Thursday, June 17, 2010

DIY: cradled masonite boards

No job is perfect, not even the art ones. For me, one of the worse parts of being an artist is having to frame your artwork each time you put them on display. For a very simple reason: I am cheap. And if you are in the art business, you know that a good presentation for your artwork can be very pricey. And if you are an emerging/newbie artist, you may find it a real pain in the pocket. But if you paint small and you are in a show with other dozens of artists, there's no escape, since a good framing will help your work to have the attention it deserves. 

I started painting small pieces on paper, now I am evolving to larger sizes on more sturdy surfaces, and loving it. Painting large kind of lessens the need for framing, I guess. For me, this is amazingly liberating. Last week I went to the hardware store and bought some wooden strips for my experiences on cradling my masonite boards, smiling, thinking at all the money I was saving in framing. While working on the boards, I discovered another advantage, even more gratifying: preparing the very surfaces you are going to work on, with your own hands, can be immensely pleasurable and even have a spiritual dimension. Thinking that not only the painting, but the very structure where it is placed, were built by yourself, makes it even more human and infused in energy.

Before starting, I looked for tutorials on the web and found this one, made by artist Amanda Hawkins, which was very helpful. Our process end up being very similar with just a few differences. Here's my own tutorial on how to cradle masonite boards, based on what worked for me. Hope it is useful!

1. For this project, I used a size 24' x 30' masonite panel ($3.58) and one 10 feet long wooden strip measuring 3/4 wide and 1/2 deep (about $6.50 each, the most expensive material you'll get.) You'll also need a hammer, a ruler or measuring tape (I prefer the tape), pencil, a hand saw or electric jigsaw (I highly recommend this second one), wood glue (not used by me in this first attempt, but proved useful later), sandpaper, and tiny little nails. And, of course, acrylic gesso and a brush for priming.

The wooden strip. 3/4 deep is good enough to hang on a wall, but will also fit a regular frame if you client thinks your artwork deserves better.

The masonite board and its 1/8 thickness.

2. Cut the wooden strip in four pieces according to the measurement of your panel sides. Top and bottom + two sides. I chose to cut two 24' strips (top and bottom), and two 29' strips for the sides. Since I'm using a 1/2 inch thick strip, I had to take one inch off each side (which measure 30 inches) in order to make the longer strips to fit in the rectangular structure. 

3. Apply the wood glue to stick the strips into place, and reinforce it nailing the corners and  borders of the masonite. Three nails in each side will do the trick. Make sure the heads of the nails are not sticking out and the surface is even, and sand off the masonite powder that will accumulate around the nail holes.

4. Ta-dahhhhh! You are good to go. (But with no blonde little head, sorry. This privilege is mine.)

5. Now you can sand your board...

 6. ... and start having fun with the acrylic gesso. I use about three coats, and since I like a smooth surface, I sand between each coat. It will depend on how textured you want it.

7. You may still see nail holes showing on your board. In such case, more sanding and more gesso until you make it smooth enough.

8. Also, gesso the sides to make your board uniform and nice-looking. It will also cover imperfections. Here is the board hanging on the wall, ready for the brushes!
A cradled masonite board this side, unprimed, is around $35. A simple frame, no matboard, is around $30. What do you think I'd prefer?


Healing Woman said...

I'm going to bookmark your tutorial. Thanks so much. I may get around to doing this soon.

Tammie said...

thank you for sharing your technique!

Ariel. said...

hi Cheryl and Tammie! i am happy for sharing my art adventures. I'm afraid I'm not a good tutorial writer tough. :P

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Jensina said...

Good tutorial. I know it's been awhile since you posted this, but if you're still using Masonite or wood to paint on, you should try out Art Boards panel gesso. It's quite a lot different from regular acrylic, thicker and it can be sanded to an incredible smoothness.

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