Those art things… 1. Painting Mediums and surfaces

Lots of people have heard about oil paint, and the masterpieces they have produced over many centuries. But there are other mediums too.

Also of note is the surface the paint is applied to and understanding how that works.

In most cases oil paint, water based acrylics and mixed media is applied to canvas or linen, generally these are stretched over a frame, undercoated, then the final coats of colour are built up on the front.

Occasionally painting boards are used and perhaps most famously, the paintings done by Australian Impressionists in the late 1880’s, when they used 9” x 5” Cigar box lids to paint on which they had collected from tobacconists. These were easy to carry and work on when they painted outdoors “en plein air”.

Acrylics are fairly new to the art scene, being developed in the 1940s in comparison to oils. Which have been around for hundreds of years and popularised in the 19th century. Oil paints took over from Egg Tempera which had a range of limitations, perhaps the main one being that the artists was limited to painting on panels and the size restrictions they had, meanwhile canvas could be stretched on to large frames and readily handled.

Mixed media simply means using a number of paint types to create a picture. This became more popular in the Pop Art period and onwards as artists explored more with mediums to get different effects, often using enamel paints as well as adding to the paints to make them thicker, hold textured finishes etc.

That’s the basics of paints and the surfaces they end up on, but what’s important to us as picture framers is the way we need to work with different paints and especially the surfaces they are created on. Many canvases purchased as souvenirs on a holiday are simply for decoration, and the substrate they are painted on is often calico or the sort of material roller blinds are made out of. Not really designed for longevity. Meanwhile linen and heavy weigh canvases worked on by some contem-

porary artists may require greater care in the framing process to ensure they retain the value inherent in the work. Linens for instance can be difficult to stretch on to a frame and may loose tension in differing atmospheric conditions.

If your artwork cost was low, then you might find the cost of having the work stretched to hang on a wall expensive, however if the work cost you considerably more the price may well seem very adequate…

Also remember that a stretcher frame simply keeps the material tight and able to be hung on the wall, a frame around the outside can assist to ‘visually contain’ the painted image, and offer some physical protection to the edges of the work. But this frame is separate from the stretcher frame, so think twice before you pick up a bargain overseas!

Until next time, feel free to visit your friendly professional picture framer to chat about your picture framing needs.


Steve Gray –

The Framing Guy –

Part of the team at The Picture Framing Shak


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