil penetration, and it can be painted on within a few hours. You can test this easily enough yourself by coating the size of your choice on some paper, and then adding some oil to it. The paper will start to look transparent if any oil touches it, even in small amounts.

    If you paint with a water-soluble medium, like acrylic paint, then you don't have to bother with sizing, but thin paper will need to be stretched first. If there's a drawing on it already, soaking it can possibly cause problems. "Crappy" paper will likely break apart if it gets wet.

    I'd suggest moving up to a better quality paper next time. You can't turn crap into gold by gluing it to a firm support.

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    Quote Originally Posted by PuppyKitten View Post
    Sorry for being unclear arenhaus. They are not sketches at all (nor are they cartoons). They are fully rendered illustrations of figures and scenes.
    Just to clarify, I think what arenhaus meant was "cartoon" in the old sense. "Cartoon", in the old meaning, is the term for finished full-size drawings meant to be transferred onto a support and turned into a painting.

    If you're curious, the old masters used to transfer drawings by poking holes all along the lines of the drawing and then taking a porous bag of charcoal dust and whacking it all over the drawing. The dust goes through the holes and leaves a dotted outline of the drawing on the support. This technique was ideal for frescoes, where a drawing had to be transferred quickly onto wet plaster.

    (I have, er, actually used this technique when desperate. I don't exactly recommend it. Poking holes is absurdly SLOW. On the other hand, it does let you transfer easily onto rough surfaces, the actual transfer process goes super fast, and the transfer drawing is reusable if you screw up and need to start over on a fresh support.)

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    More discussion of preliminary drawings for painting, fresh from James Gurney:

    http://gurneyjourney.blogspot.com/20...rdrawings.html

    As for the transfers done with poking holes in the drawing... I actually had to do that once! It was no fun at all. I much prefer other methods.

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    The poking holes thing sounds pretty fun actually. Reminds me of old school crafts, hehe. Would prolly work best on lineart or unshaded sketches.

    Guys, my two sketchpads are Canson #280 Worthy Vellum Finish Bristol 151 lb and Canson All-Purpose Drawing 70 lb. The Drawing pad says acid-free, but the Bristol pad doesn't mention anything about acid either way. I'm sure they won't fall apart in water, but the acid thing is worrisome. They are crappy compared to canvas and masonite, but it's not like I was drawing on torn napkins or newsprint or anything, thank god!

    Last edited by PuppyKitten; May 16th, 2010 at 04:49 PM.
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    We always used transfer paper: Take another sheet of paper and go over the entire side with an ebony pencil until it's pretty much solid graphite. Place it graphite down over the surface you want to transfer to (the canvas or what not) and then put the original over that (or a copy of the original). Trace over every line, and voila. The pressure transfers some workable lineart to paint over.
    If you rub the graphite side with mineral spirit or rubbing alcohol, it will bond to the paper and be re-usable many many times.

    If you're curious, the old masters used to transfer drawings by poking holes all along the lines of the drawing... I have, er, actually used this technique when desperate.
    I hope you're not just using a stylus! There is a special tool for this, called a ponce-wheel if I remembeer right. Still damn slow though... and works better for large paintings.

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    Quote Originally Posted by CCThrom View Post
    I hope you're not just using a stylus! There is a special tool for this, called a ponce-wheel if I remembeer right.
    Pounce wheel. The method is pouncing, and the charcoal- or chalk-filled sack (sometimes a sock is used) is a pounce bag.
    Painting on paper?


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    I hope you're not just using a stylus! There is a special tool for this, called a ponce-wheel if I remembeer right. Still damn slow though... and works better for large paintings.
    When I did it, I was actually using a pin. Yes. Really. An ordinary sewing pin. (I thought at the time I would use one of those spiky wheels used for patterns in sewing - similar to a pounce-wheel. But I couldn't find one, so as a last resort I used a pin.)

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    Quote Originally Posted by CCThrom View Post
    If you rub the graphite side with mineral spirit or rubbing alcohol, it will bond to the paper and be re-usable many many times...
    Mineral spirits or alcohol would just evaporate and be no better than using graphite by itself. Use gum turpentine instead.

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    You want the solvent to evaporate, and the more rapidly the better. The idea is to dissolve the graphite into a homogeneous layer. The traditional studio solvent for this was rubber cement thinner, but most folks don't have that lying around the way they used to.


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    Quote Originally Posted by Elwell View Post
    You want the solvent to evaporate, and the more rapidly the better. The idea is to dissolve the graphite into a homogeneous layer...
    Turpentine also evaporates quickly but leaves behind a trace of rosin, which makes all the difference in the world by adding just enough adhesion to make it far less messy. I've tested them all and turpentine works best.

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    Sounds reasonable... I'll give the turpentine a try, thanks.

    "Change is a virtue my friend... if you want to escape, all you have to do is make up your mind."
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