“It’s so pretty, I’m scared to touch it.” It’s a sentence I’ve heard from many an intimidated artist when faced with a newly purchased and admittedly gorgeous copper panel. The pristine surface does fingerprint if you touch it and wait a few days. Back in the day, I shipped new panels with white cotton gloves so when you unwrap them, you can avoid these little imperfections. But I’ll let you in on a big secret, oil and copper belong together. Oil creates a bond and protective layer to the copper surface.
When I paint on copper, I am about as rude to my panels as anyone can imagine. I stuff it in my paint bag, let the surface get dirty, I touch it, and if I make mistakes and the mistake dries, I sand it back down to copper. I couldn’t be more irreverent to these perfect surfaces I paint on. Why, because I paint on them. And when I leave a bit of light or some exposed copper coming through, I’ve yet to have any noticeable imperfection. Besides, it’s our little imperfections that make us beautiful, right?
“Fine, Ann, fine. But what about if we want a large area of gorgeous, perfect shiny copper in our painting?” Well, good news. You can handle the unpainted panel with gloves. And you only have to sing MC Hammer’s “Can’t Touch This” the first time. If the panels are already tarnished or corroded, they can be cleaned by scrubbing any stubborn stains with Rublev Colours Copper Stain Remover and then rinsing with water and drying with a soft cloth. You can then apply a corrosion inhibitor available from Natural Pigments, Rublev Colours Copper Rinse. Spray directly over the clean, dry panel (rub it with a cotton ball if you want to avoid a slight haze), and then you have a greatly extended time to complete your painting without any concern for oxidation. You can also seal the beautifully finished work and any exposed copper to protect it from oxidation with Conservar Acrylic Varnish that Natural Pigments has specifically developed for use on copper.
Fear is my least favorite emotion, and I think the biggest block to creativity. Fear copper no more and shine on you beautiful people.
By George O’Hanlon, Technical Director, Natural Pigments
The practice of painting in oil on copper had its origins in the sixteenth-century. What is not well understood is where in Europe the practice began. In Lives of the Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects (Italian: Le Vite de’ più eccellenti pittori, scultori, e architettori) Giorgio Vasari (1511–1574) reported that Sebastiano del Piombo (1485–1547) made paintings on silver, lead and copper, likely in the first half of the fifteenth century. Among the first Italian painters to paint on copper was Antonio Correggio (1489–1534) who painted a ‘Penitent Magdalene’ on copper formerly in Dresden Gemäldegalerie but now lost. It wasn’t until the 1560s, however, that copper supports gained wider usage in Italy when Vasari, Agnolo Bronzino and Alessandro Allori painted works on copper for Francesco I de’ Medici in Florence.
That Northern European artists working in Italy adopted this practice and returned home with this new support is corroborated by biographer Karel van Mander (1548–1606). Van Mander writes in ‘Life of Bartholomeus Spranger, painting artist from Antwerp’ in his Book of Painters (Dutch: Schilder-Boeck) while in Rome Spranger (1546–1625) executed a ‘Last Judgement’ on copper, dated about 1570. In the ‘Life’ of Pieter Vlerick (1539–1581) Van Mander mentions that there was a painter named Michel Gioncquoy, who came from Rome and had painted many pictures on copper. In the ‘Life’ of Hans Rottenhammer (1564–1623) Van Mander mentions, that when Rottenhammer came to Rome he started painting on copper, ‘as is the working-method of the Netherlandish painters’.
What is clear from literature is that painting on copper got its start in the sixteenth century and became widespread in Europe in the latter half of the century. What is not established is where the practice of painting on metal supports got its start. Whether it began in Italy, and especially in Rome, as Vasari reports in the biography of Sebastiano del Piombo, or in the Netherlands as Van Mander mentions was ‘the working-method of the Netherlandish painters’ is not certain.
Surviving works on copper perhaps give us a clue because they indicate that copper was mostly used in the north, especially by Netherlandish and German painters. One of the most prolific and talented painters to have used a copper support is Joachim Wtewael (1566–1638). Wtewael’s work typifies the advantages of copper’s hard smooth surface to create highly illusionistic, brilliantly colored images, filled with minute detail, where brushstrokes could be made nearly invisible.
The new support found a new outlet for its expansion in Antwerp. Jan Brueghel the Elder (1568–1625) returned to his native Antwerp in 1595 to practice painting techniques that he had learned in Rome. What is remarkable is that between 1593 and his death in 1625, Brueghel made approximately 400 paintings, of which some 165 were on copper.
During his time in Rome, Jan Brueghel became acquainted with Paul Bril (1554–1626) and Hans Rottenhammer (1564–1625). Paul Bril was a landscape painter from Antwerp who had moved to Rome. Rottenhammer was a German painter of small highly finished cabinet paintings on copper. Brueghel collaborated with both Bril and Rottenhammer and was influenced not only by their aesthetic work but also the practice of painting on copper.
Brueghel’s collaborations with Rottenhammer began in Rome around 1595 and ended in 1610. Initially when the artists both lived in Venice, their collaborative works were executed on canvas, but in their later collaborations after Brueghel had returned to Antwerp they typically used copper. After Brueghel’s return to Antwerp, their procedure was for Brueghel to send the copper plates with the landscape to Rottenhammer in Venice, who painted in the figures and then returned the plates. In a few instances, the process was the other way around.
While in his collaborations with Rottenhammer, the landscapes were made by Brueghel, the roles were reversed when he worked with Joos de Momper (1564–1635) . There are about 59 known collaborations between Brueghel and de Momper making de Momper his most frequent collaborator. Hendrick van Balen the Elder (c. 1573 to 1575–1632) was another regular collaborator with Brueghel.
Antwerp was a burgeoning printing and publishing center in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, so it is not surprising that copper plates were not only readily available but affordable. Jørgen Wadum’s study of Antwerp coppersmiths, and the relative costs of panels, artists’ materials and paintings on copper revealed that prices for copper plates were roughly similar to those for wooden panels.
Comparatively few copper printing plates were used as a support for oil painting. In an examination of 325 paintings on copper from the sixteenth to the eighteenth centuries by Isabel Horovitz, 50 had qualities required for printmaking.
Most paintings on copper were small when compared to other supports, the majority no larger than 15 3/4 by 23 5/8 inches (40 x 60 cm). There were notable exceptions, such as the painting on copper ‘Archduke Leopold Willem in his Painting Gallery in Brussels’, which measures 41 3/4 x 50 3/4 inches (104.8 x 130.4 cm), by Brueghel’s son-in-law, David Teniers the Younger (1610–1690).
The practice of painting on copper was widespread in Europe in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Northern European artists, especially in Netherlands and Germany produced the bulk of these paintings. By 1650 the popularity of copper supports for oil painting began to wane, until the eighteenth century copper plates were seldom used for painting.
Artefex happens to be owned and ran by Anton O’Hanlon, son of George O’Hanlon. Artefex makes panels the right way, verified by George, and that is a huge relief for serious oil painters working in traditional methods. For the past 15 years I have been a working artist, and received academic training at The Florence Academy of Art starting in 2009. We were taught that we should know exactly what goes into our paintings, and I completely agree. We were also taught that we should make as much of our materials from scratch ourselves, which makes me feel conflicted. I truly believe we should be able to make everything from scratch, however, the time involved in research alone to do things the right way could take a lifetime. Trial and error regarding hand making all of the materials one uses as an artist could very well take a lifetime. Ask Dan Graves. I feel as artists we need to be realistic here on this topic. As a lover of the old masters, I romanticized about making everything from scratch, and I did. During my time in Florence I was absolutely enchanted with the concept. Building upon this concept I decided that I even wanted to learn to make frames, so that I could completely actualize my vision for my artwork. And so I did! I ended up making everything I possibly could that went into my artwork with pride. I eventually got burnt out juggling all of the components of being a modern day artist utilizing old master techniques. I ended up going on hiatus from painting and solely focused on making picture frames. I like making frames, and I enjoy that there is a point where the frame is clearly finished. While building my frame business I have been collecting the “Right” art supplies with George’s guidance. Painting has become much more enjoyable, and productive. I actually want to paint more with the stigma of making everything from scratch out of the way. I chose not to be led by dogma. Now for me it is just about doing things the right way, and enjoying painting when I can. The chores of grinding paint, refining oil, prepping supports and making mediums have disappeared. I can now focus on what truly matter: Making a better painting, and not obsessing over what intricate ingredients that I am using. The ingredients absolutely matter, and we know what works and what doesn’t.
I recently started using Artefex panels, and I don’t think I can ever go back to making panels from scratch ever again. Why reinvent the wheel when It comes to supports? I say don’t. I say don’t because as artists we are certainly better off refining our actual artwork. Pushing our drawing and painting skills and refining the subject matter is going to give you far better results than spending time and energy doing it the old master’s way and neglecting the fundamentals. Your time as an artist is extremely valuable, and if you want to make a living as a professional artist, I feel that you are bound to have a hard time if much of the time you spend so much time trying to be like the old masters. It’s romantic, and it can be fun, but are you really using your time as wisely as possible? Many artists forget that the Old Masters had assistants who ground their paints and prepared their surfaces. How else could they achieve so much? What is truly important is that you do it the right way, especially if your career as an artist takes off. You shouldn’t be worried about your paintings falling apart, especually when we have so much access to the scientifically tested information about the creation of archival artwork. I feel the artist’s time is best used focusing solely on the content of their paintings while using the right materials starting with the support. If we handed Vermeer a Lead Primed Linen Canvas bound to a moisture resistant aluminum composite panel and explained it’s properties he would no doubt be overjoyed to create a masterpiece upon it. I speculate that would be his number one choice of support.
Besides the fact that the Artefex panels are done right, they’re also very easy to frame. As a framer and artist I highly recommend these panels to paint on for these reasons. The up front cost us a little more, but they will save you lots of precious time in the long run. Stretched canvas isn’t always square, which can be a pain in the neck for the framer, and the artist when installing the artwork into the frame. I have had clients who ordered specific sizes based on the stretcher bars only to find that their canvas doesn’t fit because the folded canvas corners added a quarter inch to one of the dimensions, and this can be very stressful when deadlines are involved. Artefex panels are cut with excellent accuracy meaning an 8”x10” is going to be an 8”x10” so the fitment into the frame will be a lot less trouble. Installing the work of art can be as simple as just using framers points with a framers point gun. If a more rigid installation is desired, then “offset clips” sometimes called “Z clips” can be used. Both materials can be purchased from Amazon or your local frame shop. Artwork on deep canvases are my least favorite to frame. Finding the correct offset clip to hold the artwork in place can be a challenge, and sometimes the deep canvases require extra fabrication and creativity to safely install the artwork. One of my biggest fears about linen canvas stretched over traditional stretchers is puncturing. Accidents happen, and finding a restorer to repair a torn canvas can be a nightmare. Large format paintings should still be mounted to ACM (Aluminum Composite Materials) and if extra rigidity is desired during the painting process prior to framing, the ACM panel can be adhered to some sort of cradle with cross braces. Artefex makes custom sized panels as well so Anton has you covered. He does a wide variety of combinations of linen canvas and various archival grounds that are proven to last, so it makes no sense to me to DIY everything anymore especially regarding supports.
There are many great framers to choose from to frame your precious works as well, and there is a number of them that I recommend. One thing I am going to discourage is using “Chop and Join” frames for oil paintings, and my reasoning is purely subjective. I personally believe that we should use handmade frames just as the old masters did because the frame is an extension of the artwork, and it should be handmade. Handmade goes with handmade. It looks great and It just makes sense! Keep it handmade and use the right materials. These are pretty straightforward guidelines to follow. If you still want to make everything from scratch because you want to be like the old masters then more power to you! Definitely take a workshop from George on Best Painting Practices. As a Florence Academy Alumni I strongly recommend that you don’t neglect the fundamentals, and as an Artist I strongly recommend you find your intention for making art. Making oil paintings the “right way” is no longer a mystery, and you will be better off doing it correctly.
Batican Custom Framery
2178 N. Pleasant Ave.
Fresno Ca 93705
Painting on Copper by Ann Moeller Steverson
Painting on copper is a different experience. Anyone who has seen a work on copper in person knows there is a different quality and vibrancy to the intensity of the pigment. But compared to painting on canvas, painting on copper is a new and wild adventure and has an entirely different feel.
The usual smooth surface of copper is very slick so unless you have the mad wizard mastery of an artist like Steven Assael, the natural surface is best addressed with patience and a plan. Otherwise, you are just sliding around in your socks and underwear risky business style. I suggest starting by working in a block in of a thin translucent glowing first layer and then planning to build up by paint by adhering to thinner layers of pigment below. Think of sticking a stack of sticky notes together.
I love the freedom of painting on the textured copper panels offered by Artefex. With these finely abraded panels, I can go as thin or as thick on the first layer as I want and it holds the brush stroke perfectly. There are no big canvas bumps to flight, so my paint goes much farther. The resulting brush strokes become more a reflection of the character of the brush used and the wielder rather than the texture of the surface. The amount of detail possible is incredible when there is little to no surface interference. The first layer can feel slightly thirsty, so if you want extra movement, just oil in the copper first or add a quick thin wash of solvent. The goal is to have the paint grip without interference.
The traditional method of working dark to light with very thin darks works exceptionally well when painting on copper panels. I have found that translucent shadows can be created with a beautiful transparent oxide color (brown, red, or yellow) or any mixed dark oil paint, and is a lovely way to start that keeps a warm glow. If I want to soften the marks to keep the shadow areas simple, I lightly brush over the shadow shapes with a gentle mongoose or badger hair paint brush. Lead white makes a particularly appealing stand on the copper panel where I want to develop all the subtle value shifts, fine details and lively brushstrokes in the lights of the painting. I usually shift the lights cooler to play against the warm shadows. I like to leave peak of exposed copper color in the mid tones and transitions, which adds harmony to the piece. The overall effect of warm shadows, with the exposed copper transitions, serve to unify the painting beautifully and contrast vibrantly to the cool lights. In short, the result is “zazzle.”
The effect of the painting support on the overall look of my work is transformative. After all, when it comes to painting supports, it’s literally what’s underneath that counts.
We will offer show special at Art Materials World 2015 for new and existing customers. We offer free shipping on orders of Artefex Panels, Ceracolors, Kolibri Brushes, Rublev Colours Artists Oils and Watercolors. With minimum orders of Ceracolors, Rublev Colours Artists Oils and Watercolors an additional 10% will be taken off the total order.
Basic Show Special
When ordering a minimum stocking order of Ceracolors, Rublev Colours Artists Oils or Watercolors an additional 10% off will be given on the total order.
Preferred Show Special
When ordering a minimum stocking order of all five product lines–Artefex Panels, Ceracolors, Kolibri Brushes, Rublev Colours Artists Oils and Watercolors–free shipping applies to all items and an additional 10% off will be given on the total order.
We will offer show specials at Art Materials World 2016 for new and existing customers. We offer free shipping on minimum stocking orders of Artefex Panels, Ceracolors, Kolibri Brushes, Rublev Colours Artists Oil and Watercolor paints. With minimum stocking orders of three or more lines more discounts will be applied.
Special Offers for New Retailers
When you order the minimum stocking order of any line, get 5% off the net order when purchased at the show. This offer excludes Kolibri Brushes. Minimums for each product line must be met.
When you order the minimum stocking order of three product lines, get 5% off the net order and free shipping when purchased at the show. This offer excludes Kolibri Brushes. Minimums for each product line must be met.
When ordering the minimum stocking order of five product lines, get 10% off the net order and free shipping when purchased at the show. This offer excludes Kolibri Brushes. Minimums for each product line must be met.
Special Offers for Existing Retailers
Net Orders $1,000 or More
Take 5% off of the net order placed at the show or with Artefex from February 29 to March 9, 2016 with a net total of $1,000 or more. This additional discount applies only to product lines that are currently stocked in the store.
Net Orders $3,000 or More
Take 5% off of the net order and free shipping when placed at the show or with Artefex from February 29 to March 9, 2016 with a net total of $3,000 or more. This additional discount applies only to product lines that are currently stocked in the store.
Conservar varnishes are a series of isolating and final picture varnishes and varnish kits based on materials and formulations used in current conservation practice. All these varnishes contain UV stabilizers
All Conservar varnishes contain hindered amine light stabilizers (HALS) or UV stabilizers. These act by interfering with oxidation reactions in the varnish that cause embrittlement and aging of the varnish. By incorporating HALS in Conservar varnishes a much more stable varnish is obtained. Accelerated aging experiments indicate that the lifetime is extended greatly. Monitoring of natural aging so far indicates that the stabilizer works as predicted by accelerated aging.
The HALS used in Conservar prolongs the lifetime of the varnishes dramatically. HALS are stable by themselves for a number of years, but once mixed with varnish in solution they are best used within a short period. For this reason we offer Conservar as kits so that all ingredients can be mixed fresh for use immediately. For artists reticent about preparing their own varnishes, we have also made these varnishes available as ready-made solutions in metal cans for maximum longevity and with the date of production printed on the label. The date lets artists know that they should use the varnish as soon as possible for best results.
Conserver Picture Varnish
Conserver Picture Varnish is a colorless, reversible varnish made from hydrogenated hydrocarbon (Regalrez) resin dissolved in pure, low-aromatic solvent and UV absorber and stabilizer. Conservar will not cross-link or yellow over long periods of time—much longer than natural resin varnishes. Conservar achieves optimum wetting of the paint surface to enhance colors, has minimum solvent action on paint, and maximum resin content for best coverage. It dries to a film that levels well and can be rubbed when dry just like traditional mastic or dammar varnishes.
E. Rene de la Rie and Christopher McGilinchey, “New Synthetic Resins for Picture Varnishes”, IIC Preprints to the Brussels Congress, pp. 168-173.1
Robert L. Feller, “Standards in the Evaluation of Thermoplastic Resins”, Preprints of ICOM in Zabreg (1978), pp. 78/16/4.
We are excited to introduce a new store to the Artefex family. The new Flax store is finally ready to open its doors. A great location right next to the new home of the San Francisco school of art, makes this an easy to get to store for the local artist. Flax currently carries the Rublev Oils colours, but is planing to carry other Artefex products soon. Check them out at Building D, 2 Marina Blvd, San Francisco, CA.