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This post discusses some practicalities of preparing the ground for painting.  I’ve been working with the motif of a figure mopping a corridor. Specifically, a female cleaner mopping a floor. It’s a prosaic subject: a solitary figure wielding a brush over a surface.
I am indebted to artists at Turps Art School for suggestions.

Surfaces for Oil Painting
I’ve been thinking about using  paper  as surface for oil painting.  I started using oil paints again after many years, and want to do a lot of studies to familiarise myself with my new paints and resolve some ideas. I’ve been weighing up the perennially conflicting requirements of quality, convenience, price (in May 2019).

Commercial Oil Paper
Convenience  – ready to use.

Arches Huile  Qualities:  300gsm, uniquely this paper is like watercolour paper, Jackson’s classes it as “exceptional”. But see their slight caveat here. Price: 1.3m x 9.15m roll, £166

Clairefontaine Oil Painting Paper  Quality: 240gsm, textured (embossed or linen effect).  Price: 1.1m x 10m roll, £115

Fabriano Tela Special Oil Paper  Quality: 300gsm canvas-effect grain. Price: 1.5m x 10m roll, £86

Personally I’m unconvinced about these faux canvas textures.  Others may be able to tune them out. Primed paper is a suitable substrate for oils, there’s no need to pretend it’s another material.  Rolls of pre-primed canvas are around the same price.

DIY Priming  Paper for Oils
Convenience – this is inevitably not as immediate as ready-made paper, but preparation can done incrementally as required. I can’t compare the prices per metre square, but this option is more flexible financially and the paper is can be used for other purposes. DIY priming is an opportunity to lay the tinted ground as part of the same process. Quality:  paper 300gsm, smooth.  Additional texture: your choice! Price:  80p  per A1 cartridge paper. Consumables: 1 litre Acrylic Gesso  £14 tinted with  acrylic paint , and wide soft brush.

Soaking and stretching paper is always a chore for me, so I’m testing other methods of preparing  paper for oils.  Initially I just taped my  paper to a board, and it buckled. However  after  drying, I rolled and flexed the primed paper, and it was fine for a study. Turps artists have suggested:

  • Flatten paper under weights when the paint is fully dry
  • Staple paper to board
  • Make a brace to with  strips of wood and wing nuts to hold paper taut
  • Firstly, using the same gesso, paint a X from corner to corner on the back of the paper to equalise tension
  • Spritz both sides of paper  before taping or stapling.

Using acrylics for the tinted ground, I’m aiming for smooth flat tone . I’m going to try Flow Improver additive to reduce brush marks.

My reason for using oils over the acrylic ground is the malleability window during their slow drying time.  This provides a few days to reflect, alter, or even wipe off entirely leaving the ground intact.  Cleaning off marks and erasing is part of painting.