Monday, October 6, 2014

Painting on wood--a stall plaque by Alli Farkas

Final version of Sydney's stall plaque

I've been working on this experimental piece for a couple of weeks now, and thankfully I have a client who appreciates the uncertain nature of experimental creativity! I had never painted on wood until she commissioned this stall plaque/portrait of her horse, Sydney. So I had to do a little research about painting on wood, which isn't that odd a thing to do since sign painters have done it for centuries.

We found a nicely precut panel at a local craft store. It was already sanded and ready to go. Kim likes knotty pine, so the knots appealed to her rather than bothered her. My only job was to keep them from interfering with the composition.

I treated the wood as if it were a piece of masonite or other hard surface, laying down several coats of gesso in the oval portrait area and sanding them smooth. That enabled me to keep the wood grain from affecting the texture of the painted surface, which would be traditional artist's oil colors.

The lettering was, for me, a bigger challenge than the portrait portion. Since I am not a trained sign painter, any hand lettering done by me is going to have a slight degree of imperfection. But I found that happenstance to be rather charming, not detrimental. The biggest chore was figuring out how to get the lettering positioned and drawn as precisely as possible. Since I am not much of a techie, I wasn't about to figure out how to do some fancy laser-cut stencil. I settled for designing the lettering in Photoshop, printing it out at the appropriate size, then using some graphite transfer paper that I've had sitting around for years waiting for just such an occasion to trace over the printed letters and transfer them to the wood.

It worked pretty well!. I chose acrylic paint for the lettering because the flow quality of liquid acrylics makes them so easy to handle with precision. Using tiny brushes to make sure I stayed within my lines, I completed the black lettering and added a super realistic-looking gold drop shadow. I don't know what they put in the paint, but the label said "true gold" on the ingredient list! I also whispered a little "thank you Jesus" that I did not drip any paint on the wood on its way from my mixing palette to the lettering. That would have been a real mess trying to get mistakes off the absorbent wood surface.

So this is the final version, and after the paint dries thoroughly and it gets a few coats of protective varnish it will be on its way to its new home!

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