Panel Making Time

‘Tis that time again.

The studio stack of ready to roll panels is dwindling…

( Drawing credits to Daniel (top) and Rose (underneath) Follansbee )

And so it’s time to get out the magic 8 ball, no I don’t have one of those even as a prop, and try and guess what sizes of panels I might need for paintings that I haven’t even thought of doing yet.

I have a few big panels already made up, but I’m giving myself a wee break from working on those huge compositions…they take a physical toll as well as a mental one, and this old artiste needs some time to rebuild both body and soul before tackling the next one…or two.

So, I made a plan to carve out some small and medium sizes.

Kory helped me clear out the garage last week, what a mess, and this week he stepped into the roll of apprentice to give me a hand with stage one…cutting the panels out of 4′ x 8′ sheets of Dibond. We uncovered 5 full sheets and I decided to save one for that odd size which I don’t yet know I need.

I’ve written about the panel making process, and the use of Dibond, in three earlier blog posts, one all the way back to 2010. You can read them, if you’re interested, by entering Dibond in the search box…see it there at the top right of the website page ?

We managed to get most of them cut…before noticing that some of the lines and edges were skewing. This happens no matter how carefully I measure and clamp and hold the jigsaw. My professional picture framing experience has made me a master of the art of measurement, alas, even with cutting guides, stronger clamps and an even stronger set of assisting arms, my set up isn’t ideal for perfection.

And, at this stage especially, perfectly squared corners is a must. Further down the road, once these panels hit the easel, and I start figuring out perspective, on something like this composition for example…

I’ve got to trust that at least one corner is true so that when I use a T-square to draw the sketch on the panel,  I can get all these horizontals and verticals to line up with each other in a convincing enough way that you, the viewer, forget about them. I want you to trust that these beams are as solid and sturdy as the original joiners intended, so that you can feel safe enough to walk around in that workshop and study what I really wanted you to experience…the light on those beautiful fibers.

So, if you are aiming for perfection, and you find some fatal flaws in the production, it is best to stop and fix them then and there. I am personally blaming, in no small part, the nine thousand percent humidity that drained our batteries pretty quickly in that stuffy garage. Years ago I stole the line from the yayasisters movie…”I’m puddlin’ here”…this was more like a tsunami.

After re-squaring up a stack, I realized tomorrow’s another day Scarlet, and availed myself of the air conditioning here in the studio office to set about cooling down and restocking my supply of canvas, which is needed for stage 2.

Years ago I did an exhaustive search for the best canvas on the market. Every artist has an individual preference for a painting surface and mine was the smoothest possible. I wanted the durability and flexibility of a richly gessoed canvas without the bounce and weave. The Dibond gave me the best man made substructure, and I settled on Joe Allen’s Portrait grade 10oz Army Duck (see roll in photo above) to wrap around it.

Unprimed, and smooth as silk, this canvas is sturdy and pliable, it wraps beautifully with just enough bulk to avoid fear of tearing, and it comes in manageable 60″ rolls. I order a couple rolls at a time to save on freight and when I did the calculations and I figured that I would be dipping into my last roll I knew it was time to reorder. But when I went to place my order on line there was a glitch. So, I called, got a recording and sent an email inquiry.

This morning I got a response explaining the quirky website glitch was just that and one more click would get me sorted. But there was also the sad news that Joe had died just a few weeks ago from a fast moving cancer. His wife Jacqui said that she and their son Justin, who she notes is “now the artist in the family”, will be attempting to keep the Canvas supply business running.

I never met Joe in person, but remember him as most accommodating, and pleasant to do business with and that kept me coming back over the years. He went out of his way to help keep the costs down as these heavy rolls have to be trucked all the way from Texas.

Jacqui has just written back to confirm the order, and in keeping with that tradition of kindness, has offered some alternatives to help save me some money on current shipping costs.

I wish them all the best as they navigate the business and their lives in the coming years.

If you are in the market for a superb quality product, fine salesmanship, need to restock your studio shelves, or want to try out something new…give Allen’s Canvas a shout. They are even having a sale right now.

Meanwhile, back here in the studio, there actually seems to be a patch of blue sky out there. Maybe that will drive away some of the humidity, maybe not. I’m giving the garage a pass today let my lungs clear out and give my flaring knuckles a rest…I’m going to play with the tiny brushes and watch the birds outside at the feeder.

I’ll try and chronicle the next step of the panel making process so you can see how that goes…in the mean time stay frosty out there.


The Spinning Loft

The Spinning Loft  –  30 x 40

This one got personal.
I am a spinner.

We have one more stop to make in Mystic.
A short walk from the Morgan is a lonnnnnng building

And this is the Spinning Loft,
below which is the Ropewalk at the Mystic Seaport Museum.
There is a short video ...click here...which shows a bit of what this room was all about,
and you can read more of it’s history there as well.

But it really is worth a visit to let all your senses dive into this space.
Resonant with the century old aromas of hemp and salt air,
the velvety soft patine of well worn wooden surfaces,
the sensuous flow of the carded fiber,
it positively sings history.

The perspective isn’t skewed, this building is really 250 ft long,
and it was only one section of the original Plymouth Cordage Company,
which operated until the mid-1900’s and was then moved to the Mystic village.

Here are some close up shots to lure you into the lusciousness of the fibers…

and the long walk back in technology…

And there’s a mystery…

As is so often the case,
when I returned from one of several visits to the museum
and reviewed the thousands of reference photos,
I spied this carving on the giant spinning wheel.

Those frisky muses.

Round about my birthday,
the Follansbee came through on his trek to teach some woodworking down south,
and, being a carver of woody things,
I showed him this part of the painting,
whereupon he said that Plymouth Cordage used to be a company town built around the rope making industry.

I went down a serious rabbit hole after googling it.
I’ll leave those historic details dangling for anyone interested in doing their own research,
but the point here is that many of the old buildings remain in town.

These Painter’s Notes will serve as a reminder to Peter that he said he would look into seeing if anyone in those parts recognizes the building from this carving…
well…from my rendering of the carving.

That should be sorta fun.

For me,
it’s all about the peaceful art…
of spinning.