Here are a few encaustics with newly painted black sides drying in the studio.
When I began working in encaustic last year, I figured I'd clear-varnish the birch wood sides.  I like natural wood's wabi-sabi aspect, which would tie in well with my work's aesthetic.  However, because I have to order my panels, I can't hand-pick according to how the wood looks. 

Therefore, I chose to paint the sides with Behr Premium Plus Ultra Interior Satin Enamel in white.  In addition to consistency of presentation- all sides of all paintings the same color- I wanted the paintings to appear to float away from gallery white walls.  I admit the effects of white weren't quite what I'd envisioned: there wasn't much of a floating effect; occasionally the white bothered me, reminding me of gesso, primed and yet displeasingly incomplete; and a gallery employee told me, "You should consider framing your work".  Well, framing isn't going to happen- I am not at all fond of frames on minimal, contemporary paintings (except for works on paper, of course).  However, I began to think perhaps I should have gone with black sides in the first place.

Why black?  It has the visual weight of a frame without the unnecessary addition of an actual frame; it surrounds the painting, defining and enveloping it in...well...really, nothingness, black being the absence of light (or, conversely, the presence of all color).  Additionally, black seems to enhance each painting's colors.

So I went to Home Depot and bought the same paint, only in black this time.  I have a lot more sides to change to black but it's an easy change to make.  Although time-consuming, I believe the results are worth the extra effort.

Artists, what do you do to the sides of your panel or canvas paintings?


plasticanimal said...

I love the black! It seems more in keeping with the fronts of the paintings and gives that "floating" effect you were looking for! Good call!

Stephanie Hoff Clayton said...

I hadn't considered I'd achieve the floating effect with black but looking around my studio and all these black-enveloped panels, I see what you mean.
The more sides I change to black (I'm halfway to completion on this task), the better I like it.

Diane McGregor said...

Good post, Stephanie - a lot of artists simply don't care enough about presentation.

I also don't want to frame my minimal paintings, but since my work is mostly white (with underpainting showing through) the white sides seem to work well with my pieces. The grids seems to melt into the whole painting, unifying it and strenghtening its identity as "object."

Stephanie Hoff Clayton said...

Because you use lots of white in your paintings, I can picture what you mean about white sides, allowing a seamless and unified presentation of your work. I'd love to see them in person!
I'm also amazed how many artists don't care about presentation. I see this issue all too frequently, and it really puts me off the art. It's even more perplexing to me how poorly-presented pieces make it into galleries, which puts me off the art AND the gallery.