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Haiku 51

October 13, 2009

Haiku 51 Sm

“Haiku 51” – Acrylic and Collage on Cradled Hardboard Panel

I recently received an email from someone who had visited my website and wanted to know my opinions and experience painting on masonite. I have seen all kinds of discussions online regarding painting on masonite — or hardboard, as it’s more generally referred to.

I have painted on masonite through the years, most recently on panels that are sold commercially through art supply sources. I paint on panels that are already cradled (mounted flush on wooden frames.)

Many artists like the rough side of masonite to take advantage of the tooth. Many artists are purists and will use only untempered masonite, because they fear the long term effects on the art of the small amount of oil in the fibers used in the board.

My feeling is that with the heavy application of paint and texture that I’m using, the substrate isn’t going to have a significant negative effect on my work.

If you have  a strong opinion about painting on masonite, I’d like to know about it.

13 Comments leave one →
  1. October 13, 2009 1:35 pm

    I did lots of painting on masonite, in the beginning I used the textured side after a filling with primer. The canvas for the poor, so to say. I also liked the smooth side because I was able to start with a pencil drawing on the raw surface, then cover it with thin transparent layers of acrylic paint and continue with more acrylics and oils.
    I haven’t had any bad experiences exept once when I tried to glue paper on a larger piece of masonite. When I looked at it in the morning, it looked like a drawn arc, and it gave a loud bang when I cut the paper off. It was bent like a bowl. I did not want the damn thing to slap me.

    • October 14, 2009 4:58 am

      Oh my, Eva. That sounds positively frightening!

      Thanks for your input about the rough vs. smooth. I have had no problems painting on it either and rather like it.

      Even though the masonite that I buy is already primed for art, I’d like to experiment making my own panels, even perhaps beginning on a rough surface.

      The stuff is very cheap if you buy it from the building supply store.

      • October 14, 2009 1:44 pm

        I have always loved challenging my material. You get to know people when you argue with them, and paper, when you soak it with water.

  2. October 13, 2009 6:35 pm

    I also like the smooth side of masonite…I like the finished look of masonite and the wood adds a completed appearance and aids in the sales department. Thank you for the haiku image…I always feel ready to dive in and paint after I work see your wonderful blog. Imagine and Live in Peace!!! Mary Helen Fernandez Stewart

    • October 14, 2009 4:58 am

      I’m glad my blog has that effect on you, Mary Helen. I agree with you about the appearance of cradled panels.

  3. October 13, 2009 7:06 pm

    I don’t use Masonite any more, it’s a little hard to find here – I use MDF. It is very much like Masonite but a light tan color, comes in several thicknesses and is supposedly more environmentally and archival friendly. I like it better, I don’t think the corners crush nearly as easily. It is also a nice color for an underpainting ground, if using acrylics – I gesso it if using oils though. I did extensive reading about Masonite and found 2 things:
    1. there doesn’t seems to be any real agreement on the pros and cons anywhere, so I tried to track down manufacturers and read what they had to say and figure it out for myself. I found that a lot of the stuff I had read was from old opinions and information, and
    2. that it is not made the same way that it used to be made, or with the kind of oils like in years past, and the coating that is on it now is insignificant. It seems that you can pretty much use either tempered or untempered, which ever you choose.
    I live in California – this “nanny state” will NOT let you run with scissors, smell anything bad, or touch anything that might possibly be harmful to you or the environment, if they can help it or control it. In the rest of the United States you may be able to get your hands on dangerous and poisonous items, like Masonite might possibly be.
    Just as an example – I really like Holbein colored gesso – I could not buy it or even get it shipped here to CA – because it was in the wrong kind of plastic container, and Mother CA would NOT let it in her house! They have since changed their packaging to I.V. like bags, so now we can get it.
    So grab the Masonite of your choice and paint away – but check into the lighter tan MDF – you might like it better, I do. In fact it looks pretty much like the stuff Raymar and some of the other panel makers are using. The MDF is smooth on both sides though. Birch face plywood is also a good support if you don’t mind the fine wood grain. There are some who worry about the adhesives used in the plywood – but again here in CA, all of our plywoods are non-toxic and safe in every way.
    Whatever you choose should last at least through 2012 – when Nostradamus and the end of the Mayan calendar predicts the end of the world – so gee, what’re ya worrying about? ;D
    Disclaimer: This is just a personal opinion reached from personal research on various and many websites over the period of about 5 years. I am not a chemist, scientist or an authority or expert of any kind.

    • October 14, 2009 5:03 am

      Wow, Nathalie — this is great information. Thank you for so generously sharing your insights.

      I have been looking at your website. Beautiful, beautiful art!

      • October 14, 2009 1:49 pm

        MDF is great as a painting base, too. I appreciate it’s stability when working with layers and relief underlays under the paint. But it is so heavy… And it requires more storing space than masonite.

  4. October 13, 2009 7:22 pm

    Very little experience with Masonite, Martha, but wanted to tell you that I have looked several times at this work of yours. Each time it appears to me as a life study….the figure is so much there. Just what I see and I’m sure others might see it quite differently – that’s the beauty of abstracts. Just so you know, I like it lots.

    • October 14, 2009 5:04 am

      LOL! Yes, now that you’ve pointed it out I can see it too. It was purely unintentional. Interesting how that works, isn’t it?

      • October 14, 2009 1:51 pm

        … once seen as a nude, it will never appear as anything else to me. My abstract vision is spoilt! What a shame.

  5. Steve permalink
    October 25, 2009 9:09 pm

    This is a link to a page that has more info about wood panels than you might want to know, but good info non-the-less.

    It would appear that the type with a mesh texture on one side isn’t the preferred type of hardboard. Look for boards that are smooth on both sides.

    I’ve used hardboard (Masonite) over the years, but now use birch plywood (3/8″ thick). I buy it in 4’X8′ sheets and have the builder supply store cut it into various sized panels. I cradle it myself using 3/4″X1 3/4″ wood strips.

    More important than the type of panel is the preparation. After much research and advice, this is the method I use:

    1. Lightly sand all surfaces.

    2. Apply one liberal coat of water-based polyurethane to front, back and edges.

    3. Apply one (or two) coats of Kilz (brand name) water-based sealer/primer to the front surface.

    4. Apply one (or two) coats of gesso (acrylic primer) to front, back and edges.

    5. Apply additional coats of gesso to the front surface as desired.

    Notes: Sand between each application. The Kilz sealer is to prevent the wood’s natural resin (Lignin) from leaching through to the surface of the painting which may cause a yellowing effect. The polyurethane coat is a moisture barrier and should help prevent warping.

    Store-bought cradled panels can be fairly expensive and DIY can be very labor intensive. I know one artist who has her cradled panels made by a woodworker. She buys the materials and pays him a fee to fabricate the panels. This is a fairly easy process for a well equipped woodworker.

    Anyway, I’m being long-winded, but I hope this info will be helpful to those who paint on hardboard/wood supports.


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