This will be about my views on what it takes to put a three dimensional world onto a two dimensional surface. With a lot of digressing.
Don't forget to leave a comment, or a question if you have one, below the post. Thanks.


Jun 14, 2013


I spent my formative painting years adopting some of the methods of the seventies, that is, eliminating the hand of the painter. A smooth surface, no visible brush work, and in the case of a lot of photo-realists, using an air brush.
My time with the airbrush was short lived. The frustrations involved with learning it, using it, and cleaning it were not worth it, more so when I learned that Larry Rivers, for instance, used airbrush experts as studio assistants. Sheesh
I'm not sure that optical and color field painting would have been possible without acrylics. (Introduced in the sixties) Certainly taping for hard edges, if that was a requisite, it would have been difficult with oils.
Large paintings meant, for me and my friends, buying #10 canvas at a sail makers in NYC, Jensen & Lewis.
Stretching 4 x 6 footers was no fun, neither was transporting them, storing them, moving with them. And no way did you even consider painting in the great outdoors.With the exception of billboards of course.
Another state, another state of mind, another age, another century. Here I am surrounded by the painting dejur, Plein Air. By necessity the majority are smallish oils, done on windproof and  portable panels. And hopefully, started and finished with the rare help of Mother Nature. Who I firmly believe is, like God, in reality a teen aged boy.
I've been struggling to fit in for obvious reasons, to adapt to changing times and tastes that remain with the French Impressionists. For good reason of course. Speaking of which, whom, I went to the new Barnes Collection Museum in Phila. (See the documentary, "The Art of The Steal") Loved the collection of antique furniture that was the Missus taste.The paintings, most wonderful, some meh, one dreadful surprise, Van Goghs nude. Oy. And..........................................
May I presume to judge a great painter and a big-time collector ? Sure why not. There was an unfortunate amount, an excess, of Renoirs fleshy pink round bulging nudes. Seemed like hundreds.
                                 Back to my reality.
After some fits and starts and trials and errors, I think I can work out this plein air thing. Since it's the only game in town I have to be there or be square, so to speak.The alternative is don't sell, don't show.
So I've been using my favorite medium, liquid acrylics. I've transferred them into small flip top plastic bottles.
Limited to my favorite colors and mixes.Another bottle contains retarder and water, 50/50. I have a mini-muffin pan that fits in my french easel -each little muffin compartment gets a lump of paint with a squirt of water/retarder on top.. Ordinarily I don't use retarder, but it's a necessity outdoors. I'm still working on the bigger is better brushwork, and am determined  to try the "Open" acrylics, even tho they come in tubes.
I spent this past weekend painting on site for the Kent Island Fine Art & Garden Tour thing.
                            Acrylic on Linen adhered to panel.(see previous post) 12x16  "The Tree"

Apr 18, 2013


I wanted to add a few more remarks on the benefits of making your own panels.
Although cutting the board into stock sizes seems obvious, an added bonus is that you can cut a panel specifically for an uncommon sized frame. I collect frames from anywhere I see them as long as they're a deal. Throw the art out, keep the frame kind of thing. Many years ago, in my previous life, at the Greenwich Village sidewalk show, I watched as a man bought a bad copy of the Mona Lisa (by definition, any copy of the Mona Lisa has to be bad), which thrilled the artist for a few minutes. As he walked away he removed the painting, threw it in the trash bin, and tucked the frame under his arm. Had to be an artist.
I stopped at a country yard sale a few years back and spotted a well painted landscape with, yawn, sheep.
It was in a custom made- real gold leaf- frame.About 16x20. Dazzling. I asked the price. $10. Whee. I hesitated  for a nanosecond. Should I have haggled?
My other reason for making my own panels is the so called stock sizes of stretchers and frames. My surface of choice is stretched linen that I've done myself. On smaller sizes, it's easier to buy an already stretched canvas, than to do it yourself. Either way, there are many ready-made frames available for stretched paintings.
BUT, with some exceptions
The people who make the stretchers don't talk to the people who make the frames
You'd think that if you are making stock- sized stretchers you'd know to leave a little room for the canvas, so ideally a pair of 16" stretchers should in actually be 15 and 3/4. After it's stretched you can peg it out if you need to. And to compound this 'who cares' philosophy, a stock size 16x20 frame is 16x20, no more, sometimes a little less. aaarrrggghhh. 
Another  reason for making your own panels is that you can use both sides. ( And a good reason for not wrapping your canvas around the edges.) So if you bombed on one side, you've got another. Who me? Bomb?
While I'm at it. A painting done on a panel, as long as its under 9x12, is so much easier, and more accurate as far as color and exposure, to scan on your printer/copier or scanner-compared to photographing.
....................It had better be dry.

Apr 15, 2013


It's been awhile since I posted a painting, or anything for that matter. My time is rationed these days. If I'm painting, the cats get fed, but not much else. And that's only because they have a tendency to nag. To digress for a minute. Why do they eat grass in the yard, and barf in the house? On a rug,yet.? I prefer not to get out of bed barefoot, but if I have to, it's tentative. If I grew cat grass in the house, would they barf outside?
I don't think so.
 Here's a demo I did for the St Michaels Art League, titled Marsh Light. It's been a bugger to photograph, because it's already out of focus.
                              Marsh Light    14x18      Oil on Linen           (c) Margery Caggiano
I should say, this is how the demo ended up in my studio.

Feb 24, 2013


I came home with a 4'x8' panel of quarter inch MDF, which the lumberyard had cut into 4 pieces. I didn't follow my own advice, which is to prime the each piece on both sides before you make your cuts.
No big deal.
 I've gone with stock sizes, and common sizes for plein air painters. You can of course go bigger, which is an advantage with quarter inch rather than eighth inch thickness. 
 Here's a sample layout for a 2x4' panel.

I have a saber saw and a cold garage, but lucky me, I have a friend in high places. In exchange for one of the 2x4' panels, and some whining, he used his table saw with a carbide blade. His garage was probably cold too, but that's the price he paid for being a gentleman.
The cut pieces were laid out on newspaper on my kitchen counter, which is handy for a lot of art things if you don't cook very often. I'll rephrase that. I'd much rather paint than cook.

As the cut panels were drying in my dish rack, I could attend to priming the edges.
At this point you can do your thing, which is to say, treat the panels for your medium of choice.
I went a step further, so one more blog to come.

Jan 29, 2013


Well almost waterfront. 
Currently a lot of us live not much above sea level, and the future holds promise to some, of finally obtaining a home on the water. Quite possibly in.
I'm having second thoughts however, of the daydream of sunsets, sunrises, peace and calm and all things zen.

Jan 22, 2013


I blogged on January 23, 2010 on what had been my standard panel if I didn't want to stretch canvas, which was  quarter inch untempered Masonite. Containing no oil, and commonly sold as floor underlayment.
It has become impossible to find, for me, and the Masonite panels sold for painting online are only an eighth inch thick.Not to mention expensive, for what they are.Gee, maybe they're made in the US. Nah.
Here's my current solution if you're handy, or have a spouse/friend/neighbor who is.
MDF stands for Medium Density Fiberboard. Formed with pressure and high temperature, considered an "engineered" wood product. Kind of like taking a chicken with all it's parts and making nuggets.
The good news is that it's denser than plywood or particle board, has no grain,  is stable and is easy to cut.
(The MDF, not the chicken) (well, maybe)
The bad news is that the resin binder is toxic, and not good to inhale the sawdust. So use a mask and do your cutting outside if you can.
MDF comes in 4' x 8' panels at Lowes or Home Depot, and cost about $20. Be sure it's a quarter inch thick.The store will cut it twice, a freebie. So you can easily get the four 2' x 4'  panels in your car.
At this point, you're probably way ahead of me, but I'll continue.
While you're in the store, get a quart or more of alkyd primer, and a tray and roller if you don't have them.
It's easier to prime both sides of the MDF before you cut it into smaller sizes. You can prime the edges later.
Always prime even if you're going to adhere canvas or linen to the panel, it helps with adhesion.
 If you're a plein air painter who likes 6"x 8" size panels, just think, you can get 96, countem.
 That brings each panel down to .21 cents plus labor. But custom made. Here. Or anywhere but China.
Hmm. Sorry if you're reading this in China. Nothing personal. Really.
I have a few odd size frames, so I've cut the panels to fit. Otherwise as you know, stick to stock sizes.
Another layout could be 8-18x24s, 8- 9x12s, and 8-6x8s...all from one 4x8' panel.
I'm sure I'm not the only painter who has odds and ends of linen or canvas, some primed some un.
Plus double or triple primed linen which is a bugger to stretch. Saved by panels!
Linen or canvas will shrink, so cut a little extra. I use Elmers' glue to adhere the canvas to the panel, then protect the surface with paper and use a brayer or rolling pin. Making sure there are no air bubbles, I stack books on the panel overnight. Usually those big heavy art books.It's about time they earned their keep.For larger panels, use any weight and clamps that will do the trick.
Another surface I like is Goldens' Sandable Hard Gesso. Its not for flexible surfaces, but great on a panel.
A coat or two of this over your pre-primed panel allows you to damp sand to an eggshell finish. A little like French Polishing. Lovely.
Please leave a note or comment below if you have any questions or problems with these methods.
I don't like all these words, but can't think of a picture. If I do, I'll stick one in. Did a much better job with Masonite.

Jan 14, 2013


I've been experimenting with Goldens' Open Acrylics, on the endless quest for the perfect medium. So far the jury is still out.
TWO NINETY NINE    Acrylic on Board   8 x 10

I thought I had pretty much found the solution, for me, of a relatively thin acrylic painting done on stretched linen. I've always used gesso in place of Titanium white, believing the mixes to be more matte, and a little tougher. This was the under painting, then oils were painted over, usually, but not always, as transparent glazes .
The beauty of this technique is the ability to retain the under painting in the event a passage doesn't work out.
The pleasure (I refuse to say Joy) of painting is first being comfortable with the medium. However the "Open" acrylics are too easily picked up with the next brushstroke, and too glossy for my taste.
It's a little early to dismiss them, especially when I've bought a bunch. So my next try will be the Open acrylics over the regular fluids that I use. The easier glazing and scumbling may be the answer.
Why are reflections so much fun?