September 3, 2014 by smithartonline
I decided to work with unbleached muslin for a bit as an experiment. The first endeavor is Kitsune Wedding, which I produced for Papergirl Blackburn in England. This painting, Murder Queen, is my next undertaking.
The piece is painted directly on the muslin: there is no under painting preparation. I used FW Acrylic Ink for the base painting, and the color seems to stay vibrant on the cotton surface: almost a staining. It seems much brighter than the same technique on a gesso surface. This surface also allows the work to be rolled up, which was a consideration for the Papergirl Blackburn exhibition. The down side is that the painting cannot be protected with a varnish application, so it needs to be conserved pretty much like a work on paper, which means the added expense of a well frame.
I was recently looking at work by Michael Horse, a First Nation artist known for his contemporary ledger art pieces. In an interview he mentions a muslin painting at the Southwest Museum, which I also remember from the 1970s visits I regularly undertook. We both found this work inspiring and it had an influence upon our works over the years. (This is where I should say something like great minds move in a like direction, but I am not in the same league as Michael Horse, an artist who infuses his work with sardonic humor and biting satire…if you have not been aware of his work I encourage you to take a look at this video.)
As of this writing I am continuing to experiment with the muslin base, but I have primed the picture area so the finished work may be protected by varnish. I note that the Tibetan thankas are painted on “prepared cotton” which gives a bit of a harder surface allowing finer line work: unprimed cotton will result in a much fuzzier line…not necessarily a bad thing, but one needs to be aware of it. Also, rolling a work with a gesso base will ultimately begin to crack the surface…although this does not seem to be a concern of the ancient Tibetan artists…all matter is transitory.