I was at the Wayne Plein Air Festival yesterday, the most well known event of its kind in the Philadelphia area, and I had the pleasure of talking with several of the participating painters as they worked.
One of them was Renee Lammers, a painter originally from Florida, now living in Maine. She paints her bright, immediate landscapes in a high key palette, with an almost post-Impressionist approach.
Lammers mentioned that she was fortunate to have had the opportunity to study with well known painter Stapleton Kearns, who was himself the student of R.H. Ives Gammell. Lammers said Kearns reined in her excessively bright “Florida colors” and steered her toward more traditional and proven methods.
One of the unusual traditional methods Lammers discovered on her own was the use of copper sheets as a painting surface. As I was talking with her, she was working on a quickly rendered painting of the tiny barbershop in Wayne (images above, top two) and her “canvas” was a thin sheet of copper that she had mounted in her small pochade box (see my recent update on pochade boxes). “Thin” in this case meaning thick enough to hold its shape, but thinner than a copper etching plate.
Painting on copper achieved popularity in the mid 16th century when northern European artists in particular found it to be a durable, archival and practical surface on which to work, not prone to the cracking and stretching dangers inherent in wood panels and stretched canvas.
I asked Lammers about difficulties in painting on the smooth metal surface and she indicated that it just took some adjustment (thinned paint doesn’t adhere as well as thicker applications), and that working on the copper directly without the need for priming gave her work a luminosity not present when working on other surfaces.
In addition to a portfolio of her work, Lammers’ website includes a page on the technique, Why Paint on Copper?, that includes a bit of history and links to resources. (In digging a bit, I also found this book on Amazon: Copper as Canvas: Two Centuries of Masterpiece Paintings on Copper, a catalog from a 1999 exhibit at the Phoenix Art Museum).
Lammers also maintains a blog in which she discusses her painting practices, experiences and travels. Her work will be on view as part of the Wayne Plein Air exhibit at the Wayne Art Center until June 23, 2012.