I Wood Seal it Differently

I am about to bore the pants off of you by talking about wood sealants. Be forewarned. I really don’t know what good it’s going to do you to read on, unless you like to make some kind of fool out of yourself. That, or you want to pick up some information about sealing/sizing wood panels for fine art – because this isn’t a blog about cabinetry. I wouldn’t know the first thing about sealing that kind of wood, would I?

Anyway, over the last week I have been researching out how to construct my new ideas because, like my oil paintings on the birch panels, I want to be able to partially show the sealed wood on the painting itself, like so:

Red Scarf, 2013. Oil and pencil on birch panel.

I have always sealed these panels in a specific way. It hasn’t been the easiest, but it’s the only proper way to do it, especially since I paint in oils.

The panels I use are made by Craig Stratton at Beagle Easle. They are cradled on 1 3/4″  hardwood and Craig usually picks out a nice, single piece of birch for me since he knows I’m not covering them with white gesso. They’re beautiful, and he will deliver if I want. That makes it even more beautiful.

I will give them a last light sand before I start sealing, even though they essentially arrive perfect with a nice smooth sanded finish. I don’t even break out my electric palm sander yet. I’m mostly just cleaning the dust off with a hand block sander and a clean rag.

Once they are crystal clean, that’s when I paint on my concoction of four parts Zinsser shellac to three parts DH alcohol with a high-quality, synthetic bristle brush. I am a fan of the 2″ Wooster Shortcut:



It has a flexible rubber handle that doesn’t come up much above the palm of your hand, so your wrist is doing the work instead of a stick working your wrist. It’s just an easier way to get even strokes.

I won’t lie. The first coat of this stuff is rather plentiful, but not ridiculous. It still has to be even and smooth. That the wood is going to suck up that first coat like crazy because, well, it’s just so thirsty.

I will wait at least an hour before I go to sand that top coat. I have to be able to drag my hand across the whole surface and make sure it is dry as a bone before I will even consider taking that palm sander to it. None of it can be remotely damp.


Then goes a smooth, light surface sand. Then a wipe down, and then another thin coat of the shellac mixture this time. In fact, the coats get thinner and thinner every time I go through this cycle. And I will go through it about five times, depending on how it’s looking. It just has to look even and beautiful, and as flawless as I can get it.

Have I ever sealed a panel absolutely perfectly? No. But I am a perfectionist. I try to each and every time.

All of this mumbo jumbo just to give you some back story on how I then go straight from here to the oil painting process. What I could never do is paint on top of that shellac: gesso or acrylic paint.

The rule is that you can paint oils on top of dry acrylic/water-based media, but not the other way around. I guess oil is not a great support. It usually only binds to itself. Acrylics, on the other hand, make a great support and oils will bind to it without any issue. It’s just the way it is.

I’m not a chemist, although I pretend to be. My guess though is that oils have a longer life. I mean longer than anyone really thinks they have. They are kind of alive forever. Even when they seem dry, I think they still live and still eat and seep through their supports, which is why you have to seal and gesso whatever surface you are going to paint them on.

Have you ever put oil paint on raw canvas? Not only will it have a hard time binding, but it will continually seep and cause a stain around where you intended to put the color. And that’s not good.

Then, if you put acrylic on top of an oil based support, the oil will also eat through that thinner layer of acrylic and the acrylic will start to crackle, and likely start to flake off. Great effect if you are trying to distress furniture though, or going for that in art too. Seal it up on top so it does fall all the way off and you’ll have yourself that crackle effect. It does look pretty cool if that’s what you’re trying to do:


Anyway, I seem to know what I’m doing with all of that, I suppose. Although, there was sometime ago when I wanted to stick down some round pieces of painted pattern paper. This was back in 2006:


and again in 2008:


Those “black holes” are pattern paper painted black, and I had to use a clear acrylic polymer as the adhesive. But how??

I had to sand out the circles by hand, and by finger, so it would stick.

Do I want to do that again? Nope. Which is too bad because I really liked those. I also sold them all, now that I am thinking about it. Not that this would be my motivation to make more, but it’s interesting to know.

So, now I want to make a new series of mixed media paintings that use a few things on the wood panels, showing some of the wood. And you know, I still haven’t even decided if I want to show the wood or not, but I just want it to be an option that can be open to me if I feel like taking it.

But I need it all to be acrylic and oil friendly. Which means, if it’s acrylic friendly, it will also be oil friendly too. I am going to be using some collage, like the same industrial pattern paper – some painted, some not, fabric swatches, news clippings, photographs, tissue patterns, and oil and acrylic paint.

They are going to be roughly based on bits of architecture among the landscape of  Joshua Tree, which might also include other (un)natural items, not just architecture. Anyway, they are abstract pieces so you won’t know what they are.

My point of this post though was to find a wood sealer I could use. I really didn’t know one existed until I researched it out, then confirmed it on the WetCanvas forum. The problem was however, is that there is no Home Depot within 50 miles of me that carries it! But here’s the stuff:


I ordered it on Amazon, and the shit was expensive! Not only that, but I am waiting until the 30th before it’s even going to get here. (I don’t have Amazon Prime like all you fancy pants people do.)

So now I have to wait.

In the meantime, I will be putting more compositions together, like this one:

doggie trail72

and start cutting out some interesting pieces of fabric. That’s the fun part.

And I have to say, that I STILL want to try to save that “Terrible Landscape.”

I was looking at it last night and there are definitely parts of it I really like. It’s just that there are more parts of it I really hate. It feels like I can’t save it because the paint that’s on the is so thick already (on the parts that suck) — but then I thought about some of my other paintings and how thick some of the paint is on those and it really isn’t so crazy for me to lay on another layer, and since it’s already trash, what do I have to lose? Except more of my sanity.

Here is a portion of the painting that I like. Hahaha!!! It is the bottom left:


Even looking at that much, I still think it sucks!

23. July 2014 by Carol Es
Categories: Advice & Secrets, Art & Process, Thoughts | Leave a comment

Minute By Minute

I’m starting to feel better. Day by day, little by little. I’m sure of it now.

Today was a busy day. I’ve been pretty busy since Friday actually. I even worked on my birthday. Mjp said, “I wouldn’t expect anything less from you.”

I don’t usually talk about gifts I get. I think that’s stupid. But in this case, I just have to tell you what I got for my birthday because it became the greatest compliment I have ever received.

Michael got me, and personally framed, a screen print of The Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite.

If you don’t know what that is, it is an antique bill that John Lennon bought one day and hung up on his wall. He liked the looks of it I suppose, because later it inspired him to write the song of the same title.

By The Sacred Monster

Mjp got it for me because he said it reminded him of me. Because he thinks that my creative mind works a lot like John Lennon’s. What a gift that my boyfriend sees me. He sees me being inspired by the things around me and turning those things into art — just like the way Lennon starred at this poster and created a song. That’s what he told me anyway.

Which is pretty funny because, when he told me the Lennon story, the first thing I thought of was how mjp once wrote a short story that was totally inspired by a lampshade! He’s the one that’s like Lennon, not me. But it was my birthday, so we had it his way.

In other news, I have been possibly having a breakthrough. I don’t want to speak too soon. I haven’t even created the work yet, but I’m planning on making at least a few new mixed media pieces that are like nothing I’ve done before. They are absolutely inspired by Joshua Tree too, but I don’t think you’d be able to see that in the work.

But who cares?

Here is the layout for the first one, but you can not tell what I’m going to do yet. This is just the composition.

doggie trail72

It will be called The House on Doggie Trail.

I also finished that Samach painting today. If you don’t know which one I mean, here is the last pic I have of it:


I am titling it Fidelity and I will have to wait until morning to take the new, completed photograph of it. It looks a lot better than this. Trust me. And I’m actually happy with it! That hasn’t happened in a while.

I have to get up early in order to take that picture. Sometimes I blow it and sleep in too late and miss out on the sun/shade situation.

That’s it for now. I have to do some dishes now.

21. July 2014 by Carol Es
Categories: Art & Process, Collecting, Thoughts | Leave a comment

Rough Patches (Cross-post from The Exodus Project)

It’s no secret that I’ve been experiencing some rough patches lately. I guess it had to get worse before it could get better. I’m just waiting for it to get better now.

Still messing with this piece:


And I don’t want to speak too soon and jinx it, but yesterday I started to feel better with the near completion of this new painting that I’m trying to find a name for now:


If anything, it feels like a relief more than anything else – like a burden lifted.

You see, I took this detour for a couple weeks and worked on a little landscape, which – I’m sorry – I just can not show you, and the more I worked on it, the more it sucked.

I’m not used to not being able to rescue a painting if it goes south. I’m really not. I just can’t let go. So what did I do? I didn’t let go! I just kept working on it and working on it and working on it until it was an absolute monstrosity. And not in a good way either. There is nothing good about it. But I just couldn’t allow my precious time to have been wasted and throw it in the scrapper.

Can you believe me?

Well, maybe there’s a lesson it this somewhere, but I haven’t leaned it yet.

In the meantime, I have spent a lot of time in therapy trying to get to the bottom of it and I know I have uncovered quite a bit of it. You’re not going to like this, but it has a lot to do with the Exodus Project. I’ve been stressing myself out about it! Way too much.

It seems that I keep thinking that I have to create work that is going to fit into a “theme,” instead of just allowing myself to work on whatever comes naturally. I mean, I shouldn’t worry so much since Joshua Tree is on my mind. Kabbalah is on my mind. I’m even doing a kabbalah class right now at my shul. (It’s hella interesting, too!) I’d think that stuff would inevitably reveal itself in the work.

But then I worry: what if it doesn’t? Then What? Will the world end? Of course not. But will there be a cohesive show next year?

Oh the pressures of being an artist.

On the bright side, since I have realized this stuff, I’ve created the above piece, quickly and easily. I’ve also been drawing – a LOT. New and strange ideas are coming and I am starting to like myself again.

I wasn’t liking myself very much at all there for a bit. It was sad, and sad.

Put it this way, I am learning to like my work. I’ve always had the trouble of liking other people’s art a lot more than I like my own. That’s why my house is filled with other people’s art. I don’t hang my own art in my house. Just a couple of pieces, but 50 others are by artists I love — not counting the ones in storage that I don’t have enough wall space for.

But instead of being sad that I don’t paint like other artists that I like so much, I am learning to accept the way I paint, while also branching out and experimenting. I must try to paint out of my comfort zone. That’s just something I will always always try to do. But to think that one day I’m just going to wake up and have a similar hand to XYZ Smith is ridiculous.

That’s actually a cool artist’s name. Maybe I should change my name to XYZ Smith.

18. July 2014 by Carol Es
Categories: Art & Process, Thoughts | 1 comment

Three Days, No, Two Months of Frustration

I am actually going to post the following, not because I’m stupid, but because I want other artists out there to know that we all hit brick walls sometimes.

I wrote the following the other night as a private post. I do that sometimes. I use this blog as a kind of “Dear Diary” and do not make all the posts public since, believe it or not, I get even more personal than I already do. But I decided to publicize this rant and lay myself out on the train tracks.

Perhaps I am stupid. At least I won’t promote this. It will just sit here on the blog. No Tweeting or G+ing on this one.

There are no pretty pictures or links. Just feelings and private thoughts. I suppose I write like this in an effort to get myself through the fire and (hopefully) safely to the other side, but it doesn’t always work.

I am so fucking frustrated right now. It’s the third full day in a row that I spent my time on a painting that I am growing to dislike more and more, the more time I keep wasting on it. It feels like wasted time. The last two months feels like wasted time. I mean, I know it’s not. I’m just so upset, I feel like screaming. Screaming, then crying. Mostly crying. I always resort to crying. The anger only lasts so long. Since I know that, I just assume I skip right to the crying.

What’s going on? Why am I having such trouble? I mean, I know this is probably all part of the struggle and I need to experience it, but I don’t have the time. I am too impatient, which is part of the problem! You see, I know that part. But it doesn’t make it feel any less infuriating, being self-aware. It actually makes it worse; knowing what’s wrong with your car, but not having the tools to fix it. It sucks! 

Not too long ago, I knew exactly what I was doing.

But this has been going on since I was in the middle of that God forsaken alef painting, Firmament. I’m so ready to throw that thing out of a giant window. I want to hear the large pieces glass breaking. I liked it, then I didn’t. It was working, then it wasn’t. I thought about it too much, then I asked too many people what they thought about it until I got a balance of good crits and shitty ones and now I just feel like crap about it. Uncertain. Frozen. Advice is no good.

Well, that’s not all together true. I was able to get some good advice from Trine about how to move on to the next two paintings, so that was great. I’m trying one with no journaling on the paper, and one where I am definitely going to expose the writing and sketching. Trying to do “both” on one painting was obviously impossible. It was actually crazy. I must have thought I lived in another dimension where the physical universe laws didn’t exist. That was driving me insane. That’s at least no longer making me crazy.

Also, I can’t bring the writing back any more than I have on that painting, so fate has decided that one for me. If fate hadn’t, I’m not sure I would have been able to make a decision!

I can’t even believe I am still writing about this stupid painting. I have never had so much trouble! This has never happened to me before.

That’s not true. I remember almost going mad about 20 years ago during a painting. Finishing it was torture and I nearly lost all of my sanity trying to get through it. Oh my God, I don;t even want to think about that painting. I’m so glad it’s gone. But at least I liked it when I finished it and was pretty certain it worked. I just practically wanted to die painting it.

Isn’t painting fun?

The picture I have been working on for the past two days, and several weeks before, is that abstract landscape. I remember when I was so inspired. When I was excited and starry-eyed. I couldn’t wait to get those canvases at Blick so I could get back here and start working on this thing. I was HAPPY. Where is all that happiness now? It’s turned into utter pain and discouragement. Disappointment is more like it. It is turning out nothing like I imagined. I mean, paintings never do, but they at least have an inkling of your original idea. This just looks like a pile of steaming crap, yet I keep messing with it and trying to make it better – and that’s just the thing: I’m TRYING. I shouldn’t do that! I KNOW not to do that. But here I am.

Okay, go back to the beginning.

New American Paintings.

I was looking through past issues of New American Paintings, which inspires the hell out of me, Every time! I always find amazing artists that I love, love, love and all it makes me want to do it paint. It gets me excited and impatient, like a little kid. I want to waste no time and get to work before I get old and die or get hit by a bus.

And I spot an artist in particular – Lisa Sanditz – and I seriously have no idea that she’s hot shit and shows with ACME – which I later find out. I just love her work straight off the bat. I go to her website and see a lot more paintings that I like even more.

She paints abstract landscapes. Something I had been thinking of doing for a long time, yet here she is. She’s doing it. And this sort of thing happens all the time to everyone. You have an idea and you don’t get off your ass and do it, then someone else comes along and does it before you. Well, this was the case, and she didn’t just do it, she did it in a way that floored me. I loved it! And of course, this kind of thing has been done before, she’s just doing it in her style.

Of course, I have my own hand and my own style, so I thought, I would like to do this with some Joshua Tree scenes, and start with some pictures that I took as beginning references, then just branch out and make it nonsensical from there.

I can do that, right?

Apparently NOT!

I’m too tight, it’s too cartoony, it’s not the way I want it, I just can’t paint. I can’t PAINT!

And now I feel like I am trying too hard, trying to fit everything into a little “Exodus” box. It makes me want to spit! It makes me want to cry.

I just want to carry on with what makes me happy right now. I think I’m not up for a challenge at the moment. I’m too overwhelmed.

…yet I have spent all this time the past couple days working on this picture? Ha! I obviously want to. Something about it. There’s something about it that I want to explore. I just feel like I




And I’m stuck between the minimal and the expressive. I want to do both. I mean, I can. Nothing is stopping me. Just me.

And why am I stopping me? I’m stressing myself out. I don’t know if what I’m doing is…stupid. I even have my doubts about calling myself a serious artist. I mean, I’m serious alright. I’m an “artist.” I make “art.” I am creative. I have ideas. But skills and talent? I’ve never had those. Not really.

I’m cornfused.

I think I just needed to vent.

16. July 2014 by Carol Es
Categories: Kvetches, Thoughts | Leave a comment


I did this interview with Angela Romeo of Colliding Worlds TV in Palm Springs back in February when I was at the 2014 Palm Spring Fine Art Fair with Shulamit Gallery.

It features fellow gallery artist David Abir, who is first up. I come in towards the end of the show at 17:59.

I’m a bit nervous, but I suppose I shouldn’t have told you that.

Enjoy! :)

07. July 2014 by Carol Es
Categories: Art & Process, Film & TV, News | 2 comments

I Heart Blick

Lately, I’ve been working on a commission for one of my collectors in Chicago. I’m pretty into it since it’s a Kabbalah tree of life diagram, you know, Carol Es style. Or at least done with a bit of my flair to it. But now I’m going to be working on two of them since I couldn’t decide on the background for it. I’ll be giving him the choice of the two of them and I can keep the remaining one to sell. He’s cool like that.

Since I can’t find my large, shallow plastic bin, I went to Blick this morning to buy some butcher trays so I can tea-dye some of the watercolor paper that I got for this special commission. While I was there, I would up getting the very last of my art supplies for the Exodus Project, which were prac near a full set of Sennelier Grand oil pastels.


I also bought what I thought was the perfect case for them too, but wouldn’t ya know it – when I got home I discovered that they barely laid vertically inside of it. I’ll have to slightly use them before they will fit in there the way I want them to. Not too big of a deal.

Okay, so remember the painting, Firmament that I said was finished? You know, the one that I fussed with for over a month? Well, turns out, I wasn’t finished obsessing on it. I don’t think it’s done, so I’m going back in. Call me crazy, but it’s still not right, and that’s driving me crazy, so something has to be done.

So back in a bit, hopefully. I’d like to find some time to give an update on how all that goes, but finding the time is a whole other situation.

03. July 2014 by Carol Es
Categories: Art & Process, Thoughts | Leave a comment

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