Gouache on Colourfix Board

Fire Spider WIP by Meg Lyman

I’ve been working on this Fire Spider piece in my brain for quite some time. I made a bunch of sketches and laid out the composition in thumbnails. I then drew it out full size:

I knew some things weren’t right, so I accepted the gracious invitation from a friend to do some critiques. Not a whole lot changed, but I think the final drawing is a huge improvement. I transfered it to a sheet of Art Spectrum Colourfix board (sand color):

I bought this board years ago, and never got around to using it. I’ve been a bit scared of it, although I’m not sure why. The surface is some sort of textured acrylic base, akin to Pastelbord but less rough and sandpapery. It can take nearly any medium, so I went with gouache.

After I transferred it, I used spray fixative because the pencil lines smear easily if not protected. I let it dry overnight, then laid out the first wash with Holbein Pure Blue (PB17) and some ox gall to give me a rough layout of the darks and lights. It turned out OK overall, but I had some areas where the paint wouldn’t stick to the surface at all, kind of like I was trying to paint on a Rain-x-ed windshield:

I can’t figure out exactly what’s wrong. I’ve had problems before with gouache sticking to acrylic primers, but not this bad. Also, the board is years old – you can see that weird lighter arc in the transfered drawing above that had developed over time. I wondered if it was the spray fixative, but the affected areas seem random (I sprayed the whole thing, although some areas were thicker than others). Maybe too much ox gall? But I mixed up the wash really well and used it fairly evenly.

I’ve had problems with oil paint sticking to spray-fixed gesso as well. I prepared this board with high-quality gesso, transfered the drawing with graphite, and spray fixed it. The first layer of paint is M Graham Quinacridone Violet (VP19) thinned with Turpenoid, and a month after painting it’s still sticky to the touch (although bone dry) and it scrapes off very easily:

(I know I should let painted boards lie, but Sprocket hairs stick to EVERYTHING)

The spray fixative is the only common element, but I’ve used it before without issues. I wonder if it’s getting old or I’m laying it on too thick. Anyone have ideas? I’m going to soldier on with this one, hoping that the first layer of gouache, plus a less “washy” second layer will work. I hope.

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