I posted a while ago about painting on masonite as opposed to canvas.  Well since then I have found another surface that's even better and less expensive!

     It is birch! Birch wood is very light, very durable, and very smooth, and it does NOT require you to coat all sides to seal against moisture. I gesso the surface I paint on, but I do that on my canvas too.  The nicest part is that the birch is so durable!  You don't have to worry about punctures or tears like you do with canvas.

     Go to your local lumber supply such as Home Depot and you can find birch plywood in 1/8" for small works or 1/4" for larger paintings.  It comes in the full 4 x 8 sheets and also 2 x 4 sheets.  I have them cut it down to 12 x 12 size panels or a size suitable for standard frames. The store will usually give you a certain number of cuts for free, but even if they charge it is minimal.  I do not recommend buying anything thicker than 1/4" birch as the interior layers can absorb moisture requiring you to seal all surfaces like masonite, and it gets too heavy to be practical.

     If you want a larger size painting, you can just nail 1 x 2 strips of wood to the back edge of the birch making it a box.  In other words you are mounting the panel on a 1 x 2 frame flush on the sides.  It looks good, is sturdy, and you are ready to paint the sides for a nice finish! It is not necessary to miter the corners, simply use straight cuts with the shorter pieces on the top and bottom, that way the seams are hidden. It is quick and easy.  A simple sanding is all that's required for preparation and to smooth the edges.

     Try it for yourself and see if you don't get excited about birch.  I ended up paying just over $1 each for my 12 x 12 birch panels when it was all said and done.  You can't beat that!  I will still buy canvas when it is on sale at 70% off at Michaela, but I have added the birch to my repertoire of painting surfaces for sure!

     I cannot take credit for discovering this.  My good friend and fellow artist Janal Koenig teaches a class on loosening up and interpretation which she calls playing.  She uses the birch almost exclusively.  Janal calls her work "representational" which is a combination of realism, impressionism, and abstract.  I love her artwork!  Be sure to check out her work at  I posted about her class on January 10, 2020.

     My latest painting is below.  I can see her influence in it for sure!  Enjoy!

40 x 24 Diptych



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