I am often asked why I work on wood panels and would like to briefly explain my process.
As most art students do I began painting on canvas and in those days we started with stretched cotton canvas and primed the surface with acrylic primer. I learned however through my material and techniques class at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts that oil paint should be used on an oil ground and acyclic paint on an acrylic ground or substrata. I started by first sizing the canvas with glue and then priming the surface with a titanium oxide ground. It’s a laborious process requiring sanding between coats to obtain a smooth surface. A finely surfaced ground is essential because my work tends to utilize a fairly high degree of detail and is usually very thinly painted.
This procedure helps in the glazing process I use extensively during the latter part of the process.
Consequently, I believe it was Julian Levi a very well respected mid 20th century artist that suggested I use wood panels to enable the process and not “fight the weave of the canvas”. It was at this time that I started using one half inch marine grade birch plywood panels that I cut myself into the necessary sizes for compositions. For larger paintings at that time, I also used a very tight weave Belgian portrait linen that could be finely surfaced after first stretching.
I went back and forth for many years between linen and wood panels depending on the size and material at hand. However for the past 15 years because of the possible warping of plywood, which first needs verso cradling to stabilize it, I only use birch plywood panels for small compositions.
For what I call larger paintings 24 inches and bigger I use either mounted and cradled panels that one can buy from the better art supply stores and for large paintings I use the museum quality stretchers made by the John Annesley Co. pre-ordered to the appropriate size after the drawing and composition is finished. They are then sized and primed in the same manner as I have done for years with a titanium ground, which I refine to my own specifications.