Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The Flip Side

-By Dan dos Santos

Gessoing a board properly really does take a full day, mostly due to drying time. But when a major deadline is approaching, one day can mean everything.

It's almost embarrassing to admit, because it shows just how extraordinarily lazy I can be. But sometimes, when I am running really late on a deadline, and I don't have a primed board ready to go, I will actually paint on the back side of another painting.

It doesn't seem too bad at first. But quite often the second painting turns out really well and I am forced to actually cut the previous painting in half in order to frame it. At this point, I always think, why didn't I just plan better?

This has happened to me more times than I like to admit.

For instance, on the flip side of my 'Fires of Heaven' painting... A cover for an Urban Fantasy novel that I did a particularly lackluster job on. I knew I would never sell the piece (or even display it), so why not get some use out of it?

On the flip side of my 'Dead Reign' painting... 3/4 of a Hellboy movie poster, which was abandoned due to some massive compositional revisions. After days of work, the AD decided to completely change the poses of the characters, and I was forced to start anew.

I've actually sold quite a few paintings like this, and often times the owner doesn't even know there is another painting hidden there (Mostly because I totally forgot it was there).

The board I paint on is Strathmore 500 series illustration board. It's the same paper on the front side as on the back side. So, I am able to paint on either side. But what happens when you really hate a painting, and it doesn't have a paintable back side (because you decided to mount a digital drawing to masonite, for instance)?

Well... you find other uses for it... like a cutting mat.


  1. i've always wondered, do you big leagues frame your own work or send it to a shop? i would assume it's a hassle and time consuming to order/cut your own.

  2. Oh, that would kill me to use a painting that way... on the other hand, it's probably better than keep the old paintings stacked in the basement where nobody ever sees them, isn't it? Maybe I'll bring mine up into the light of day and use them to line desk drawers or something... Your work is very creative and inspiring. I would think anything you paint would be purchased and enjoyed!

  3. Wow! I cannot imagine doing that even to a my worst drawing ever. That last image evokes such a viceral feeling of horror....**shivers**

    That's just wrong :D (Especially since I think it looks like a pretty good painting :D ) I'd rather give away my art than destroy it...

  4. you could always send me your 'cutting mat' (I would pay for shipping!) would be great to show my high school art students that even professionals get frustrated with their artwork. =P

  5. Most of my work is digital so I don't really have this problem.
    It's interesting to me to hear people being shocked by this. I've found the more drawing or painting I do, the less attached I am to it and don't really care if my boys get ahold of my sketchbook and rip or draw on the pages.

  6. Just paint really small and it won't take a whole day to prepare it. You can ship a whole show in one box too.

    1. Great idea! This could be a new trend. Micro paintings. :-D

  7. I have a friend from college who used to cut his old drawings and watercolor paintings into 4x6 sections and use them as postcards. Each card became an abstract work all by itself. I always liked that idea.

    Getting the most out of our material is a habit we pick-up as art students. Back then, we did it because we were poor. Now we do it and everyone thinks we are "eccentric"; but really it's just a habit.

  8. not that I don't like it that way, but why are you not leaving any room between frame and painting? did you try it and it looked weird?

  9. It's interesting to see what you've done on the flipside, but why gesso both sides? Seems a waste of gesso to me (unless you're anticipating painting on the backside). I've never had any problem painting water on the backside to prevent warping.

    1. It prevents warping (which is mostly why I do it), but it also protects the painting better from ongoing environmental influence.
      Acrylic gesso has a polymer binder, so it's in essence a thin sheet of plastic protecting the back side of my painting from moisture in the air. If you are covering the front in oils, the moisture in the air will naturally want gather on the back. I've seen enough moldy canvases to know what time and moisture can do.

  10. Wow, that last image was a bit shocking.

    I've hauled a couple truck loads of paintings to the dump (Painted on thick MDF, which is heavy. Don't do it.) But seeing you use a painting as a cutting mat, somehow felt wrong. (Even though I understand it.)

  11. Love the Honestly of this post. Im still learning from my failures, but ive also used the back sides to continue painting on just to save on boards. Some of the older paintings Ive gessoed right over for a fresh surface. I really didn't like those ones, but I learned much from them. I just had to get rid of them and move forward from what I learned.
    Great Post Dan.

  12. Well that's just...lame, you know. I feel the same way about that as some boys feel when they see a rly nice sports car being crashed in a movie :D Many of us (fans) would gladly hang some of your not-so-favourite painting on the wall. "I knew I would never sell the piece (or even display it)" this particular piece, for instance, I like more than the front side -there is just smth about the appocaliptic sunset and statue of the angel...What I mean to say is that some1 with your lvl of skills cannot make a bad piece even if u try to. Dont waste them- better sell them for cheap to the fans. You'll make us more than happy


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