Art Materials: Surfaces

I've given a lot of thought to art supplies this past year and have tried out a wide variety of all types of things to see what I like best. Most recently, I've experimented with surfaces.

Generally I stretch my own canvas and I'm usually happy with that. I use 3 coats of acrylic gesso - Utrecht Studio or Professional. While 3 coats of Professional is a little slick for the first layer of oil paint, I like how it feels under the brush. Here's a closeup of a current painting 'Alder Grove' on one of my home prepped canvasses:

But a couple of weeks ago I was in Seattle, feeling panicked about getting paintings done for some upcoming shows and so I stopped by Utrecht and bought some stretched linen on sale. What a mistake! It's got 3 coats of acrylic gesso on it, making in slick as glass, but it's glass covered with bristles! Yes, somehow when priming or drying thousands of little bristles embedded themselves in the surface. Here's how it looks with the underpainting on it:

How horrible is that? Very! Yuck! I'll be returning the rest.

But fortunately there's another good source for oil painting surfaces: Wind River Arts in Texas. It's a very small company, their prices are good and the quality is fantastic. I ordered and tried out a wide variety of the surfaces and gessos they offer just to see what worked best for me. My favorite so far is 359 - a linen primed with alkyd. The A600 is a finer linen primed with alkyd but for some reason it tends to pick up fuzz in my studio more than the 359. Or it shows up more on the A600, I don't know. I like the rougher texture of 359

I also ordered their lead primed linen. It's super smooth, a surface that could be just right for some artists, but wrong for me. I've tried 2 of the oil primed linens c66 & c13 and they're all right, but the dry time is longer for the underpainting. Here are some closeups of those surfaces:

This is the 359. Takes the paint well and has a lovely, lovely texture.

This is the lead primed linen above. Isn't it lovely? The sheen is fantastic, but too smooth for the landscape I'm working on. Could be perfect for something else.
A600 above. A little too smooth for me.
C66. I think I'll like it, but after 24 hours the underpainting rubbed off off the high points when I touched it.

I've also tried and like ArtBoards, but it's more expensive than Wind River Arts. I like Gessobord OK but it absorbs the paint too aggressively and sometimes my paintings end up with an odd pattern from drying. So I have to gesso the Gessobord and that's not quite the point of buying a ready to paint panel.

So for now I'm returning everything I bought at Utrecht and I have stretched canvas ready to gesso along with a large pile of stretcher bars and cut pieces of linen and canvas in my dining room. The assembly line is lined up, but the worker doesn't quite have the time or energy for all that stretching, stapling and messy gessoing!