Mark Golden on Paint

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Grounds reinventing the finished piece

2 April, 2007 (12:24) | General

We have received quite a few requests concerning the preparation of traditional and non-traditional grounds for many of our clients. The correct ground whether it is exposed or completely covered in dozens of layers, plays a critical role in the final outcome of a work. Our efforts in developing new surfaces for artists to work on have been in response to your needs for changing color, absorbency, tooth, hardness and even opacity, as well as substrate or medium specific needs like; how to cover Masonite® to avoid discoloring, or grounds suitable for working underneath pastel or oil. Much of our discovery has actually been your discovery that materials, traditionally not considered as appropriate for grounds, can make great starting points. This included for me the entire range of gels from gloss to matte.

These gels not only produce unique slick or absorbent surfaces, but they can also dramatically shift the drying properties of subsequent layers of paint. A gloss gel can significantly extend the drying time of the colors applied on top as it reduces the tendency of the more matte grounds, gels or pastes to absorb water. Additionally this also aids in the slide or movement of paint across the surface, which creates a very different sort of mark making opportunity.

Using matte or semi-gloss gels can be an incredibly interesting way to begin color washes. This also allows for underpainting to show through these translucent layers of medium. The opportunities to create three dimensional watercolors is amazing.

The pastes, (including the pumice and garnet gels as well as the light, regular and hard molding paste), provide a very different surface with some amazing absorbent qualities. The Light Molding Paste is like the sponge of acrylic mediums. It will absorb incredible pools of color. The Hard Molding Paste allows for sanding opportunities creating something very close to the absorbency of traditional chalk grounds. One needs to simply use a wet-dry sandpaper and you can make absolutely smooth surfaces on hard supports. I’ve added a third of the Light Molding Paste to increase the absorbency.

Once again we are sharing some of our newest discoveries with two new experimental grounds that we’ve just started to produce in the Custom Lab. We hope these might add to the choices you have available for your work.

We have been asked by many pastel artists to provide a wider range of surface profiles that allow for finer or looser application of pastel. Our current Pastel Ground has found many uses in pastel and pencil as well as in other media where artists just want a toothy beginning point to grab the color. The new products “Translucent Ground (fine) and Translucent Ground (coarse)”, will provide additional options including the option of allowing earlier layers, or paper or canvas surfaces to show through. Again, an interesting surface for drawing tools, but also a very interesting starting point for stains and washes. These products as well as all of the Experimental products are featured in our “Just Paint” #16 which is on our website,

And check out “Just Paint” #14 for additional Experimental Grounds, including the Fiber paste grounds, mimicking the surface of a rough hand-made paper.

Of course you can start our with the Acrylic Gesso for the most brilliant white toothy surface, or even the Black Acrylic Gesso, but I’d suggest that trying out some different beginnings can lead to some wonderful new opportunities.




Comment from hilary irons
Time: April 16, 2007, 9:07 pm

Hi Mr. Golden
I have a technical question
I got some Golden acrylic paint on an oil painting
It was a very thin consistency
How can I remove it w/o removing the oil paint beneath
I assume this will not be too hard since acrylic isn’t supposed to stick to oil
Thank so much!

Comment from Sarah Sands
Time: April 18, 2007, 12:42 pm

Hi Hilary –

I work in the GOLDEN Technical Support Department and wanted to provide a response to your question. While removal of acrylic from an oil painting might seem like an easy matter there can always be complicating factors and we typically recommend having a qualified restorer or conservator examine the piece – especially if it has any significant value. If you wanted help locating someone simply let me know and I can pass along some contacts. However, if you felt strongly that you wanted to try something yourself, then I recommend giving our Technical Support Department a call at 800-959-6543. This would allow us to go over all the potential risks, as well as gather more particular information about the condition of the oil painting and details regarding the acrylic as well. Hopefully we can help – or at the very least point you in the right direction.

Best regards,

Sarah Sands
Technical Support Department
Golden Artist Colors

Comment from hilary irons
Time: April 22, 2007, 11:18 am

Thank you very much Sarah. I got some of the paint off by scratching it, and the little that is left doesn’t bother me. It’s just student work, anyways. But it is good to know that I can call the Technical Support Desk if I should ever need to.
thanks again,
Hilary Irons

Comment from Stephen
Time: April 23, 2007, 2:04 pm

I’ve been trying to find a detailed description of how to produce an “egg shell” finish on a stretched canvas surface so I can have the advantage of using a stretched canvas but without the often obtrusive texture of the canvas weave showing through. Is there some resource you could recommend that has a detailed description of the process?

(On another issue, re Golden’s market initiative, I’ve noticed that almost all examples of use of Golden paints have been either in abstract paintings or abstracted representational painting. Although I usually paint in one of the two above styles, many people are looking for a media suitable more “realistic” styles. Perhaps it would help your marketing initiative if you had more examples of sharp focus realism on your site. Just a suggestion. Keep up the good work.)


Comment from Mark Golden
Time: April 24, 2007, 9:38 pm

Greetings Stephen, Thanks for the questions and comments. We’ve produced some very interesting smooth finishes using a combination of Molding Paste, Gesso and in some cases Light Molding Paste and/or Hard Molding Paste. These materials can be applied onto canvas previously coated with either Polymer Medium or preferably GAC 100. I’ve applied several coats with a brush or you can use a knife. Using a wet sand paper or block and spraying a light coat of water on the surface, it is relatively easy to create a very smooth, yet still flexible support. Doing this on stretched canvas can be a problem if you don’t have some rigid backing behind your canvas. If you don’t do this on a rigid support you’ll begin to expose marks from your stretcher bars. I know this is the short version and I haven’t given you any formulas. But basically the more Hard Molding Paste you use the easier it is to sand, yet the more flexible the resulting surface. I hope I didn’t miss the point of what you’re looking for, but with enough coats you’ll totally cover up the tooth of the canvas and have a perfectly smooth surface to begin with.

You’re comments about the artwork on the web page are probably right on target. But we’ve purposively tried to focus our technique pages on ‘mark making’ and not on painting. I’ve resisted any attempt for us to create paintings as I do not want to confuse our work with the act of making art. We are delighted to be able to work with artists with all very different working styles. The acrylic has been used in every imaginable style and we are so delighted to have allowed artists to extend what they can do with this medium. I am comfortable with being able to show how our materials work through technical drawdowns and images that show the products in the most simple and direct fashion. I am reminded of the passage in James Elkins book “What Painting Is”, when he describes the movement, the swirling, flooding, the dabbing and splashing of color within the surface of a Monet as he suggests his students try to capture this feel. When you read these pages one would believe he was talking of the movement and play of paint by an abstract artist, but of course he wasn’t.

I’m not sure we’ll meet your needs within the pages of our current website, but I do hope we are able to show enough to be able to inspire artists how they might incorporate these materials in your art. As we grow the website we do hope to partner with other artists so that we can guide artists to work that they might more connect their own passions. Thanks again, Stephen

Comment from Stuart K Searles
Time: July 9, 2007, 2:39 pm


I want to give my acrylic paints a different look by adding various inert materials such as sand, mica, or ground minerals. My experiments so far have been encouraging. I have even broken up a piece of slate and ground it in a mortar and pestle.

I’d appreciate your professional opinion about preferred GACs or media to use as a binder and about any “inert” materials to be avoided.


Stu Searles
artist and chemist

Comment from Mark Golden
Time: July 10, 2007, 9:59 pm

Stu thanks for the question. One of the great properties of the acrylic binder is that it is accepting of so many different functional and decorative additives.

It’s hard to give you all the specifics within this answer but we do have some recommendations that would set you in the right direction.

Acrylics are quite alkaline and for stability require a final pH that is at least above neutral. If you’re storing your mixtures you probably want a pH above 8. Below this the acrylics can start to spoil. And if you’ve ever smelled spoiled acrylics, it’s like dirty socks. This doesn’t mean that you can’t use fillers that are acidic in nature, but you need to make sure your final mixture is adjusted to the basic side. Add some amine if you have to.

This does mean that colors or fillers that are not stable in an alkaline environment cannot be used with the acrylic. For example Prussian blue is quite sensitive to an alkaline system. Any leafing or aluminum powder or flake is also subject to decomposition in the alkaline acrylic. This will generate gas and could blow out your jar or container. Just like aluminum most straight metals tend to corrode. Metal oxides though tend to be quite stable in the acrylic.

Many products come in water stable forms that were once only stable in oil or other solvent borne system. This includes some new versions of metallic pigments, yet I’d test before storing these products.

Other fillers, including clays, cal carbs, aluminum silicates, micas, talcs, minerals of all sorts can be added to the acrylic. The caveat is that the product needs to not exceed the critical pigment volume concentration if you want a stable product. Of course you might want to create finishes or working properties that are not stable; that is your choice. You’ll see problems with your additions if the film cracks on drying, thickens during mixing, coagulates or gels on storage, leaves a very fragile film.

As for which acrylic product works the best for mixing product into; I usually use thinner mediums, all the GAC’s will work. The GAC 700 will tend to foam up with high speed mixing and that may be something you want to avoid. The Extra Heavy Gels and the High Solid Gel are already so thick that mixing materials into them can be more difficult. If you can add the material and mix thoroughly these will work also, just a tough mix.

You really need to mix whatever product you’re adding into the acrylic quite well. If you don’t cracking could occur simply because you don’t have solid agglomerates that become your weak point of the film.

I hope this gives some starting points for you.
Regards, Mark

Comment from C. L. Curole
Time: July 15, 2007, 9:08 pm

I’m sure I’m not the first person to do this, but MAN IS IT COOL!

I mixed roughly equal portions Light Molding Paste and Coarse Pumice Gel (from the intro kit) with a dab of Neutral Gray #8 and bam! Acrylic concrete!

Slathered it all over a canvas and I can’t wait for it to dry so I can make “graffitti” on my brand new portable wall.

Comment from Mark Golden
Time: July 23, 2007, 9:15 am

Hey C.L., When we first put the pumices together it was for a custom concrete. I didn’t take the next step that you took to add the Light Molding Paste to it. What a great way to get your cement without the weight! Kind of cake and eat it thing.
I’m going to give it a try. Regards, Mark

Comment from C. L. Curole
Time: July 23, 2007, 7:30 pm

The coarse pumice gel was a little too crunchy for my application, but the cake frosting texture of the light molding paste balances it perfectly for “spreadable crunch.”


Comment from Stuart K Searles
Time: August 2, 2007, 2:05 pm

thanks for such a complete reply!

Comment from Mark Golden
Time: August 8, 2007, 4:41 pm

Dear C.L. your comments made me laugh as I remembered why I loved our Custom Paste Paints so much as they reminded my of really smooth peanut butter and could only be spread with a really firm knife.

Food textures continue to inspire me… Maybe that’s why my cooking is much better than my painting! Regards, Mark

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