Painting on Aluminum

Watching Over the Savior
Click to enlarge

Art credit: Watching Over the Newborn Lord

Advertising professionals seek products that can endure herd abuse on convention floors and stand for months outdoors, unprotected. Sign substrates must work with several media, be rigid without being brittle, and be low-cost, enduring, and zero maintenance.

Traditional artists have long sought similar products, seeking stable, long-lasting painting surfaces that withstand moisture, mildew, insect damage, temperature changes, shipment abuse, public handling, the hazards of framing and display, and the rigors of the painting process itself. They have used everything from cave walls to canvas, stone to wood, and paper to gold.

Within the last two decades, these two professions partnered to produce an effective solution: Aluminum. More accurately, composite panels made from polyethylene sandwiched between two layers of aluminum. Available from several manufacturers, these panels are said to be 100% archival, meaning they are long-lasting and will not leach their chemicals onto your artwork. They are stiff, strong, and accept most media, primed or painted directly. Their thinness and light weight makes shipping and framing easier.

I was drawn to metal because I wanted create paintings that capture the ethereal qualities of angels. Reflections from unpainted aluminum react to viewers’ changes in position and lighting, shifting from dark grey to blinding glare as they walk past. This allows for deeper level of engagement and interpretation, and invokes airiness and separation, perfect for my wants.

The panels come in many sizes and colors, primed or unprimed, and can be used for pencil, ink, acrylic, oil, and even watercolor, and can be varnished. The surfaces are quite slick, so you may have to coat it, rough up the surface, or adjust your painting style. A compromise would be to prime the surface with clear gesso, although any coating may mask the shine.

For more information, I recommend Howard Lyon’s excellent review on Muddy Colors, “Painting on Aluminum Composite Panels”.

To see an example of my results, see the post “Watching Over the Newborn Lord“.