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Fig and Halved Fig - auction (+ My Notes on Health & Archival Materials)

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We artists all need to make our own decisions about what materials are right for us individually, so it's good to be as informed as possible about archival issues and health risks. The health risks related to and archival nature of oil painting materials is something I get asked a lot about in workshops and my private painting mentoring/instruction sessions. As many of my students know from spending time with me, this topic is of interest to me because over the past several years, I have experienced big health challenges -- some of which are due to multiple chemical sensitivities.

There is so much to talk about: paint, solvent, medium, varnish, ventilation, disposal, safety equipment, studio practices, and so on. I won't get into all of these things since I teach about this in workshops & mentoring, but I will first mention a bit about painting on panels. If you're interested, this is my *start* to a discussion on the nature of painting on linen mounted on panels. I hope it is helpful.

I primarily paint on three different surfaces: panels by Raymar, panels by the Mackins at Art Boards™, and panels by Bill Ewing at Innerglow.

I did my own research first. Then I talked to a colleague at the Conservation Center for Art and Historical Artifacts. He basically stated that while panel MDF is used all the time in the arts -- even in museum display cases when long-term exhibition is not expected -- there will always be VOCs coming out of that material over time. It seems to be less of an issue with paintings -- MDF is fairly stable, more so than straight wood (although wood is used in the manufacture of MDF). He said that "acid-free" will never be achieved with a wood product because the lignin in wood is acidic. For those concerned, he suggested alternatives: aluminum panels or honeycomb board.

Then I reached out to the friendly folks at Raymar. According to Raymar, "the manufacturer where we purchase the panel MDF [on which canvas/linen is mounted] has been a great source of information for us over the years, which is why we continue to use this particular product. The formaldehyde content of the boards is less than 0.1%. There are no added oils, as MDF does not go through a tempering process, like hardboard. The manufacturers do use a urea formaldehyde resin in the production of the board. This improves the tensile strength and reduces water absorption. We spoke with the biochemist they keep on staff, as this was an initial concern of ours, and he told us that the boards are heated in a digester, which cooks out any volatile compounds."

Then, I reached out to Bill Ewing, who makes Innerglow panels. Bill generously talked with me via email about his panels. Bill says,
"I started the panel business more than 20 years ago after becoming discouraged from painting on products designed as building materials, i.e. Masonite or hard boards. My research lead to developing a strong, permanent, and safe panel designed especially for painting. Years of the most extreme testing have proven Innerglow Panels to perform and last beyond the call of any artistic need or application. They are suitable for all mediums EXCEPT egg tempera and are available in all standard sizes and custom size orders on request.

Innerglow panels have obtained a large following from artists across the country and abroad. The company has grown over the years solely from referrals by satisfied customers and recommendations from painting instructors, like the great David Leffel. The panels have earned praise from artists who particularly enjoy Innerglow’s versatile painting surface. Although the panels all wood acid free archival construction may not be a concern to every artist, everyone that uses them can be assured that Innerglow Panels will stand the test of time.

Innerglow Painting Panels are the modern answer to the wooden panels that history’s paintings have come down to us on for hundreds years. They may well be 'The finest improvement in artist panels since the 17th century'."
You can read more about Innerglow's impressive panel quality here.

Finally, I reached out to ArtBoards, but did not hear back a reply. So, according to their site, ArtBoard's canvas is sized with rabbit skin glue and primed with zinc-white. The primed canvas is then mounted to ArtBoards' natural fiber painting panel using a reversible archival conservators adhesive. The fiber panel is made of double refined Douglas fir, and there is no added formaldehyde. You can read more about ArtBoard's panel quality here.

To purchase my work, view my Current Painting Auctions and All Available Paintings.

All best,