As a artist I like to take the opportunity to do something different whenever I have the opportunity to do so. Nowadays it feels like everything has been done, and for the most part- it has. But it doesn’t mean you can’t take something that has been done and tweak it to be your own.
One of the ways that I enjoy being different is to paint on unexpected materials. I started much like everyone else, painting on paper, canvas and sometimes panels, but I disliked starting from such an expected place. I particularly disliked starting a painting on a standard sized canvas- it is so expected! So I started using unique proportioned and shaped canvas and panels. I love a long wide canvas or square or even a round panel. Starting with something unique will help me be creative with my composition and will generally make your art stand out on a wall with other art.
I have always loved painting on panels, because I love a smooth texture. As a highly detailed painter I despise too much texture because it can distract from the detail that I love so much. I got the idea of painting on raw wood panel from a couple artists I had seen online and decided to give it a shot. I loved that you could utilize the wood grain as an element in the composition of the painting. I didn’t want to cover those sexy grains! That is when I learned about clear gesso, and it has become a very common material for me. After using clear gesso to seal the wood you can use oil paint on the surface without the oils absorbing into the wood grain. I even used an 8’ wooden door for one of my panels- I was having a lot of fun experimenting with scale as well as wood at this point in my career. I was so inspired by the beauty of the wood that I created an entire series of artwork called the Sirens within a few months.
Shortly after I finished the Sirens series I was asked by a friend to create a painting for his apartment. He had the idea to paint on a large mirror… I had no idea how to make that happen but I knew it would be an interesting project so I dove in and accepted the project. Glass/mirror is so smooth and I knew that I needed to add texture before I began painting. I taped off the area to be painted and I then added many super light coats of clear acrylic spray paint. After about 8 layers it had a nice, gritty tooth and I could begin painting. I did a large wave painting on that mirror and when finished I pulled off the masking tape to reveal the mirrored edges in between the painting and the large frame. It was another unique piece that while working on was a bit of a pain in the ass, but once finished I was really proud that I had worked through the unknown and figured out a way to make it work.
About 4 years ago I saw an artist that I love, Tatiana Suarez, painting on an old machete blade. I loved the idea, mostly because I had never seen anyone else do it other than her, and I was living in Puerto Rico and the machete is a strong symbol there. It seemed pretty straight forward, but in my commitment to creating long-lasting, archival work I had to do a lot of experimenting to make sure that my painting lasted and did not have any sort of chemical reaction with the metal. It took months of experimenting to figure out the best way to dive into painting on metal but now I have the prep work down to a science and to date I have created over 14 machete paintings. To take it even further I would take the prefabricated handles off and have this little old man hand carve a mango root handle for me and attach it to the machete before I started painting. What I ended up with was truly unique!
A couple years after I started painting machete blades a friend came to me with an idea to paint on his ukulele. I had never done this before and it instantly was incredibly intimidating. It was an old uke and had a lot of dings and scratches so before I even began painting I spent a lot of time sanding and sealing the ukulele, then I used clear gesso to add tooth to the ukulele so my oil paint would stick. Painting on a 3D musical instrument with oil paint was a nightmare because of the long dry times but I learned so much about my materials and different ways to rig something to make it easier to paint. For this ukulele I attached a string to the ceiling of my studio and then tied it around the neck of the ukulele so it could hang and dry without me having to put it down or touch it. Once finished I was faced with the difficult task of varnishing a piece of artwork that would be handled often for years to come. Painting that ukulele involved so much experimentation and research and I am a much better artist for it.
These days I feel pretty confident in my ability to paint on pretty much anything, I love to experiment and painting on unique materials is a great way to do so. I hope you enjoy this info and if you ever have questions about painting on different materials just ask!