Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Skimming the Surface of Things...

Pocket Venus is a 12x9 oil done in open studio on prepared cardboard by Shirley Fachilla.

The surfaces we use to paint upon are hedged around with rules. There are so many in part because our paints are quite destructive to those surfaces. Over time, oil paint is corrosive; put it on unprepared canvas or paper, and the oil will one day eat it up.
Because we, artists, want our work to last, we usually try to use properly prepared surfaces and materials. But not always…
Leonardo de Vinci was notorious for breaking most of the rules with disastrous results. Just take a look at his peeling Last Supper. (He was trying a new fresco technique.) He ignored the rules because he was always experimenting. Constable at times painted on the back of accounting paper because he thought the work was just a study and of no account (pun intended). Other artists have ignored them because they were broke. Cardboard and paper are almost always cheaper than canvas or linen.
And then sometimes artists use unconventional surfaces because we really, really like the way they work. Cardboard is a rich, warm, midtone brown, a delightful color to paint upon. Both cardboard and paper absorb oil from the paint and by doing so produce a wonderful soft matte finish… never shiny.
Did Degas and Toulouse Lautrec use oil on paper for frugality or because they simply loved the surface? Don’t know. I do know that many of their works on the wrong surface still exist, quite beautifully I might add, either because curators are adept at preservation or perhaps because the rules have been overstated. 
Breaking the rules… it’s just what we artists sometimes do! 


  1. Great colors and form handled so well.
    Thanks for taking the time to blog such an interesting post. I really enjoyed it.

  2. A fascinating post! I've never tried cardboard, but I'm so curious now that I'll have to try it. I noticed you said "prepared" cardboard. How did you prepare it, Shirley? Again, very intriguing!!

  3. Terrific Shirley. I like how you handled her facial features without making it a portrait. Beautiful.


Is it too early to send an invitation?

Pieces by (clockwise from left to right) : Susan Harlan, Janet Garner, Shirley Fachilla, Mike Martino and Topper Williams. So many ...