In the beginning…

Every painting starts with preparing the surface. It’s not the most enjoyable part of the painting process, but absolutely necessary. Since I paint with a high level of ¬†detail I need a pretty smooth surface. I’ve recently started to paint on wood panels. I enjoy the surface much more than canvas and it eliminates the problems I’ve had with stretcher bars warping on my canvas.

I try to prepare several panels at a time. Right now I’m using an acrylic gesso, but I’m in the midst of trying out an oil based primer (I’ll let you know how that turns out in a future post).

I’ve found that a foam roller like this gets me the nice, smooth surface that I want.











It’s a simple process. I lay out my panels and roll on thin layers of gesso. I’ve found that if I try to use too much gesso on a layer it tends to create problems. The surface ends up with heavy texture in some areas and little texture in other areas. So I opt for very thin layers of gesso.











Right now I apply no less than five layers. I lightly sand between each layer and with acrylic gesso I can reapply every 30 minutes or so if I want. After I lay down the coat of gesso I go back over it several times with the roller, allowing just the weight of the roller to smooth the surface out. The surface doesn’t end up smooth like glass but has a slight tooth, which I prefer. Hopefully this image will give you some idea of the texture:











In between coats I wrap my roller with a plastic grocery bag. I’ve found that it will stay wet for weeks this way.











If you prefer more texture you can swap out the foam roller for a fuzzy roller.