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Surface Tension: Acrylics, Oils and Conclusions

Acrylics and Oils – Oliver’s final instalment of his series of articles; Surface Tension: Drawing & Painting on Aluminium. You can read the first of these here: Surface Tension: Drawing & Painting on Aluminium Part 1
I am talking about these two materials together, as they are worked in a similar way, consistency and application. Although not used this could also apply to water based oil paints. I have included two oils and one acrylic painting.
The first things I have noticed when working the surface is, its smoothness. When applying the first layer of paint, the paint appears to slide across the surface, as there is very little or no ‘tooth’ for the surface to grip the paint from the brush and therefore the result is that your brush strokes are also included. This may be a desire for some artists and a hindrance for others, as it depends on the way you like to work the surface. However, once your first layer of paint has been applied you then have a surface like any other and it’s comforting to know that over time the surface will not bend, warp or twist.
With the surface being impervious and already primed, this then could not be stained, by allowing the oil within a medium to bleed into the surface for example, as you could with an unprimed canvas, paper or board. However, you can easily remove any wet oil or water-based paint in the first layer, due to the surface being so smooth, something that is much harder to achieve on other surfaces.

Acrylic painting 28cm x 35cm

Second oil painting 35x28cm
First oil painting 35x28cm

When working with the Acrylics I used Daler Rowney – Cryla Heavy body paints. As these heavy body paints are thick they adhered very well to the smooth aluminium surface. Again, just as with the oil paint and watercolours it was easy to lift-out layers with a cloth and water. At one point I had two to three layers of acrylic paint applied and when I added water on to the surface and left for a short period, I found I could remove layers, effectively lifting whole areas, revealing the aluminium surface once again.
Acrylic painting 28cm x 35cm
Second oil painting 35x28cm

Conclusions: Acrylics and Oils
The panels work extremely well as an acrylic and oil ground, just as working on a smooth primed wooden panel board. I really liked the idea that I didn’t need to prime the surface and that the aluminium panels are prepared and ready to be worked, and reworked for that matter! Although at the back of my mind, I have found it a little disconcerting, having (for the past 25 years) primed my canvases and boards, but that’s just a personal issue.
I am yet to take these panels to a framers and it will be interesting to see how they would frame the panels, either in a float/tray frame or behind glass?
Working on Jacksons Art aluminium panels has been a new experience for me and I have enjoyed the qualities of the surface which I can see will become and addition to the various surfaces I use within the studio.
Overall Pros

  • The panels can take a range of mediums.
  • The panels do not need priming.
  • The aluminium panels are completely stable and will not warp or twist.
  • When working with watercolours you can remove and rework the surface time and time again.
  • The aluminium panels are relatively lightweight especially once you start working-up in scale against working on plywood boards. The panels have an ultra-smooth surface, (but this can be a negative too).
  • A minor positive, is that when you do have many panels they take up a lot less room than canvases and plywood panels due to the relative thickness of the material, just 3mm.

Overall Cons

  • The panels have an ultra-smooth surface, (as mentioned, this can be a positive too).
  • The panels cannot be cut easily.
  • The relative cost for working a watercolours on this surface is much more expensive than buying watercolour paper, but the surface can be reworked.

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Posted by author: Oliver Reed
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6 thoughts on “Surface Tension: Acrylics, Oils and Conclusions

  • hi Oliver. it’s good to see your work. It is very dramatic. I like the way you engage with your subject. A while ago I bought some di bond aluminium sheets to paint on, the kind that has smooth white surfaces on each side. When I painted on it with oils the paint scratched off when dry, which didn’t seem to me to be very stable. Someone mentioned sanding, but the white lacquer doesn’t seem sandable. Have you used this white coated stuff?

    • Hi Olivia,
      Yes there are a couple of options. One is a ready made primer/Gesso for metal surfaces by Lascaux, which I have found ok but can still scratch off, the other is making a primer by mixing China clay and shellac. Either one I still lightly sand the surface first.

  • Thanks Oliver. I may try that. Someone has put something on the coffee shop forum asking about tips for painting on metal, so I will mention this. Presumably the primer takes away some of the desirable smooth quality of the aluminium ?

    • Yes that is an issue but the surface can be sanded. This is the beauty about the Jacksons Aluminium panels in that they are chemically treated and therefore you can still see the surface as you work directly on to it. I am taking some works
      Into ECA on Tuesday if your interested in seeing?

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