I borrowed this phrase from the recently deceased Canadian painter Robert Genn who believed that there is only so much we can learn about how to paint from the many fine instructors and resources available today. The true learning comes from going off on our own and just doing it - Go to your room!

I have had the good fortune to take instruction from outstanding artists in Canada and the USA. I continue to work on my own development ( Going to MY room!) . I share, through this blog and workshops, what I have learned and what others have shared with me.

I created this blog primarily for those attending my workshops to keep in touch and to further share as we grow together. If others are interested in following that would be great.

Enjoy the journey.

Monday 23 April 2012


A question that continues to pop up is how I make my panels. So here we go. 

I like to paint on solid panels more than on stretch canvas - particularly plein air. I make light panels (1/8"thick) from 6x6" up to 14x18" for plein air. I am starting to make heavier (1/4" thick) supports for larger pieces - up to 18x24" - and may explore larger. 

For the thin panels my preference is 1/8" mahogany door skin plywood. It comes in 4x8' and 3x7' sheets. I cut it into the appropriate sizes (6x6, 6x8, 8x10, 9x12, 11x14, 12x16 and 14x18") on a simple table and chop saw. I sometimes use MDF board (medium density fibre board) but the dust it creates makes such as mess that it is not my preference. I seal the boards with a coat of shellac thinned about 10% with methyl alcohol. The mixture  brushes on easily, both sides at the same time, and dries quickly. I lean them against one another and snake them across the floor - often 100 or more at a time. They dry over night. 

Shellac to seal door skin 
Boards drying

I use a variety of canvas and linen types. All are pre-primed with gesso or lead. Un-primed canvas or linen tends to shrink using the technique described.  I purchase the canvas in rolls. I unroll it on a work table and place a selection of the boards spaced about an inch apart on all sides and placed to avoid waste. I do a quick cut around each board using a simple blade 
Sealed boards placed onto canvas roll 

Linen cut around boards

The canvas is then glued onto the sealed door-skin using polyvinyl acetate ( white glue) and spread with a simple spreader. Glued boards are piled with a weight on top and left to dry over night. Next day I cut the extra canvas from the board.  Gives a nice light archival panel. I often add additional gesso layers as needed. 

Glue spread evenly on board 

Boards trimmed once glue dry 

I also take larger paintings that are going no where and, using a selection of frame sizes, see if I can isolate one or more small areas that are stronger on their own that the whole. If the painting was done on board I simply cut with my chop saw. If painted on canvas I cut the selected area using the blade knife and simply glue the painted canvas to a board as described above. I have, on many occasions, rescued smaller salable paintings from an unsalable large one.

Turning junkers into profit

Hope this answers the questions. 

Lots more to making paintings than pushing paint on a brush. 


  1. Your generosity with helpful information is greatly appreciated!
    I've been wanting to make my own panels and because this was so thorough, I can charge ahead. Thank you Brian! You're a treasure.

  2. Hi Brian. Interesting that you prefer to work on solid wood panels. I tried that recently and it just didn't work for me (although both pieces got into the FCA Floral show). I need the feel of canvas under my brushes. I am more of a nitpicker than you and I also love to blend. Wood or any firm surface makes the paint seem smeary to me and I don't like it. Good thing we are all different don't you think? Nice that you have shared your panel building technique as I know a lot of others do like to paint on wood.

  3. Hi Karen. Do you stretch your own canvas? I have had bad luck lately on commercial canvas from Opus and others.

  4. I need to 'finish' a 24" x 40' space above a cement wall and plan to use mahogany door skins tacked onto the studs as a support for this project.Previously all my work has been oil painted on canvas. I am not a professional. No art school background, just an uneducated amateur enthusiast. I only paint for the color and rhythm of my own-use efforts. Thanks for advice on sizing but wondered if there is a sealant that can be painted on with oils that does not require a canvas layer.

    1. Hi. My suggestion would be to seal the wood using shellac as above then finish with a few coats of gesso. Fine for oils. Good luck. Hope you get this.

    2. I will start prepping the wood tomorrow and let you know how it goes. Thanks. K


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