JAMES KELSO

01491 613003                      PAINTINGS - PRINTS - DRAWINGS               jim@kelso.co.uk

 

Unique, original artwork from £75 to £7500.

AFTER HENRY

20" x 15" (50 x 38cm)

Acrylic on gessoed panel

Not for sale

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Methods

    I’m sometimes asked what are acrylic paints. Well, all paints are pigments suspended in a carrying medium. Traditional oil paints are colours suspended in oil; watercolours are suspended in glue and so on. Acrylics arrived in the 1940s. They're polymer colours; that is, colours based on synthetic resins, which are dispersed in a clear acrylic emulsion. In fact, you can mix watercolour paints with the acrylic medium and they become, in effect, acrylic paints. I do this often to extend my range of colours. The acrylic paint brands I use, Liquitex and Golden, are made with similar light-fast pigments as oils. The acrylic medium, so it’s said, gives a more brilliant, vivid quality. The great thing about acrylics is you thin them with water, like watercolours. Of course, you can now buy water-soluble paints, which I also use. Acrylics, unlike oils, dry fast. When dry they form a tough, flexible film that is completely waterproof. In fact, they have an almost rubbery elasticity that they retain, without becoming brittle, for longer than oil-paint films. You can roll up a canvas painted with acrylics. The picture won't come to any harm provided you don't roll it too tight. (As an aside, the reason canvas replaced wood as a ground, was because paintings could be rolled for transportation. Canvas has no intrinsic merit; it was introduced for transport reasons. Today, of course, because so many artists have traditionally used it, canvas has a certain cachet. Personally, I don't care for the pimply regularity of its texture.) Whatever you do with acrylics, the colour remains stable. That's because the polymer medium is inert. You can make acrylics matte, semi-matte, or glossy by mixing them with appropriate mediums. No other paint gives you such full-bodied, freely stroked or juicy effects. That's not to say they can do everything oils can. They certainly can't. There are some effects you can only get with oils. But the same goes for tempera, or watercolours, or gouache. Acrylics are versatile, easy to use and non-toxic, which is good news if you're a brush licker, which I'm not.

On what grounds?

I paint on 3.2mm hardboard, known in the USA as Masonite. I sometimes glue two sheets back-to-back, rough side to rough side, to give added strength. I also cradle some panels with strips of mahogany along the edges as well as cross-bracing them to give extra rigidity. Hardboard, as you know, is a builder's material, smooth on one side and coarse-grained patterned on the other. I paint on the smooth surface. Hardboard is the most recommended board of its type for artists' use. That’s because of the way it's made. They have a high old time in the hardboard world. They explode wood fibre under steam pressure of 1000lbs per square inch and then press the refined pulp with heat. The fibres interlock to form a permanent hard mass. They don't use any binder, but during the process, they impregnate the fibres with a small amount of sizing compound made of paraffin. This makes the fibres waterproof. The finished boards are highly resistant to moisture. They’re less liable to warp, especially if they're braced, hence the cradling. Hardboard is an entirely reliable material. It is superior to wood as a support for easel paintings. As I’ve said, I prefer it to canvas because I don't like the texture canvas imparts. I also like to scratch and attack a painting’s surface, which you can't do with canvas.

To begin with.

I cover the hardboard with a watery wash of acrylic white gesso. This seals the panel and prevents further coats of paint being absorbed. I then apply up to six more coats of gesso. When each coat is dry, I spray it with a little water to reawaken the paint, and then rub it down with fine abrasive paper until the surface is absolutely smooth. Finally, I apply a coat of acrylic titanium white. The result is an intensely white surface, tough and robust, yet perfectly smooth and highly reflective. I work on top of this, using paint as thinly as possible to achieve the maximum colour brightness.

To end with.

When a picture is completed I spray the panel with Winsor & Newton’s Artists’ removable picture varnish. This makes it easy to clean. Simply remove the spirit varnish and any surface dirt will come off with it. Although the paints are light fast, the spirit varnish also acts as a UV screen. On the back of each painting you'll often find a diagram showing how I've worked and the materials used.

James Kelsohttp://www.kelsopaintings.com/Site/James_Kelso.html
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