Hello there! I am starting a new painting and I toned the background gray. Although I have a few worries about this I forged ahead and drew out the guide to paint by. After doing this I began to wonder about the smoothness of my surface. In applying the gray I sanded after 6 and 7 coats. I didn’t have an orbital sander so I just sanded by hand. On looking more carefully unfortunately after 25 hours of sketching, I think the surface is too rough and I may not be happy with the end results. This painting is 30 X 40 and will take a long time so I don’t want to start off unhappy. What do you think? Here are a few photos of the light raking off the surface.
I have a few thoughts on this Diane. I’m painting right now but I’ll get to this later today.
Hi Diane! Sorry for the delay but I was busy trying to wrap up a new painting.
So—my thoughts on this can be summed up quite simply as “keep your surface as rough as you can stand it.”. Many people that see my finished works tend to mention how smooth the surface is. They often assume, by this finish, that my painting surface starts out very smooth—and to a degree it does–but just not as smooth as they think.
I find that I need some tooth to keep my early paint handling as close to a dry media experience as possible. I have explained this concept to students by asking them which surface do you feel might leave the artist in greater control of the paint (generally speaking)—a rough linen… or a smooth Plexiglas. For me it would be the former hands down. Now this doesn’t mean that I aim for a rough linen texture—but rather that I leave enough texture to make early paint handling as conducive to my combined past drawing/painting experience as possible. My subsequent layers of paint application will diminish the tooth during my process and leave me with the smooth surface that people have come to associate with my efforts.
Here’s a close-up of one of my sanded panels in raking light:
Thank you so much Anthony. I think this panel will work after all. It helped seeing your panel in light. Mine is probably not as consistent in texture but it does have tooth to it. BTW I just saw your painting Daredevil on Facebook. Wow!
Awesome Diane—Thank you! I am going to sand a new panel today and I will take before and after photos to share here.
Thank you for posting this. I think mine lies in between the two textures. I do think mine is rough enough to show a small bit of texture even after painting. I started another painting until I could decide what to do. I think I need to buy a sander for the next one or go ahead and sand this and redraw. Its so great to have someone to ask. Thanks.
My pleasure Diane! Keep me posted—
i have a question about the initial layer… i prepared a wooden panel with multiple coats of gesso and sanded it down to a very smooth finish. i started off sanding with a block and emery paper, tried an orbital sander (not a very good one) and then got really excellent results with 1200 grade wet sandpaper. the result is super smooth finish… but maybe too smooth
i wanted to have an orange-toned ground. so, after transferring the drawing with graphite to the panel, i put on a thin acrylic layer (the only reason i used acrylic was because i did not want to wait for an oil layer to dry)
it feels weird brushing oil paint on to this, it slides all over the place. even over a rubbed-off layer of lean medium, the oil paint is not behaving
is the surface too smooth?! is it normal for the first thin oil layer to be difficult to apply? shall i just soldier on or is there something i can do to make it easier? any suggestions gratefully received…
well, this issue seems to have solved itself overnight i had applied a thin layer of lean medium to the surface and rubbed most off again. the paint was sliding around on this, even though i had really rubbed the surface thoroughly, prompting my call for help… but today, the surface was grippy and not slippy
the moral of the story being: sleep on it!
As I have stated in the past, having a smooth finish in the end does not mean that it is needed it in the beginning (in my experience at least–it is actually quite the opposite.) Unless the surface has some tooth to be allow the paint to feel “grippy” as you state—it will often slide around more than most would like and seem to become increasingly unmanageable as more is often added to compensate.
@AWaichulis I have 8-10 coats of gesso on my boards, I just sanded lightly and it’s smooth to the touch as I wipe my hand across. I still see texture and here is a picture. Your thoughts?
You can probably go a bit smoother if you like, but give it a try like this and see how the paint reacts. Here is what my panels usually look like up close.
I always leave enough tooth to produce a resistance that, when used with a certain amount of paint on a brush, mimics the “feel” of working with dry media. This is how I take advantage of the skill sets, automaticity, mechanosensory sensitivities, etc…that I developed in the deliberate practice of drawing prior to painting. It seems ridiculous not to roll all of that forward—and a toothed surface (even a subtle tooth) can get you one step closer to making sure you can make the most of all of your past drawing experiences.
That absolutely makes total sense!!! I still see paint brush lines on my panel and more like “curley cues” on yours lol . Why? Cant wait to start my first exercises!
The little “curly-cues” are from the sander/sandpaper that I use. I have a Dewalt DWE6423K Variable Speed Random Orbit Sander, (5") with 180 grit sandpaper discs.
I just bought yesterday a very inexpensive finish sander NOT orbital. I couldn’t remember the one you use which now I know it’s the orbital. I’m not getting the results I expected so I’ll take it back and get the orbital sander.
Can you post a close-up of the surface Dan? I’m curious.
When I get home later tonight I’ll send a close up. I tried something different and put 4 thick coats of gesso on MDF and used I believe 80 grit and press fairly hard with the finish sander. Not happy with results.
I took 2 pictures, one showing how warped the board is after the gesso has dried, the other showing the finished result of sanding using a good amount of pressure with the finish sander. Both bad but useful information to say the least!
Thanks Dan! Well, you will definitely find far less warping with a thicker panel. This looks like 1/8th inch. We use 1/4inch. The surface isn’t terrible but it is pretty uneven. You really want to have a relatively uniform surface. Let me know how the orbital sander works for you.