• Jules

Trying to find the perfect materials for painting

Updated: Sep 3, 2021

Today has been a day of exploration and trying to refine my process. I have several little experiments that I'm carrying out to see what the outcome is. Here is where it's at:


Finding a New Varnish

As you may or may not know, Golden is my usual brand when it comes to varnishes. My paints are Golden, so it made sense to me that I use their product for varnishing my paintings. Normally I would add an isolation coat, then do two coats of varnish (sometimes Matte, sometimes Satin). I've even done some paintings where I put gloss over the swimming pool area to make it really stand out, similar to a spot gloss that you'd get in printing (ooh, get me being all fancy).


Since Covid, Golden (who are American) have had supply issues with their products and are currently not producing their varnishes any more. I couldn't get hold of any back stores from art shops online in Australia, as people far more organised than myself had got there first.


So I popped to the Art School + Co shop in Maroochydore (about half an hour from where I live), and the lovely assistant there said she used this varnish for her acrylic paintings. I took her advice, and bought the Satin variant. I've poured some of it on a previous painting that I did in my sketchbook (not wanting to risk a real painting) to see how it goes. I applied it with a brush, and poured it into a spoon and then onto the page. I smooshed it around with a smaller paintbrush and it seemed to go on well. I'll see how it looks when it's dried. (With Golden I would have had to have premixed the varnish with water in a clean jam jar and dipped my brush in that.)


a Gamvar Satin varnish bottle sitting on top of a sketchbook surrounded by paintbrushes
Experimenting with Gamvar Satin Varnish for acrylic painting
ooh that page is so shinyyyy

update: The test piece i did came out a bit patchy, so i’ve ordered the specific Gamvar varnish brush as recommended in the application video.

Contact paper as a resist

Next up is an idea I've had in the back of my head for ages, which I used in my screen printing course. It's using contact paper as a way of blocking paint from going into certain areas. I cut out a funky shape from the contact paper and stuck it onto my previously painted acrylic painting. I then got some relatively heavy body paint and painted over the top of it. I peeled it up while the paint was still wet.


What I learnt is that some of the paint seeped underneath, even though the paint was quite think. Perhaps I might need to apply a medium over the top first to seal it.


Second, it peeled up ok while wet, but I'm not sure how it would go once the paint is dry. Is it is acrylic paint, it may just peel up with it and cause a problem. I didn't leave any on the page to test this, that's something to remember for next time.


Overal it worked ok, and I might be able to use this technique if there's a whole section I don't want to paint on in the future.


a painted sketchbook page with paint on it and contact paper in the background
Contact paper used as a resist for paint application

Texture to smooth canvas

Next up was me trying to figure out a way to get more texture and variation in my painting colours on the Wright & Co smooth polycotton canvas.


When I paint with watercolour paper and acrylic paint, I can scumble in lots of interesting texture and variation of colour into the paper, and have been struggling with finding a way to do this successfully on canvas. I've been wondering if that is partly to do with the canvas being super smooth, or whether i need to use a gesso that is suitable for watercolour media.


What I did with this canvas, is lie it flat, and pour all the paint i wanted on top of it and tried to do a wet-in-wet mix with the paints, mixing directly on the canvas. It's turned out to be quite a think layer of paint (I was using fluid acrylics), and the smell was quite strong from the Atelier Free Flow white I was using.


I'll have to wait and see what this looks like when it's dry and how it will be to paint over the top. I hope that it won't be too slippery, otherwise I may have to do a coat of medium over the top to return some tooth to it.


I wonder also if it is the right colour and how I'll be able to adjust it once it's dried.


a shiny canvas surface with wet paint marks
Blending a wet-in-wet technique on this smooth canvas

A different canvas texture

While trying to work out how to add more texture in to the polycotton, i wondered what it would be like if I painted onto linen. This is a pre-gessoed linen with clear gesso that I have then sanded and gesso'd over the top with white. I have also used some of the spare paint from the above painting to add in some colour.


I'm wondering if the texture of the canvas will help produce the variation in colour I am looking for in my paintings (that i often see in oil paintings), and if the texture is too coarse for my later layers, whether or not I can do a self-levelling medium layer to smooth it over a bit.


Lots of things to think about!

A more coarse linen "canvas" for experimenting

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