Oil studies on paper

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Oil studies on paper

From Virgil Elliott

Published before 2005

Greg Scheckler wrote:
Here's a technical question: how would you prepare paper (if at all) for doing oil studies?

I've read a variety of conflicting recipes. Anyone out there doing oil studies on paper, without seeing the paper rot out?

Is it actually cheaper but still good enough quality to do oil studies on paper than on pre-prepared gessoed panel or other surfaces?


Give the paper one thin coat of acrylic gloss medium thinned by half with water; let it dry overnight or longer, then give it three or four coats of Golden's acrylic gesso and let it cure for a couple of weeks; then wipe the surface with a cloth dampened with distilled water, and wait another day before painting on it, to be sure all the water has evaporated completely. The sizing isolates the ground from the paper, preventing support-induced discoloration, and the final wiping removes the surfactants and other additives that would have migrated to the surface as the acrylic cures, which otherwise could interfere with adhesion. The gesso can be tinted, if desired, by adding acrylic paint to it before applying it.

If the study turns out well, you can extend its life by several hundred years by gluing it to a rigid panel. If it turns out badly, the support is cheap enough that it can be tossed in the trash without anxiety. This tends to give a painter a sense of freedom to experiment that might be absent when working on a support that represents a considerable monetary expenditure, and can often yield pleasant surprises in the results. One learns something even when the picture does not turn out well, so the experience of painting is never time wasted. Go to it!

Virgil Elliott