Friday, June 22, 2012

Priming Mural Panels

Using a sponge roller, I apply a water based bare-wood primer (Zinsser brand) to the panels. This primer has high adhesion properties and will provide a good bond between the wood and the acrylic gesso paint to follow. I roll in all directions and smooth it out as much as possible.  It looks in this photo like the edge of the panel is hanging out beyond the cradling; it's not--that's duct tape, applied along the edge that will be butted to another panel.   It's there to keep paint from drying in globs and causing the joint to be less tight.  I'll remove the tape after the mural is painted.

After the primer has dried I roll on a coat of Utrecht artist's grade acrylic gesso, then brush out the air bubbles with a 4" Chinese bristle brush, using a very light touch, brushing in short criss-cross strokes in all directions. I work quickly in sections, not allowing the paint to dry before brushing. When dry, I repeat the same steps with another coat

I'll be using a French cleat system for hanging the panels. This will allow them to be easily installed and removed, if necessary. Here are the cleats for the right and center panels, mounted on my studio painting wall. The backs of the panels have matching, interlocking cleats.

A close-up of a wall cleat. The corresponding cleats on the backs of the panels have the same 45 degree angle in reverse, so they slide down and lock in place. I owe thanks to my friend Jim Richey--fellow artist and woodworker extraordinaire--for instructing me in the proper way to make a French cleat. Look for Jim's self-illustrated tips columns in Fine Woodworker magazine.

Mounting the panels on the wall. The key is having the cleats as precise and level as possible.

On the wall and ready to go. I'm running out of excuses not to get started on the mural. Next installment: drawing the design on the panels.


Anonymous said...

This entire process is fascinating. It shows all the work that goes into producing the end result (proud university announcing a mural by artist Don Gray) and how much technical knowledge and skill it takes for the artistic vision to flow onto the canvas/wood panels.
Looking forward to the next chapter.
Anne Thrower

Steven said...

Thanks for sharing this.

What about seams? I've seen works with huge seams at the panel edges once mounted.

Aside from the duct tape and a tight fit, what else can one do to prevent gaping seams/cracks along the edges of panels?

Don Gray said...

Thanks a lot, Anne--nice to hear from you.

Don Gray said...

Steven--it has been requested that the panels remain removable, so the seams will have to be there. My hope is that with as tight a fit as possible and with the dynamics of the design itself, the seams will not be too noticeable.

Sheila Vaughan said...

That's an amazing thing, the French cleat - I've never seen that before. Thanks for sharing don (and yes man, enough messing about with wood now - get on with it)

Steven said...

Thanks for the reply Don! Can't wait to see what you put on those fantastic blank panels!