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Experimenting with Birch

I hope this email finds you well! Just a quick update on what I've been up to with the art practice I adopted just prior to the pandemic. I'm so grateful I have, for it has certainly helped me cope with strong feelings of disappointment and frustration that have come with all that is going on in the world. Re-connecting with my creative drive, the progress I have made in the effort to improve, the intrigue and learning that come with experimentation all have helped increase optimism and minimize feelings of despair that might otherwise have overcome me when dealing with things like the cancellation of our family trip down to L.B.I. we had been planning...

Experimentation as an artist and learning go together. Truth is, we can watch all the instructional videos, read as many books as we want but nothing can replace experience, the lessons that come from “happy little accidents,” or simply from struggling a bit and failing from time-to-time. However, when experiential and academic learning are artfully meshed together, learning, engagement and fun and grow significantly.

Case in point, I never would have been able to experiment with various painting surfaces and would not have likely attempted Plein Air painting if it were not for some of the free online instructional content available on YouTube. Meanwhile some dedicated time watching instructional videos (with some intention) along with some unexpected free time and a “what can I lose attitude” due to the COVID Pandemic allowed me to better understand how to successfully prepare a birch panel for painting. Thankfully I was very pleased with the experience and the results.

The Process:

Purchase 1/4” or 1/2” birch plywood from your local lumber yard. Ask them if they can cut if for you to your desired size. Sand it down to remove splinters then apply a coat of Gesso. If you wish, once it dries, you can sand and apply another coat of Gesso. Once dried you can paint on the surface just as you would with stretched canvas.

The Results:

I really enjoyed a few things about painting on Birch Board. Here are just a few qualities that I appreciated about the experience and results: Paint moves with much more ease across the surface, the more rigid surface does not bounce, dimple or fray when more aggressive strokes are used. The uniqueness of the textures that come through a painting can provide a warm, hand-crafted feeling and provide more interest than other surfaces too. The smell of freshly cut birch and linseed oil used when painting is really nice too - perhaps reminiscent of time spent helping on a job site over summer break...

Here are my first five paintings completed on birch panels.

Hope you enjoy! Much love to you. Be well, Tom

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