I've just completed my first oil painting on copper and I want to share a bit about the experience of it. I'm so excited about finding a new surface to explore. Keep in mind, I am no expert. I followed the well laid out advice shared by Candice Bohannon Reyes, and Julio Reyes in the spring issue of Artists on Art. I won't go into those steps here. Still learning as I go with paint in all ways. Why copper? Well, as I often say, "it looks cool!" I love the idea of working on a metal, something of the earth. The color is so rich, and my thought was to work with it, allowing as much of it to be as visible as possible. The first step I did prior to actual full painting (after prep) was to seal the copper with a thin layer of medium to prevent oxidation. Now, in this case, I goofed a bit. I added an alkyd medium to my olegel mix and it became too thick, leaving brush marks on the surface that later became 'alligator skin'. It bubbled in the thicker parts. Not good, but fixable. Phew. Here's what it looked like.
I should have just used a very thin layer of Oleogel (from Natural Pigment) alone. Very little is needed to coat the whole piece. To fix this problem, I rollered the area flat after laying tissue on it until it was smooth. Lesson learned.
Then, I waited for it dry. And waited.
It was tacky for days. Being impatient to start, I decided to take a risk and dive in with the first layer of paint. Lo and behold it went down beautifully. Surprisingly well. Just the right amount of drag, not the tacky experience I expected. Who knew? Hours later, I was surprised to find that I was able to not only add texture, but also glaze, and scratch as well. When I paint on linen I often need to stage things more, building layers up slowly for fear of delaminating at some future date. On copper, those worries are not as big. The copper has already been prepared, and if I need to amend between layers I can do that, but so far so good with continuing on. And again, because of the beauty of the metal, I like the idea of that showing through over time rather than plain ole linen canvas. So what if in 2000 years they might find a blank piece of copper with crazy scratches in it. Great!
The other thing I found myself doing was reaching for the very best of my worst brushes. The Worst. Hairs splayed out the kazoo. Why? They were naturally layering the paint. Allowing for texture, for broken color. Love that.
Also, I was using very little medium. Hardly at all. No solvents. The paint was fluid enough without any amendments, except for areas I wanted to glaze with transparent color.
I came back to it after a day or so and spent 8 straight hours working. Again, all techniques covered. I was able to glaze over impasto areas with no problem, scratch some more, stain parts of the copper with a deeper hue to accentuate the color even more. The fun went on. BUT, the other surprising thing that happened...
The entire piece is only 12x18". Do you know how long it's been that I haven't howled about working small? Very long. In recent years I insisted on working large. With this piece, I actually pulled up a chair, and sat down at a table easel. Wow, whole new world.
That experience alone is a miracle.
It also brought me back to my days of working in pastel. For whatever reason (again, I'm not an expert on copper) the paint acted very much like pastel. I was able to use a number 2 brush, and crosshatch layers of color the way I used to. I got fairly detailed around the face. There is a part of me that likes to pick pick pick....I don't always appreciate that about myself, but I accept it nonetheless.
There's room in a painting to have all sides of me covered, and that's the main reason why I love to paint these days. It's about fine tuning what I'm best at, while exploring what I don't know. AND, nothing like trying something totally new to keep those brain cells firing.
And here you have it. My first painting on copper. "On the Wings of the Hawk". oil on copper. 12x18". ©stankakordic2013