Painting on Paper vs Canvas for Gallery work

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  1. #1
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    Painting on Paper vs Canvas for Gallery work

    I need some advice from experienced gallery artists.

    I would like to have my own show in the near future and I do work on both canvas and on paper.

    How would I, or should I, display work that is done on paper since it is so fragile? The paper is printing paper as thick as watercolour paper.

    Any tips would be appreciated! Thanks.

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    personally, gessoed masonite is the way to go. it gives you a very nice surface and is much easier to work on than canvas. also it wont buckle like paper. i apply the gesso with a sponge roller, it gives you a nice texture and can be sanded down easily.

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    Generally, works on paper are shown framed and under glass. If the "paper" is heavy enough (my last show was all on illustration board, which is technically paper) you can just mount them on some sort of rigid surface (acid free foam core is what i use) and frame them as you would a panel, no glass. It's also acceptable but not necessary to mat them, or possibly float them if the have interesting edges (torn edges on watercolor paper for example). There's really no rules to it beyond what looks good. I've even seen people tack their work right on the wall, though personally I think it looks cheap, lazy, and unprofessional.

    I don't care for the Masonite myself, too heavy and not absorbent enough for my taste.

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  6. #4
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    You left out some rather important info that would get you the answers you're looking for...

    What medium are you using? How large? What type of gallery? Will you be showing the same material again at another location? How does the schmuck who bought your piece get it home in one piece?

    Paper IS fragile. Traditionally it's always been under glass because of this.

    [I just noticed DPalumbo, the one-eyed detective, has posted everything I was about to say, so we'll make this an "In addition..."]

    Ahem...In addition...

    Anything perishable (WC, pastels, graphite and charcoal) is a MUST COVER if you want the art to remain intact past the first show. Oil on paper is a lethal combination. It's such a bad idea that I won't even bother mentioning it...so just pretend I didn't...

    Acrylics on stiff paper is safer, but should be P R E S E N T E D in such a fashion that it looks like you actually care about your work. This is called P R E S E N T A T I O N . It's what separates we professional artists from mold growing randomly on a wet wall. It's what makes your stuff "nice" and desirable, and worth looking at. It's a resume letter that doesn't start off, "Hi, Assholes..."

    Think a bit before you decide on anything... Pretend you're the viewer who doesn't know anything about you. What would you think/see/suppose/conclude when looking at your presentation? How would you react/interact/reach a verdict/make a decision about you the artist or your work? Then do what you have to to get your point across. Be creative...without being stupid...

    ADDITION...

    I once staged a small collection of figure studies on thin paper by cutting foam core to a single appropriate size larger than my largest piece and SEWED the drawings "crudely" to the foam core with appropriately colored heavy thread and a needle...went over nicely, and it enabled the viewers to later frame the stuff easily...

    Last edited by Ilaekae; May 6th, 2007 at 03:26 PM. Reason: addition
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  8. #5
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    Thanks for the advice. I've been experimenting with oils on printing paper (rives bfk) that is like watercolour paper.

    I am guessing the acrylics is a safer bet and the oils on paper is a big nono?! haha well the more you learn right. Thanks for saving me some troubles. I'm not too sure about the longevity of oils on paper...

    I prefer doing big works, over 12x18" in preferably oils but I do acrylics as a faster alternative.

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    Oil on paper has vaguely corrosive effect, unless it was sealed properly the oil is slowly going to destroy it, making it worth probably alot less in the eyes of a buyer and certainly not archival, and it would suck to lose a painting because of it. In all fairness I have heard many an account of someone having done paintings 25 years ago on paper in oils and those beig in perfect condition.

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    yeah, just gesso the paper before painting. Watercolor paper panels are one of my favorite surfaces for fast mobile life painting (particularly landscapes)

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    To make your stomach curl up a bit more, oils are so corrosive that they will--WILL (not MAY)--destroy cotton or linen canvas. That is why canvas must be prepped with some sort of ground or gesso before you paint on it. The same rule applies to paper, but because of its basic fragility and tendency to flop/wrinkle/fold, thickish applications of oils on paper should NOT be considered archival. Acrylics--no problem with either base.

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  13. #9
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    There are oil paintings on paper that are over 100 years old and in perfect condition, even though they were not primed in any way. I've seen John Constable paintings like that from the early 1800s that are in perfect condition, and others that are even older. Bear in mind those Constables were papers woven or laid of 100% rag fiber instead of pressed wood pulp. All they need is to be sized properly, and the printing paper is only lightly sized. Even quality paper can be torn or punched, so I'd recommend mounting it to a firm support to also help keep the paint from cracking as it ages. Varnish and frame it as you would any other oil painting.

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    I use watercolor blocks too.. very handy
    gesso every thing..I just go on gesso ing binges when Im to lazy to paint. I gesso in black, white, terracotta... anything..its fun. I also tape off the edges so you can just get clean edges by removing the tape
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  15. #11
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    I hope y'all don't mind me reviving a rather old thread, but the discussion regarding oil on paper has my interest, and I'd like to pursue that a little further, if I may...

    It's a shame, really, that I didn't see this thread previously (though to be honest, this is the first time I've ever really trolled the fine arts section - feel free to chastise me, please... I deserve it! ) I started painting oils on paper around the time this thread started on a whim (hence the shame...)

    *Anyway*

    I'm quickly gathering that oils are going to pretty well kill anything I've done in an unknown amount of time unless I've used some sort of primer, which unfortunately I have not at this point. However, I'm wondering if this isn't more of a function of the paper than the oils? I've been painting on Strathmore Vellum, which is just lovely to use, and prefer it far above canvas or canvas board, but I'm concerned about using any sort of gesso because the paper doesn't handle the oils as well, IMO. Not to mention a certain degree of warping the goes on.

    Does anyone have any experience using vellum? I'd love to hear what your thoughts are regarding it. It's fairly heavy, and I have a minimal amount of seepage to the back and no bleed whatsoever. I'd hate to have to give up working with this for the fear that the paints will corrode it into non-existance with in five years...

    Cheers,
    ~Oreg.


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    you could experiment with other primers. There are many ways to treat a surface, gesso just happens to be fast and fairly easy.

    When you say velum, do you mean Bristol from a pad or heavyweight board that you buy in individual sheets? I paint on strathmore illustration board with velum finish which is why I ask. I personally love the feel with three thin coats of gesso. Maybe also try sanding the gesso before painting if you want something smoother.

    But for reals, oil on any sort of paper or canvas which hasn't been primed is going to seriously corrode the surface over time.

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    I've painted on rag paper sized just with shellac without priming, and I've not seen any oil bleed through on the back side. I would imagine it to work as well on vellum without changing the surface any. The vellum I think is acid free but perhaps not lignin free, which means it could still have some problems as it ages.

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  18. #14
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    oh right, VELLUM vellum, like translucent sheets of vellum? yeah, you'd probably want some type of clear priming. Maybe try acrylic matte medium? Actually, the woman who was chair of the painting department back when I was in school would do oils on vellum and I'd assume she knew what she was doing so far as archival practices go. If she used any kind of primer (I'm not sure if she did or not), it was clear, because she would leave raw spots of velum showing.

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    Quote Originally Posted by DavePalumbo View Post
    oh right, VELLUM vellum, like translucent sheets of vellum?
    Just a quick note (I'm at work).

    Dave, thanks for your help. The stuff that I'm using is this.

    I'll research some different types of primers. I've used gesso for cavas for so long that I forget there's other types.

    Gotta get back to work!

    ~Shane


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    ah, in that case I think you definitely should treat the surface first

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  21. #17
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    Has anybody tried using Yupo? I heard Dan Adel has been using it for oils.

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    Quote Originally Posted by kev ferrara View Post
    Has anybody tried using Yupo? I heard Dan Adel has been using it for oils.
    I've played around with it, but the surface is too slick for my tastes. Kev, do you know Dan?

    Oregano, If you don't want to modify the surface texture of the paper, try either shellac or a heavy drink of gelatin sizing.


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  23. #19
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    Adel's a friend of some friends of mine, but I've never actually met him in person. I think he's in France at the moment.

    In your experience with Yupo, did it hold up over time? And can it take pencil and charcoal nicely?

    kev

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  24. #20
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    I would like to add that, since I don't see it being mentioned here that shellac'd paper is a very traditional technique. Corot did a lot of studies on this ground.
    And this might be what Constable used as well, although I'm purely speculating here

    I've tried it on watercolor paper which makes a very nice surface to paint on.
    The archival quality off course, I don't know about. But I've seen some Corot sketches and they're in wonderful condition.

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  25. #21
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    Shellac? Really?

    Do you think a spray on work? Something like this: http://www.dickblick.com/zz010/11/

    Not familiar with the gelatin sizing...

    Last edited by S.C. Watson; October 29th, 2007 at 10:27 AM. Reason: seplling

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    Hmmm, the spray can, I don't know since it's necessary to seal the surface
    completely. You have to avoid any perforation of the surface for oil might
    come through.
    And shellac has an expire date when dissolved. So I'm not sure how reliable
    a spray can from the store is.

    You just brush it on. You can dissolve shellac in denatured alcohol (colourless)
    or regular ethanol i suppose until you have a fluid consistency.
    When applied to a surface it should almost feel dry instantly. Several coates
    may be needed.

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  27. #23
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    I suggest avoiding any spray products when a brush on is available. Besides health reasons, you just generally get much better and more even results from brush application, and it seems to me that the sprays sometimes feel funky like they have some propelant mixed in to the product or something. I don't know if it works that way or not, but I don't like it in any case.

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  28. #24
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    Ideally, shellac is best made fresh from dried sheets or flakes. It's an organic product that has a limited shelf life when made into a liquid. Zinsser has a liquid shellac they sell for wood finishing, and it supposedly lasts about 3 years or so, but it's been treated somehow to make it last. It could work I suppose, but I hesitate to recommend it. Flakes are actually more economical, but they have to be diluted in alcohol. It can then last several months that way, and gradually breaks down. There are different types of shellac, some are quite dark. I use is a bleached dewaxed version that's slightly amber in color. Dries in about an hour. I prefer it as a size since it doesn't require water for thinning.

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    It's possible I saw it on another forum somewhere, but I could swear I just read somewhere in a painting on paper discussion, someone say to soak your paper in water, then apply gesso.

    I looked here, for the quote again to see what explanations followed, but couldn't find it...so just in case anyone is smoking the same crack as I am and hallucinating, could you tell me what would be the purpose of soaking paper in water before applying gesso would be?

    Thanks!

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    Watercolor painters pre-soak paper in order to soften the sizing, making it more absorbent. They then stretch it out flat by taping it to a board which makes it less likely to buckle when wetted. Acrylic primers can buckle lightweight paper, so you'd want to tape it down as well, but there's no real benefit to soaking it first in that case.

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    Hmmm... If it's a watercolour thing, then I'm totally prepared to never soak my paper in water. I paint with oils! I work on stretched canvas and wood/masonite, and just decided to try something new with paper.

    Thanks for the info!

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    I paint on paper all the time. any paper heavy enough and Acid neutral.
    I usually use watercolor blocks. or Murillo Etching paper. (my husband is a printmaker so its always handy)
    I anchor it down on a piece of plexi with artists tape
    mask it off. gesso it
    usually a couple layers
    white, terrocota or black
    underpaint
    and paint
    its a lot easier to store finished work

    for something you plan to sell youll need to frame it for presentation. if the archivality of it is concernign you. it will probably need to be relined in 100 years or so but well I just figure that by then its not my problem.
    for quick alleprima studies. I reccomend the "Vellum" that they make fo rink jet printers. it has a lovely smooth surface but enough matte finish not to be slippery. Its plastic. indestructable and dries really fast. I have no Idea about tit archivalness. but I have oils I painted just before SFO that are still fine and un cracked. (using this instead of Mt Whitaker's Mylar)

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