Sunday, June 3, 2012

Toning a Canvas

I probably tone my canvas 75%- 85% of the time.  You don't have to do this.  So why do I tone?  First, it takes away the stark white canvas.  That is an easy start to a painting.  I find it makes my colour mixing and value judgement easier (I mix on a warm grey palette).  It eliminates little white spots in the passages of thin paint.  Important when I have a limited time in plein air.  And finally, it helps give me a colour key that I want.  You can tone your canvases, let them dry and take them out to paint.  I sometimes do this, but more often I find the colour I want for the undertone depends on the light, the composition, and the concept for the painting at hand.  So, I put on a wash on site and paint into it wet in wet.  That facilitates easy strokes and paint manipulation.

In Cobalt Blue

I have read all sorts of "you can't tone with blue or yellow, or tone with a warm like burn sienna etc."  If it fits your concept do it.  There are no rights or wrongs.  There might be some advantages to some approaches.  But I find these become personal.  So experiment.  I also like a non absorbent ground to aid paint manipulation and keep the colours fresh without sinking in and losing lustre.  This is important when painting direct or alla prima.

Just minutes ago I toned a larger canvas in hot orange.  A little hard on the eyes at first but as I progress that goes away and the concept comes into play.  I use oil paint to tone on an oil primed canvas or linen.

In the past I had an interesting situation.  Took a small painting to a show.  Put it on the floor against the wall.  Ready to hang.  As I stood up to talk to a friend I knocked the painting a bit.  Nothing much.  After my discussion I bent down to straighten up the painting.  To my surprise a largish chunk of the painting was laying flat on the floor!  It looked like a ragged piece of paper.  Everyone gathered round in surprise.  This painting was done in oil on top of an acrylic coloured ground.  I got separation.

I talked to a well known paint maker in Toronto.  He assured me that you "should be alright" with this practice.  After I told him my story, he admitted that the oil to acrylic bond could only be expected to be a mechanical bond.  It there is nothing to hang on to, the bond won't be so strong, so scuff it up.  After more investigation I learned that oil to oil provides a chemical bond.  More consistent and stronger.  Then I read about the practice on the Gamblin web site.  They do not recommend the practice.  So there you have it!

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