Studio Notes

Making Linen Panels

I love linen panels and, dare I say, I especially like my own linen panels. So, even though it means time away from the easel (which is how I measure everything) I do it because I find it so rewarding to put down that first brushstroke on the perfect surface!

For those of you who would like to give it a go and aren't sure how to start, I am going to share my process and maybe that will get you started. First off, I ask Larry to make me some panels (yes, yes, please Larry, I will trade for coconut cream pie if I have to).

For panels that are wider than 12" in any direction, they should be braced on the back (see the 4th image). Larry used Russian Birch for these panels and they are a good choice because of the tight grain in the wood. Maple is also a good choice. The panels were delivered to me nicely sanded (thank you, Larry).

To the panels, brush on a generous coat of Golden Acrylic Ground 100 a.k.a. GAC 100 (I store mine in a squeeze bottle container which makes it easy to apply). Let it dry completely.

Cut the linen, allowing an extra couple inches around each side - it WILL shrink! A note about the linen...when you purchase it, if you have an option, have it rolled. It is much easier to keep the wrinkles to a minimum if you have it stored that way.

Lay the linen in a pan of water or spray it until it is really damp and then gently lay it on the board, smoothing it, from the center out to all edges with your hands and then finally, with a brayer. "Glue" down the linen with another healthy coat of GAC 100 brushed over the linen. Smooth out any wrinkles with your hands and then go over it again with the brayer if you need to.

Let this dry completely. I can't help but check on it every once in a while. When it first starts drying, I smooth out any little flaws on the edges, then I wait (somewhat) patiently for it to dry.

Next I paint on the gesso mixture. I know it's not "really" gesso but that's what Golden calls it and I have my own secret recipe but you can start with the stuff called gesso that Golden sells or Gamblin or any other brand of choice.

After this coat dries, I sand it lightly. Then apply another and do that again and again and again and again until the wine is gone or the sand on the paper is gone, whichever is first.
Once it is dry I flip it over and prepare to cut off the excess linen. Some folks fold this over but I prefer the clean-cut look.

My, oh, my. Isn't she purdy? I can hardly wait to sink a brush into that linen. Ahhhh.

Cheers all.

Cleaning Pastels with Kitty Litter

I keep saying I love everything about painting. I may take back the part about cleaning up after my artist-self. I like a clean studio but I don't necessarily want to have to clean the studio so I try to think of ways to make the cleaning part go a little quicker.

I think this is a rather original idea but I have thought that before and found hundreds of peeps before me have come up with the same idea. So, I won't guarantee this is an original idea, but it does save some time when cleaning pastels and I hope you will find it useful.

Materials required
  • Kitty litter (I use World's Best Cat Litter because it is just corn, no other chemicals)
  • A scooper like the one shown in the picture (it's a kitchen utensil but I don't know what it's for, does anyone out there know?)
  • Dirty pastels, loosely sorted into light/med/dark values
  • A dust mask
What to do
Place your lightest value pile of pastels in the litter. Slant the bucket (I had to prop mine because I needed my hand for taking pictures) and, with an upward motion, scoop the pastels through the litter. Do this about 20 times or until you see that the pastels are clean.

Scoop up the pastels with the slotted spoon, shake out the litter & place your clean pastels on a paper towel for placement back into your pastel palette.

Do the same for the pile of medium values, then the dark values.


Making Pastels from Dust

Do you have a catch-tray full of pastel dust? If so, you might want to reclaim that expensive falling dust and turn it in to little bars of gold. Well, okay, they look more like slugs but they are easy to make and you can even get creative with the shapes. I actually formed mine to look like slugs. What can I say? I am inspired by my (Pacific Northwest) surroundings.

You will need
  • Pastel dust
  • Gloves
  • A mixing container (preferably a disposable one)
  • A spoon or palette knife for stirring
  • A little water (distilled is best, it won't introduce bleach or unwanted minerals)
  • A smooth surface for forming your pastel stick/log/slug
I am assuming you are using professional pastels and it doesn't matter if you have used a variety of brands. If you want, you can even leave the tiny chunks of color in for "surprise" streaks.


The pastel dust already has a binder in it so you won't need to add that. Just add enough (filtered) water to make the dust moldable. You don't want it too gooey so go light with the water. Once you have have the right consistency, form your logs, or slugs, and leave them out to dry for a couple days or until they no longer feel cold to the touch.

Here's my little army, ready for work:


Have fun!
Cheers, Sandy