Poplar Panel (a painting support)

This is a poplar panel for painting on.  A small panel, only 12 x 15″, it is braced with two pine battens joined to the panel with a sliding dovetail joint.  This joint, which requires no glue, allows the battens to support the panel across the grain while still allowing the wood to expand and contract with the seasons.

I am no great historian, but I enjoy doing certain aspects of my work by traditional techniquies.  Supporting a panel in this way has some historical precedent, with the added benefit that it is effective and simple.  

The panel has just been “sized” with a thin solution of rabbit skin glue, to isolate the fibers of the wood from the effects of the oil of the paint.  The next step will be, however, to apply many coats of gesso.  The recipe I use is also simple and of a traditional nature, consisting of powdered calcium carbonate (from marble dust and chalk) cooked with a solution of rabbit skin glue.  Marble dust, chalk, gypsum, and talc (and most likely many other ingredients) have all been used in the past to make various qualities of cooked gesso.

With variations, this is the basic method that I use for almost all of the paintings I do, which are painted on wooden panels.

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