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Is 538 Allinpanel Your Favorite Panel?

I will start out by acknowledging I am an incredibly picky painter. I hold unreasonably high standards for myself and my work, and this rubs off on my standards for the supplies that I use. I am also, however, incredibly impatient. This means I just want to buy something, have it be perfect, and start painting.

My holy grail is a versatile surface that checks a few boxes:

  • I wanted a rigid panel for both longevity, ease of size customization, and ease of framing/shipping. I don’t have the time, space, or desire to make my own surfaces.
  • I need something smooth, but not TOO smooth. For highly rendered smooth objects, I need a surface with minimal hills and valleys that won’t get in the way of the final appearance.
  • I want texture but not TOO MUCH texture. For the more worn objects, textural, or certain effects, I need a canvas that can take some of the responsibility to achieve the suggestion of that variety. I want the canvas to do some of the work for me.
  • Furthermore, when there is texture from the canvas, I don’t want it to be TOO mechanical (think cheap cotton canvas or where the criss-cross of the fibers are obvious) but yet not TOO organic (super smooth except big random bumps here and there).
  • Bonus point for easy size customization. I can not be held to standard sizes.

Just call me high maintenance Goldilocks. But my hair is purple so I’ll be Purplocks.

When I went through training, I used either Claessens canvas or Raphael’s oil primed linen which is glued to wood. Eventually, I felt Claessens was too textured for what I wanted and I absolutely HATE stretching canvas. So I settled on the panels. I got them through Jerrys Artarama and they came in standard sizes up to about 30 by 40 so I would buy large panels, find the perfect section (with no flaws in the canvas) with the major weave running vertically, and then use a handheld circular saw to cut it down. While there were plenty of downsides to this (wasted areas, limits in size, inconvenience, and sawdust in my studio), it was affordable enough and it had this lovely canvas that I liked using. Over the past few years I felt these panels were beginning to drop in quality and consistency. Cue the anxiety.

Over the course of a year or so, I bought a 5″ by 7″ of almost every reasonably comparable rigid surface from multiple companies, including Aretefex. You name it, I tried it. Through this exploration I found ones that were a decent substitution but perhaps had additional drawbacks or uncertainty. However, when I found that Artefex offered THE EXACT SAME CANVAS (Belle Arte Linen) that was on the Raphael panels, except it was glued to an ACM panel, the heavens opened and the choir began to sing.

The oil primed linen I came to know and love over years and years of painting was paired with an even better substrate: the ACM that can be easily trimmed down without power tools or sawdust. The score-and-snap size adjustment was music to my ears.

Extra added bonus was that the canvas is glued down using a reversible glue… meaning that if a panel is ever damaged, the canvas can be removed, and then glued down to a fresh panel.

“As each painter gets more and more experience, we start to learn what our preferences are. The Artefex 538 checks all of my boxes. It’s smooth enough for highly detailed work and yet textured enough to let the canvas do a lot of the work. I can get a decent amount of solid, even application in one brush load but it grabs it enough so it’s not a skating rink. The ACM is lightweight, durable and archival… yet ridiculously easy to cut down and customize. There’s enough to worry about when it comes to painting. I am glad to know this is one area of my practice I no longer have to worry about.” – Julie Beck

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