Thank Goodness for Dining Room Tables

I know a number of very talented artists who use their dining rooms as their studios because for various good and real reasons they really don’t have other options. I only resort to the dining room for very large projects where I need to spread out on a flat surface because I’m fortunate enough to live in my parent’s old home which includes a large art studio.

When I do need to use the dining room table, first I cover the table with plastic and sometimes with padding (depending upon the project). Our cats are pretty well trained and do not get up on counters or tables, so what I put there can assume to be safe. (And just because I bragged about this, one of them might well decide to make a liar out of me, being that is the nature of cats, but I’ll take my chances for now).

My newest project is the figuring out ways to improve the quality of my painting surfaces by stretching canvases for larger paintings myself instead of relying on rather irregular pre-stretched canvases that may or may not be the size I actually want for a particular painting. But I also really like working on wood panels.

For most of my small paintings I use Gessobord and I’ve been very happy with it. The problem is that it can get to be a bit expensive. Gessobord is made by Ampersand and very little ones, (like my 6×6 panels) come packed in sets of four. Currently, I’m paying about $1.17 on sale to $2.75 full price for each panel. Larger panels cost more, of course.

While in Lowes in Gloucester yesterday, I found a piece of 8×4 foot hardboard for just $8.87. With my husband’s veteran’s discount, it brought the price down to $7.79. They kindly cut the board in half so we could transport it in my car. Figuring quickly and allowing for some loss during cutting, we figured we could get about 90 pieces out of this one board.

Today I started applying Gamblin oil ground to one of the half boards. Per the instructions, it needs to sit over night. Then it needs to be sanded lightly and a second coat can be applied. This gets to sit again overnight before I can stand it up against the wall. It then needs to dry for about a week and I can sand it again if needed (and since I like a pretty smooth surface, I probably will). Finally, I’ll haul it out to the garage and draft my husband to help cut the large piece into smaller panels.

My additional costs are the oil ground. I will end up using about 1/4 of the can, a small roller pad (which I will toss when done), and a sanding block… in the end, I will spend about 99 cents per 6×6 inch panel. Based on the lowest cost differential, I will save about $17 for those 90 panels. Over time, that can really add up. I guess in there somewhere I should also plan to buy my husband a replacement saw blade.

In addition, and I think even more important, I have an idea in my mind for a series of tree paintings as part of a conservation message that will require pretty unique shapes… some wide, some skinny, some square. Gessobord is only available in very standard sizes, so it’s hard to do those tall skinny paintings I’m envisioning without cutting the panels myself. If I go larger, I can attach (i.e. glue) support boards around the edges to keep the panel from bowing. Very large paintings will be on canvas so they are lighter to hang.

So, my dining room is currently part of my new adventure in surface preparation. I’m just glad we had them cut the original board in half!


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