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Painting on Clayboard – Final Update

July 22, 2010

I ordered a few panels of Ampersand Claybord to see how I like it.  Here’s a little 6×6 that I’m experimenting with…

It’s a very smooth surface, and working on it is much like working on a gessoed surface, but even more so.  There’s a textured version that I might try, but for now, I’m just starting the learning curve on this surface.  This is not finished, but I thought I’d post it at this point to show how the initial first applications of paint are going.  There is a tremendous amount of lifting due to the smooth, almost slick surface.  The upper parts of the trees show the very first initial strokes.  Down in the grass foreground area, I’ve begun adding layers of paint, and once the surface has some paint on it, the subsequent layers go on a little easier.  However, even in that area, a very light touch is called for.  More than two wet strokes, or a slightly too hard stroke, and you’re almost down to the white of the surface again.  Blending colors on this surface may take some experimentation.

I’ll continue with this little piece and post an update when I’ve done more on it.

One of the beauties of this surface is that, until it’s varnished, I think I can wipe the whole thing off with a wet paper towel, with nothing more than a little bit of staining.  Although at this point, I’m not sure this surface is even going to stain.


I’m working on this in between sessions of painting on other work.  I also suspect the paint doesn’t dry quite as quickly as it would if I was painting on a true absorbent surface like illustration board, so some time between sessions is good.  Okay, it doesn’t take THAT long, but my point is that I let it dry really well before coming back to it.  Here’s how it looks after a second session:

Continuing with some subtle – and some not-so-subtle – variations in greens.  (The palette here is cobalt blue (it was on the palette already), yellow ochre, burnt sienna, yellow medium and titanium white.)  Even after the paint had thoroughly dried, it’s still very easy to get some lifting.  Not quite as bad when stroking over a couple of layers of paint, but still very possible to go down a layer or two if the brush stroke is too firm.  I don’t mind this in the grassy areas… it just looks like variations in the grass surface… but I try to avoid it in the tree foliage.  You can see some softening of the paint strokes in several places, partly because I’m keeping values close, and partly just due to the softness of the stroke and the variation of brushes used.


I’ve decided I’m not happy with this one, especially the composition.  A closer view of the creek entering the woods might be better, but I think that would be better at a larger size.  So… as the final step in this little experiment/demonstration, I’ve decided to wipe the board off.

Here’s what happens when one wipes the paint off with a wet paper towel:

I’ve left part of it just for a before-and-after demonstration.  It appears that the entire panel should wipe down to the original smooth white surface.  I see nothing absorbent about this surface at all; it is just too smooth for my purposes.  I’ll brush a light coat of gesso on these clayboard panels as I use them.

7 Comments leave one →
  1. July 22, 2010 1:17 pm

    Thanks for your post, Ralph. I just picked up a small Ampersand Gessobord panel to compare it with a Claybord panel that I already had. I haven’t painted on them yet, but after reading your post, I opened each one and felt the surfaces. You’re right — the Claybord surface is very slick.

    Your painting looks great, by the way!

    • July 22, 2010 2:53 pm

      Thanks Carol! Let me know how the Gessobord works, especially if you’re using it with gouache.

  2. July 26, 2010 3:16 pm

    I’ve worked on both Claybord and Aquabord; I love Claybord, but I’m also using it with acrylic paints, which grab somewhat more aggressively. 9I say somewhat because I wash them extremely thin – definitely breaking the binder down. I like the working properties I get.) Even they can be scubbed back off, though! I love it because it allows me to to incised details with a scratch knife.

    Anyway, my point – it always depends on what you’re after, but if you like a cold-press surface that will take very aggressive work, you might like the Aquabord. My experience was that it was much more absorbent than Claybord, and grabbed the paint quite aggressively, and by ‘aggressive’ I mean ‘I used a scouring sponge, and it only came up very slowly.’ I can’t tell you if this would be the case with gouache, but with washed acrylics there was a hugely noticeable difference in ‘grab.’ Definitely an extended working / dry time on both surfaces, the clay really holds water.

    Last statement is, I actually prefer the ‘half destroyed’ landscape to the previous versions; it stands beautifully as an abstract piece.

    • July 26, 2010 4:16 pm

      I really appreciate the input, Ramie. I’ve since brushed on a light coat of acrylic gesso on a couple of Claybord panels, and I like it much, much better. I like being able to go down to the surface if I want to, but the gouache just wasn’t going on the way I prefer. I think the gesso surface is going to give me what I’m looking for. I agree with you, by the way, about the abstract look of the ‘half destroyed’ piece.

      You’ve got some great work going on at your website!

  3. July 26, 2010 4:56 pm

    Ralph, if a brushed coat of acrylic gesso is your preference, you probably wouldn’t like the Aquabord – it’s MUCH more grabby than gesso. You might like Ampersand’s ‘Artist Panel’ – it’s acrylic primed with a canvas texture. I hate the canvas texture. But I have never done anything other than tolerate canvas texture. 🙂 I mention the Artist Panel because otherwise, it’s a nice panel, and pretty cheap even for the cradled panels.

    Thank you for the nice comment on my website – just got that thing pulled together last week. A blog is my next project – I love seeing, and showing, work in progress. I desperately wish I didn’t have some place to be this afternoon; I’d love to look more at yours. I really, really appreciate artists who take the time to show their process – even when it doesn’t work – and talk about materials.

    • July 30, 2010 11:55 am

      Ramie, thanks for the opinion about the Aquabord. I think I’ll pass on it. And as for the ‘Artist’s Panel’… I really don’t think I want a canvas texture, so I appreciate the input about that one as well. Come back and browse any time. And be sure to visit my ‘Showcase’ blog at There are more finished pieces there in the ‘Galleries’. But if you’re looking for process… blunders and failures and all… this is the place. I try not to hide the struggle, because I think all artists who are still developing need to know that every painting doesn’t turn out as a masterpiece.

  4. Teri Rader permalink
    October 29, 2013 4:22 pm

    I’ve worked with both Aquabord and Claybord just now. I found Aquabord to be the perfect canvas for Gouache! My best work has been done on the Aquabord. I absolutely hate this claybord and not sure if I will even finish the painting I’m working on. The colors are so vibrant and beautiful on the Aquabord, but I can’t seem to get the same effect on the Claybord. In fact, I can’t seem to get any effect on Claybord, that I find satisfactory. I am thinking seriously of gluing watercolor paper to the surface! LOl

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