Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Methods & Materials class

This fall I enrolled in a class at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, titled "Methods & Materials in Acrylic Painting", taught by Melanie Matthews. It involved six weekly classes, three hours each week.

To begin, we were given three MDF panels, each measuring 12" x 12", and we sealed them with three coats of GAC-100 to prevent the leaching of impurities into the paint. (Gesso alone will not seal darker-coloured, resinous wood, we were told.) We then applied two coats of gesso: two panels got the white gesso, the third got black.

I used a photo that I took in Manhattan,
cropped and then enlarged to 37" x 13"

Using this format was inspired, I thought. It allowed us to choose a single image that could be broken into thirds, with the panels hung side-by-side or one under the other. It allowed us to create a large piece that was nevertheless broken into three easily-handled parts. And it allowed for a different treatment of each component. The panel finished with black gesso was collaged, a white panel was given a coat of a texture paste, and the other white panel was left with just the gesso. At this point, we cut our photocopied image into thirds and transferred each third to a panel, using matte medium.

So already we had learned a lot:
  • why and how to use sealant
  • why and how to use gesso
  • how to collage with matte medium
  • about the various kinds of texture paste (eg. crackle paste) and how to create different textures (combing, pressing material into the paste and then lifting, spackling with a palette knife, etc.)
  • how to do an image transfer
Then we did an exercise in grisaille. This requires you to mix a range of greys from black to white, and to select just the right grey to correct or enhance the image transfer. Grisaille, I learned, is a favoured technique of some oil painters, who establish the tonal values of their image and then apply coloured glazes to produce the final effect.

A detail shot of the collaged panel,
complete with the image transfer and glazes

So we mixed some glazes and applied them to our panels. Glazes are paints that are thinned to transparency with glazing liquid. The instructor was careful to distinguish between opaque mineral pigments and the transparent modern pigments. The first hides whatever is underneath, while the second stains.

A detail shot of the textured panel.
The texture was created by pressing a microfibre cloth into soft texture paste.
This pebbly surface requires more care to achieve a good image transfer.

Finally, we used heavy body gel with a stencil to add a dimensional quality to our panels.

I added dimensional numbers to the surface with transparent heavy body gel tinted with paint,
then sponged on a little more glaze to "knock back" the effect.

We painted the panel edges with black acrylic and they were ready for hanging. 

The three panels

A great way to learn about "methods and materials", and I am quite pleased with the final product too. Melanie Matthews is a dynamic, knowledgeable teacher, and I have registered for Part II, which will continue up until Christmas. 

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