Lately I have been doing my figure studies on paper rather than canvas or linen. Typically, I use thick vellum which is smooth (with a little bit of tooth), translucent and a lot cheaper than linen.
I used to paint on this surface a lot when I was in art school since I couldn't afford more expensive materials for mere studies and exercises. I just recently rediscovered it, and am delighted at the fact that it works beautifully with my thick paint application of late.
It doesn't take washes well at all –not in the way I like, anyway– but I find I can build the surface toward thick paint without getting muddy. Paint responds to the brush in a more fluid way. It sort of forces me to be more aware of each stroke since I don't have the canvas texture to help me fake it.
These are all 11 x 14 and done in about an hour. In our three hour figure sessions, I do three of them. I just tape the corners of a sheet of paper to a board, and am ready to go. The paper itself is archival, if you were wondering, but I'm not worried about that - these are just exercises and studies and I do a lot of them. I'd go broke if I painted on linen all the time!
One thing that slows down a student's advancement is when he feels too precious about every little painting. Yes, it's important to try your best every time, but not every painting is going to end up worthy of a gallery wall or even a frame. In my case, for every one painting that ends up in a gallery, there's probably five or ten that do not. And if I start a painting knowing this one isn't gallery bound, I'm more likely to take risks. A lot of them fail and end up in the garbage, but so what? Can you imagine a musician recording every scale exercise for posterity?
Because the material is cheap, I don't feel bad about doing a ton of them. Set a time limit, focus on one issue, do it, and move on to the next one. As long as you are focused on a particular issue and you're not just going through the motions, you are getting better. And much, much faster than if you were trying to solve all problems in a painting every time you face the easel.
By the way, I'm Tweeting. Not sure if this is a worthwhile pursuit, but I thought I'd give it a try~ Follow me if you feel like it!