Emily, 12 x 9 inches, oil on linen
This study was painted on Claessens Belgian Linen, No.15. It's oil primed, and has medium fine tooth, which is a great all around surface. I have tried all kinds of supports and it seems I have a new favorite every few months. I guess it's only to be expected that, as my style develops (or regresses, as the case may be) and what I look for in my brushstroke changes, so too, does the optimal surface for my particular way of wielding the brush at that point in my development.
Lately, I've been liking Claessens No.66 a lot, which is a bit more coarse (fewer threads/inch) than the No.15. I like the drybrush look I get from dragging paint across just the tops of the canvas texture. But at the same time, if I wanted a more fluid stroke, I can easily achieve that too because the texture is not overly toothy. It's not that great for really tight details, but that's ok because I don't paint that way.
No. 15 is just a bit smoother so it takes more care and deliberation to get that dragged stroke. If I put too much pressure on the surface, the visible texture is gone, and you can't bring it back because the paint is on the valleys as well as the tops of the canvas texture.
Oh, I know there are ways to to get all the paint out using rags or turp or finger or Q-tip or that nifty rubber brush thingy, but resorting to such techniques breaks the flow of the moment and to me, it's not worth it. I've only got a few hours. I don't want to spend more time correcting than necessary, youknowhatimean?
So while I like No.15, it does take more finesse and focus to maintain the dry, dragged brushwork. I've noticed that it forces me to be more mindful with each stroke, so I think it's a good thing.
But oh, that No.66 is schweet! Well right now, anyway. Two months from now I'll be praising something different, probably. Oil primed linen isn't cheap though, so I do use other surfaces for studies where I'm not overly concerned about the stroke quality - say, if I just want to explore value or color juxtapositions or design possibilities, I may just use gesso primed cotton or board.
If I am doing a big painting with lots of juicy, thick strokes, it seems less relevant whether I use linen or cotton, oil or gesso primed. It doesn't make that big a difference to me. The wash and the thin stages feel much nicer on a oil surface than on gesso, (just my preference. I know lots of artists who prefer the gesso surface) but after a while, I'm painting on top of oil anyway, right?
Anyway, I have to make some panels this weekend because next week, I'm headed out to Sonoma to participate in the Sonoma Plein Air Festival. I'll be using No. 66.