Making friends with Aluminium, a new painting surface
Aluminium is not the first painting surface that would naturally spring to mind, and had I not seen it painted on, would probably never have considered it. In fact, I have realised that most of my new directions have been borne out of requests or challenges from other people, exhibitions or commissions. I know now that this needs to change. It’s far too easy to stay in the comfort zone with what you know, but it’s so much more exciting to break into new territories.
This story started in August which was good timing, as I had the space and the better weather for this project up at the Barn. I was approached with the idea of commission for a new restaurant. Tailoring the piece to the space, I took photos of the colour scheme and a perfect size was decided on. Long and quite narrow, the artwork measurement required was 1700mm x 170 mm.
A large canvas would be needed and bespoke made and this was when I had the idea of aluminium. It’s light, contemporary and has no chance of warping or moving and would be ideal in this situation. My clients at the time were not convinced and I needed to convince myself too, so I took off a friend who has is a metal fabricator and he gave some advice on how to prep it and a small off cut to practice on.
I needed to use acrylics as there was not enough time to let oil dry. Mediums helped to give it body and gloss but it just stays on the tops. In one sense it’s not forgiving at all as it almost slips around and discovered that once on it was best untouched. Brushes felt alien on this hard surface, but sponges and rollers were perfect and picking up several colours, they blended into a harmonious though unpredictable sweep when laid down on the surface.
(The preparation is slightly boring, but for anyone reading that wants to know,it is also imperative to get it right. The metal needs to be etch primed to hold the paint and to do this you have to rub the metal down with fine grade wet and dry sandpaper and household soap to thoroughly clean the surface and provide a key. You can see where you have done it as it takes on a brushed aluminium look and quality. Then you apply etching primer evenly over the whole surface right to the edges. Best done with a mask and outside, it’s pretty innocuous stuff and incredibly fine. I also had trouble finding it in anything other than grey. Once a couple of coats have been applied its touch dry pretty quick and after leaving to harden overnight, you are ready to go.)
Like most of my work, I find it hard to work to a specific idea with a strong framework of design. My art comes from within and whilst I can work to a certain colour idea, it has to be something fluid and able to change and evolve. What started out as something quite abstract, it evolved into a semi abstract seascape with dark waters and a distant coastline to give some perspective with strong light added for contrast and to draw the eye in lots of brights.
I was working on the Cruel and Curious at the same time, and think this slightly influenced the painting which in hindsight was probably inevitable as I get so drawn into it, and it didn’t get finished before our holiday to Portugal or indeed before I left the barn studio, but like most things, it needed to be left to come back to, to stop getting focused on detail and overworking .
There is more scope for working on this surface and I am very keen to give it a go. The paint can be moved around and wiped off in an instant. Texture provides a tension in the surface and once dry it is very durable, so could be worked over and over. Alternatively you can work with the smoothness and keep some of the almost enamel qualities of working on metal. Plenty of thought for the future in trying to work out how I and this surface become intimate friends.
In the meantime, here is the finished painting. The story in one sense didn’t have a happy ending. The restaurant didn’t quite work out, but both my clients, nor I have regrets. We both learnt a lot which added to our experiences and will take us forward in new directions and I’m sure I will find a home for it somewhere. Oh.. and the new title. “Hot Summers Night”