[image_with_animation image_url=”10579″ alignment=”” animation=”None” box_shadow=”none” max_width=”100%”] How many different surfaces have you painted on? It wasn’t until I discovered linen that I liked my oil paintings. Really. Everything I did when I painted, I hated. Well, at least I felt it wasn’t working. The way I moved the paint just kind of felt… meh. I had fairly good techniques and great ideas, but when applied to cotton canvas, it fell short of what I wanted. I wasn’t able to articulate what was wrong, I just didn’t like it. I blamed my skill. Then, after painting for 10 years, these same brush strokes that flopped on cotton were instantly made glorious me by the uneven weave of linen. Linen showed me that I could already paint, and taught me I could do more. I love what I can do with linen, without even trying. Patty Haller painted for years before discovering that what made her paintings sing was a smooth panel. It’s good to find your surface. Below are some random works by famous artists, all of them on surfaces that may surprise you. Or, if you’re not surprised, I wonder why you haven’t already tried it. [divider line_type=”Small Line” line_thickness=”1″ divider_color=”default” custom_height=”20 Willem de Kooning’s Seated Woman, was painted on masonite, a very smooth panel made from wood fibers. Edvard Munch’s The Scream was painted on cardboard. Roy Lichtenstein painted House II on aluminum Rembrandt often painted on copper panels. Caravaggio’s Medusa was painted on a ceremonial shield. The myth of Medusa was that she was killed by Perseus’ mirrored shield – killing her with her own gaze. So Caravaggio painted her on a shield. Get it? Get it? Duchamp’s Bride Stripped Bare by her Bachelors, Even was painted on glass (clearly). Jasper Johns, Flag was painted on patriotic American plywood. Nicolai Fetchin painted on jute, burlap, and rough linen. He preferred a very course weave and pre-filled areas where he knew there’d be a face, making the face smooth but leaving the rest of the surface rough. The rough surface made his edges soft, and kept the brightest brush strokes subdued, and secondary to the painting as a whole. “[Fechin’s] ground varied, not only from painting to painting, but upon a single canvas. In some areas he might use rabbit skin glue; in others, cottage cheese. The absorbency differences in the various sections of ground resulted in areas of high gloss and areas of matte finish in his completed painting.” – Keene Wilson Helen Frankenthaler soaked raw canvas with oil, and then later with acrylic paints. Francis Bacon painted his Screaming Popes series on the back – the un-primed side of the canvas. The light brown in the painting above isn’t paint, it’s the color of the raw canvas. [divider line_type=”Small Line” line_thickness=”1″ divider_color=”default” custom_height=”20 So how many different surfaces have you painted on? Primed canvas? Some paper? Birchwood panel? You can paint on anything your paint sticks to. You’re supposed to paint on stable and archival surfaces, but really, it’s up to you. For archival surfaces, you have many standard options: Canvas, canvas boards, papers, and panel. Within those options, you have more choice: canvas or linen? Fine or course? Raw or primed? Stretched or mounted? You also have the options of less common materials such as copper, polypropylene, polyester, jute, glass, claybord, political yard signs, and more. Each surface and texture has a different feel, a different mood, and different way of responding to the brush and the paint. Therefore, each surface produces distinctly different work from the artist. I’m teaching an intermediate studio class on Surfaces. You won’t master each surface in this class, but you will get a taste of nearly everything I can get my hands on, and likely something will surprise you. Intermediate Studio: Surfaces starts this Thursday. Register today.