Tag: metal leaf

Build a Painting, Part 1: “Ground Level”

Well begun is half done.


I’ve heard you out there in WWW-land asking, “Hey, Martine, what does it really take to build a painting?” I’m glad you asked! I want to invite you to see my process, start to finish, mistakes and all. I’ll explain my intention for the work as well as technical aspects, as I take my traditional landscape painting in a new direction. Andiamo, let’s go.

The Intention

My goal: a painting based on the idea of memory, thought and desire. Central to the painting will be Odin’s ravens Hugin and Munin, (Thought and Desire). Every morning they leave the Norse god’s side and return at the end of the day, recounting all they have seen in the world while on their sojourn. I’ve added a third raven, basing his name on the Norse word for Memory: Minni or Minnin.  Memory, Thought, Desire- a pretty powerful trio.

Because memory, thought, and desire often seem to be hidden from us mere mortals, I want to embed those words into the background. This will mark a departure from my usual style; I don’t usually use text in image based works. In addition, I like the idea of using metal leafing on the finished artwork, so I will need to paint on board rather than canvas. With all this in mind, I buy a cradled maple wood board from the local art store and set about preparing it for oil paint, choosing 24 x 36 inches as good size. Like Baby Bear’s rocking chair, neither too small nor too big.

Preparing the Panel, aka The Substrate

Using Gamblin PVA (think of it as a thin glue), I apply several coats to the panel, front and back, in order to seal the wood.  A not-to-be missed step, this protects the painting from wood discoloration and protects the panels from the linseed oil and moisture changes which may warp the wood. The 1″ sides are covered with painter’s tape that will be removed after the painting is complete.

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Gamblin PVA is used to seal the wood panels.


Once the layers have dried the panels are coated with Gamblin Oil Painting Ground, thinned with a small amount of Gamblin Gambol Odorless Mineral Spirits. The ground will serve as a primer for the oil paint. For this step, I start in the center of the panel and use a rubber trowel to evenly and thinly apply the ground over the boards.

Scoop out the ground for the painting.
Scoop out the ground for the painting.


Spreading the ground with a rubber trowel.
Spreading the ground with a rubber trowel.


After spreading the ground with the trowel, a short-napped roller is used to even things out and to give it a nice texture. I love this part!

Using a short-napped roller to give an even texture.
Using a short-napped roller to give an even texture.


I lightly sand the now dry boards and apply an additional coat of ground. (Gamblin advises letting the final layer dry for about a week). Time to give them one more sanding, then I can admire my handiwork. I must say, there is a certain satisfaction in all of this preparation that is missing when you buy ready made off the shelf!

Sanding the board between layers of ground.
Sanding the board between layers of ground.


Note: for a great tutorial on the process visit How to Prime Ampersand Wood Panels. Or if you prefer video, here’s one from Gamblin describing the process.

Next Up: Part 2:  Applying the imprimatura and working on the drawing for the background.

This Week in the Studio

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FullSizeRender 27

I am about as done with these Mondrian inspired works as I’m going to be– or so I think! Can’t wait for them to be dried to the touch so I can oil them out and send them on their way to be photographed.

IMG_3289I continued to add paint to the bee rondo–slow going but I am determined to see this multilayered project through to completion!

In other news, two new exhibits are up and running and I got the notification that one of my favorite 3-D pieces, Of What Sappho Sings, was selected from 600 entries for the Michigan Fine Arts Competition at the BBAC. Details for all the shows can be read on my webpage Views and News.

Hitting the Hi-Whirl Button

“Because the most important thing about art is to work. Nothing else matters except sitting down every day & trying.”
― Steven Pressfield, The War of Art

graphite on paper

Every 15 weeks my routine goes awry in a big way. That’s when a new semester begins and, with the craziness that is life, it sometimes feels as though everything is being dumped into a blender and we’ve hit the hi-whirl button. The part-time teaching gig, with regular hours and scheduled days, serves as an anchor for the full-time job of studio artist. Hours that form the “professional” work are fluid in duration and focus, requiring a self-motivation to attend to tasks that the teaching, with its static parameters, doesn’t need.

Trust me, there are days when going to “The Office”, feels like work. It’s pulling on boots, packing the lunchbox, greeting the wintry chill inside the studio, confronting a painting in the not-going-great stage, and knowing that the Mountain of Need-to’s is waiting at home to be conquered. Without a sense of routine (“Tuesday, teach until 12, work at The Office until 6”), it’s über easy to make excuses for not dealing with the real work.

One resource I’ve found for guidance in these situations is The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks & Win Your Inner Creative Battles by Steven Pressfield. I read this slender volume every semester as a reminder of what it means to be a professional artist and to treat my time and commitment to my studio practice in such a manner. I recommend this book to every creative; and if you haven’t read it yet, I hope you do. I would love to know what you think of it.

Virgo Rising-detail
oil on board, metal leaf

Now back to this week in the studio. The winter routine is slowly getting established. I was able to clean up edges on the metal leaf on “Virgo Rising” (seen here and on Instagram.)  However, by midweek I found the sides of the self-portraits were still too wet to handle and I was at a holding point with “Virgo”.  That day I was determined to stay at the studio until I got something done. Grabbing pencil and drawing paper, I sketched a raven, part of an idea for my next best painting. After posting it on Facebook, my stats indicate that the “get something done today” drawing is a hit! I think I’m on to something that would never have happened if quit work early in the day. Stay tuned to see where this may lead!





Among the Stars

"Virgo Rising" in progressHaving spent a good deal of time on metal leafing Virgo Rising (efforts shared in last week’s All That Sometimes Glitters), I decided to take a bling break. Maybe it was all the Ziggy Stardust chatter with the passing of David Bowie, or just the realization that my depiction of the universe needed more heavenly bodies, but I got out the paint and got to it. Click image for a more complete reveal.

Me and Mondrian (self portrait)While the paint was on the palette, it seemed efficient to add another layer to my two self portraits, “Me and Mondrian”.  I was confident that the first layer had dried and I could continue to build the painting. Alas, wintery conditions in my north facing studio means a nightly drop in temperatures to a bracing 57 degree, and the underpainting was still wet in spots and tacky in other areas. Fortunately by Thursday the oil paint had reasonably set and I was happy to make some small progress on the background, which if you are a fan of Mondrian you might recognize as Composition in Red, Yellow and Blue. (Or is it Composition in Blue, Red and Yellow? Hmm, better research that!)

At this point, it looks like the promise of a few extra studio hours will be available next week, and with it, the expectation of further progress. Check back to see if that happens, and follow on Facebook and Instagram to see more studio news. And finally, you can add your comments below or send an email with your insights.






All That Sometimes Glitters

These past couple of weeks in the studio have found me attempting to finish a painting begun early November 2014. My misguided (as always!) belief was that I would have the work finished by the opening of a late November exhibit at the River’s Edge Gallery. The work is a combination of two paintings: a circle painting of a crow, wings lifted, surrounded by a larger galaxy painting. Separating these two works is a metal leafed circlet. It was the visual representation of the show’s title: “Virgo Rising.” (photo below left).

Virgo Rising, v. 1
Virgo Rising, v. 1

Well, Virgo is still rising and awaiting lift off. And if you have seen the posts on Facebook or Instagram you’ll realize that the current circlet looks nothing like version 1 because at some point, all that original metal leaf was scraped back and wood scrollwork added and new layers of metal leaf added for “Virgo Rising”, v. 2.1.

Virgo Rising, v. 2.1
Virgo Rising, v. 2.1

I know, I know. Why bother? Because that’s  what has to happen when it isn’t as envisioned. Revisit, revise and re-do, make it over, add to or subtract from, get it to the place where you finally say this is the best I can do at this time. It will get done, oh it will.

Until then enjoy the posts on social media as I make slow and steady progress. And finally, with all this metal leafing floating around the studio, I just glad I’m not using 14K gold. I even found some metal leaf glued into my hair. Talk about gold among the silver!IMG_2541

By the way, the image to the left shows much I’ve managed to get done to this point.