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Surface tension: An exploration of drawing and painting on aluminium thumb

Surface tension: An exploration of drawing and painting on aluminium

Welcome to my first blog for the OCA which will document my creative explorations through using Aluminium as a drawing and painting surface. I hope you will enjoy exploring the blog and please do ask me questions or add your own comments and thoughts as to the work you see to the ideas, materials and processes explored in the coming months.

In this first blog I have outlined the background to the prosposal. In my subsequent blogs I shall be uploading a mixture of photographs or video files of the various Aluminium panels used and the drawing and painting approaches explored.


As an artist I am always challenging my own ideas, approaches and methods in creating my work. To quote myself, “I suppose I am looking to reinvent myself, my artwork“, and I suppose it is this that the direction I have taken with my latest bodies of work, entitled ‘Passing through’ and ‘Purblind’ which has lead to me to this stage of explore the surfaces I work upon.


I recently was successful in an application when applying for funding from the ‘Visual Artist and Craft Maker Awards: South of Scotland 2014-15 in partnership with Creative Scotland’, seeking funding to purchase various aluminium panels as a drawing and painting surface to research, experiment and execute works which fuses oil and water based mediums.

The Proposal

Recently my drawings and paintings have focused on the geomorphology of the land, particularly of the Highlands of Scotland having spent various excursions to this geological rich environment. My process is to document through photography relevant landscapes and environments before developing the work back in the studio.

However, one key aspect to the visits is to gather a physical memory. Whilst walking I will collect rocks from the various strata layers. These rocks become a physical aspect to the work, acting, both as a memory for when I am back in the studio, but they also become an intrinsic tool in the making of the work; Pounding and dragging the stones across the surface of the paper, moving the wet paint and graphite on the page, creating various marks, echoing the scarring and shaping of the landscape.


These recent works have all been produced on paper, using a smooth textured surface, often a Hot Pressed paper. These are then placed against a hard surface, such as the studio wall to be worked. But this type of paper also has its drawbacks. I often work with a mixture of oil-based and water-based materials, creating unpredictable marks and results. When working with oils, on unprimed paper, the oil can seep into the paper and you loose a richness of colour, but also, over time, the paper can start to rot. Priming is a solution, but this means that the paper surface has a layer of gesso and therefore does not allow for a soft staining effect that is achieved through an unprimed surface.

Having been awarded funding to explore various surfaces of aluminium panels, I decided on three type of surfaces and through three suppliers, they are:
Jacksons Art: Prepared aluminium panels
Cut Plastic Sheeting. Dibond Aluminium panels
“Coated on both sides with a special lacquer, these aluminium composite sheets can be printed upon directly, effectively and with extremely vivid clarity. Dibond is a sheet of plastic sandwiched between two sheets of aluminium. As each and every sheet is coated on both sides printing can be accomplished on either of its surface. This is especially handy as each sheet has one matte surface and one glossy one; allowing you to pick the one which will best suit your purposes.”
Click Metal and AP Fitzpatrick: Using ‘Raw’ aluminium panels and purchasing both an oil and acrylic primer to prepare the surface.

Posted by author: Oliver Reed
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8 thoughts on “Surface tension: An exploration of drawing and painting on aluminium

  • Really enjoyed seeing the video of you at work and talking about your work. I am intrigued to know what it was you were grating, was it graphite or pastels? From looking at your images of ‘passing through’ i see you also used gum arabic, is that what you were mixing it with? I was also interested to hear you talking about working with materials ‘of’ the landscape and how they can relate to the sense of place and memory in that landscape, I have been working with willow, using charcoal and experimenting with making inks, so interesting to think how I could extend what I am doing.

    • Hi,
      I was using carbon sticks, charcoal and pastels and grate when into Gum Arabic to then apply with a brush, knife or stone.
      If you look at my website and follow the project link, or easier follow this link http://oliverreed.me/memory_cairns/home.html
      I was creating charcoal through making a traditional Kiln to then create drawings based on the fauna and flora of the area local to where the wood was gathered to make the charcoal.

      • Thanks for sharing that, I will have go using the gum arabic that way. I had a look at your cairns- I like the links you make between the place and your materials. It was interesting to see the photos of how you built the cairn- it is quite beautiful in itself. I have been having a go at making charcoal too from willow offcuts- but with a tin, some sand and a log burner- the results have been good so far, but not quite so poetic.

  • I thought this video was very inspirational. I don’t particularly like landscape paintings normally as they often lack real feeling. Your work is so interesting , you really do capture the essence of the surface structures of the rock. I think this will help me to open my mind when I come to do landscape in the near future.

    • Great to hear that the work has inspired you. It’s always a challenge as to how to approach a subject. It’s often a case of really understanding what your own fascination for a subject is, this doesn’t happen overnight but evolves over time.

  • I really enjoyed your video and the ways that you trusted the process with sponging, flicking and bashing. Unlike Vernice above I do like landscape and I particularly enjoy the large scale of your painting/drawing, even though I was only watching a video I did feel how you could enter this landscape. Thanks, great.

  • Your innovative use of natural materials is inspiring. When depicting a landscape I like to visit it, to be in it. I can see how taking material from the site and then using those materials in the painting process could result in greater connectiveness between the painting and the original environment.
    You have captured the deep mood of Scotland’s dramatic landscape.

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