Lately I’ve been researching and experimenting with painting on aluminium panels. As I prefer the stability of a solid surface because of my painting style, I usually paint on ply or MDF but I’ve often thought of experimenting with alternatives. Not that there’s anything wrong with good quality ply or MDF but I’d heard of other artists that have tried aluminium as a surface & they seemed to report good results.
FIRST STEP – OBTAIN SAMPLES
Aluminium panels are available from some art material suppliers but they tend to be expensive & only available in certain sizes. I researched companies who could supply me with cut to size panels & found that buying direct brings the price down considerably. This flexibility is vital to me as I use specific sizes for my work. I obtained some sample pieces & started my experiments.
SECOND STEP – GET PAINTING
Priming is always an important first step with a painting as it protects the surface from the acidic properties of the paint. I had heard that some artists have painted directly onto the aluminium surface so I tested this myself with oils. The test seemed to be successful but I’m slightly concerned about the longevity of this method due to information I’ve found after further research. Apparently aluminium oxidises very quickly & this layer can react with oil paints. The only way as far as I can see is it prime with acrylic gesso or anodise the aluminium. You can buy sheeting already anodised but it adds considerably to the cost. A possibility which I’m currently testing is a vinegar & water solution to etch the surface. If successful I can then paint directly onto the bare aluminium.
THIRD STEP – TESTING DIFFERENT MEDIUMS
Oil is my primary medium so this was the first one I tried. I was pleased with the results considering my test panel was less than 8cm x 8cm. Skies are a pleasure to paint as the smooth surface allows me to move the paint around & blend subtle mixes. Although you’d think brushes would be the best tool to use, I was impressed with the way my painting knives worked on this surface giving me plenty of scope & still allowing me to apply transparent layers.
Acrylics worked much the same as oil but acrylic inks were quite stunning in the way they flowed across the surface.
I will shortly receive my order of larger panels which I plan to get started on. I will write a separate blog going into some of the advantages of painting on this surface & should be able to share some images of more extensive trials on larger sizes using more of my usual working techniques.
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