or how to keep both feet on the ground.
It is great that companies like Ampersand are developing new painting boards specific for encaustic painting, the new Encaustic board appears in the market as a “Paint & Hang” answer to our cumbersome search for the adequate surface and support for our work.
These cradle boards are already primed with gesso and finished to be hang on the wall once you have finished the painting.They are very practical for encaustic workshops for instance, since you can start directly with encaustic without any preparation, and you can take your work home as a finished painting. They can also be good to give a friend one of our paintings as a birthday present for example, but for day to day’s work we need more basic materials, especially if do not want our budget to skyrocket in chapters that are not necessary yet missing for other infinitely more essential.
Keep both feet on the ground
Sometimes Marketing and our own ignorance can make us think we need something that is clearly not necessary, I have the feeling that this is the case the world of the ready-made cradle boards .
Since I cannot influence the marketing I will try to do something with our beginner’s ignorance.
As painting board, do we need a wooden frame? Is it necessary to prime our board with gesso ? Definitely not. We’ll need a wooden frame only in cases where the size or weight of the painting so require. Many types of paintings can be done even directly on paper, flat plywood or hard board; can be stored (protecting edges) and can be framed any time in the future in case we decide we hang them.
A painting panel can be defined with 3 variables: Surface, Base & Structure.
Board Surface is the finishing that will be in contact with the wax, it needs to be stable with wax temperature and porous to hold tight the layers of wax. If you are going to cover it with opaque layers of wax it can be left in the original color whatever the material might be.
On the contrary, if transparency is going to be used you will probably need a white surface to enhance your transparency and colors. You can get a white porous surface applying gesso to a compatible material, or glueing porous white paper (usually watercolor paper). If you use this second option, you will need a white painted surface underneath it, to assure your background will remain white after the medium has been applied (papers increase their transparency after being applied wax). You can paint the surface white with acrylic paint for instance.The white faced hardboards that are in your local market can be a good solution. An alternative solution might be stretching a canvas with staples.
Board Base is the surface that supports your painting, plywood or hardboard are the two preferred materials as base. Please note that hardboard finished side is not porous enough to apply gesso, have you thought about using the reverse side for instance? it works wonderfully even if you paint it with white (or colored) acrylic paint . The resulting surface has enough grip to hold the wax adequately!
Board Structure is the framing for your base, and assures that it will not warp. It normally consists of perimeter wooden miter cut profiles (45º angle corners) glued to the base; if special reinforcement is required an extra stud in the middle can be implemented.
Of course there are solutions in which surface, base and structure are the same element, that is the case of massive or glued wood and I think they work extraordinary well, you can buy them for an competitive price. Specially adequate are the commercial types that are extremely light and that can be find in any local DiY as shelves
To define each one of the possible casuistry I have design a table that can resume the requirements depending on size and weight of your work.
Encaustic and Mixed-media boards
Please bear in mind that this is not an exact science, you will soon develop your own feeling for it once you have had several final panels in your hands, and know what is available in your DiY local market and at what prices.
① Flat structure >3 mm plywood, hard board or masonite, paper
② Flat structure >5 mm plywood, hard board or masonite, paper
③ Cradle panel profiles 2×3 cm s + >5mm plywood, hard board or masonite
④ Cradle panel profiles 2×4 cm s + > 5mm plywood
To prevent large panels from warping, mid braces are needed, always placed symmetrically along the largest side. If you need one only centre brace (marked in the table above with a / ) or more depends on the proportion of the frame, the distance between braces should be at the most the same as the side free from braces, and never larger than 60 cm. (Marked with X)
For frames with sides ratios around 1:3 or larger (20×80 for instance) massive solutions should be considered, (Marked with M)
Bear in mind that in cradle panels the thickness of the base depends mainly on the dimensions of the frame and not on the weight, if your painting or mix media work is going to be specially heavy, provide larger framing profiles.
As you see in the table, the usual sizes (30 x 30) work perfectly well with flat solutions.
A last tip: Spend some time at your local DiY local provider. you may find good prices for elements that can easily be adapted for this purpose (hobby oil stretched canvases 2,5€/each can be easily supplemented with a hard board underneath the canvas!)