The Pleasures of Painting on Claybord
Demonstration by Rock Newcomb
Having used practically every medium and support available in the last thirty years, I now paint with one medium -- acrylic -- on one support -- Claybord.
This pH neutral, acid-free surface gives firm support plus many working advantages. I prefer painting on the original Claybord, which has a very smooth surface of white Kaolin clay adhered to a masonite panel.
Since I despise gessoing and sanding panels, I like that I can go directly to the line drawing on these panels. I use 4B black charcoal, graphite or sanguine conté crayon, and I make corrections with a kneaded rubber eraser, #600 steel wool, or by sanding or scraping.
I sometimes transfer drawings to Claybord from paper or vellum. I coat the back side of the sketch with conté crayon, charcoal or graphite to transfer the sketch to the board. For works involving several elements, I often draw the subjects on separate pieces of vellum, then move them around on the board to discover the most pleasing visual arrangement before transferring.
How I approach the painting depends on the subject matter. If I can take advantage of the brilliant white of the Claybord, I paint around white areas much as you would with transparent watercolor, perhaps glazing over them later if I need to tone down the brightness. If the subject has little or no white, I paint a base coat of Cadmium Red Medium with a touch of Permanent Green Light, or Cadmium Orange with a touch of Ultramarine Blue, or use a washed background of Sepia. The opacity of the base coat is determined by the number of coats and whether I thin the color liberally or sparingly with matte medium and water.
Claybord Original is very absorbent, so the first coat of paint dries very quickly. If you want to work acrylic washes over the white surface and slow the drying time, try covering the Claybord with a coat of acrylic medium, then use Golden Acrylic Glazing Liquid as a medium. I often glaze directly on the Claybord, but I may do 10 to 20 glazes over one another, totally hiding the brush strokes of the original layer.
When glazing on Claybord, use pure water and do not dilute your acrylics more than 70-80% in order to preserve the integrity and adhesion of the paint film. As a rule of thumb, when I dilute acrylics with water, I add about 1/4 of the volume in the form of acrylic medium, just to be on the safe side.
"Dances with Demons"
When starting this painting, I sealed the board with two layers of Cadmium Orange and Ultramarine Blue, to give an overall warm feeling indicative of the subject matter and the heat of the Southwestern U.S.
With the base coat down, allowing an hour for drying of the damp clay beneath the paint, I drew the contour of the Apache Crown Dancer with a 4B charcoal pencil. I then began laying down dabs of color for the background and foreground, starting with the darkest passages first, then glazing in the lighter colors last. I repeated this sequence on the figure.
This is one of my more loosely painted pieces, conveying the motion of the dancer through the visual energy of the brushstrokes and the dominant hot colors.
I seal my acrylic paintings to give the entire surface of the painting the same sheen and avoid distracting areas of differing gloss. The recipe I use was given to me by a very fine wildlife artist now living in Colorado.
I use Golden Polymer Varnish UVLS and mix 75% gloss-25% matte. I add about 10-15% water so it will blow through my single action airbrush easily, yet not be too thin. I airbrush a coat over the entire piece until it has a nice, even gloss, then let it dry 24 hours and repeat up to three coats.
If you brush the polymer varnish onto your piece, use a 2" or wider brush. Place your board or canvas at about a 15° angle and brush the varnish on in horizontal bands, starting at the top. Attempt to overlap ever so slightly when brushing it on, and do not go back into tacky areas to re-brush. Allow 24 hours before applying the next coat.