When I first learned about oil grounds, I was immediately fascinated with the material. There's no comparison between the acrylic "gesso" grounds and the surface of an oil ground. But even with oil grounds, I have found a startling difference between titanium white grounds and lead white grounds. For me, titanium grounds have a high absorbency that catches the paint and sucks it in, while lead has a buttery type of surface that allows the paint to glide. I've tried many varieties of commercially prepared oil ground, but was always disappointed by not being able to order lead and a custom tone of light gray (which I prefer).
I am very familiar with preparing my own grounds and my previous practice was to prepare my own lead primed grounds. I'm glad I know how to prepare my own grounds, but this process is time consuming, very messy and difficult to get right all the time. Nevertheless, I am an artist that believes in the importance of materials. I believe the same philosophy applies to chefs: no matter how good of a chef you are, you can't make a good meal out of bad ingredients.
So I reached out to Mr. Angel De La Cruz via email to inquire about getting a lead primed, gray toned, oil ground. Angel wrote back to me very promptly and said he actually had a roll in stock that matched my specifications. I was very excited, but a little nervous. Would the gray be the right value? I didn't want something too dark or too light. The tone of gray ended up being spot on, not too dark or too light. The linen is double primed also which creates a smooth surface, but still has the tooth of the fabric-- perfect for portrait work. I've included some photos below, but it's difficult to capture the quality of this canvas in photos. I know the canvas is also very well sized because none of the oil ground has seeped through to the back of the canvas. For anyone who doesn't know about oil grounds: you need to have a size (a glue) to act as a barrier so that the oil ground won't reach the linen or canvas because that can cause degradation over time.
It's very important to keep these traditional artistic practices alive which is why I only want to support companies that make great quality materials. Angel and Ben are wonderful to do business with and I'm so happy that I found them. I want to thank companies like A E Art Canvas Priming, Natural Pigments and Rosemary and Co for keeping these traditions alive.
The roll that I ordered is: #13 Linen, 57"X 6 Yds, DP Gray Lead. I don't want to list the price in case their prices change, but I can tell you that it was very reasonable considering what most other companies charge for oil grounds. I don't think that they have a website (which is cooler in my book) but you can contact Angel and his son, Ben, at the address and email below:
A E Art Canvas Priming
605 East 132nd Street
Bronx NY 10454
4/24/2021 08:40:54 am
Is that Claessens #13 linen (with a lead ground), by any chance?
5/3/2021 02:49:27 pm
I'm positive it is. I have a roll of it right here, and in comparing it the weave looks exactly the same. As for the priming...totally different. Would love to try this lead priming, as I love claessen's linen, but am not a fan of how they prime it.
5/3/2021 03:13:57 pm
Good to know, thank you for that information. I personally dislike Claessen's oil primed linen. I doubt that Claessen's uses lead, I think they probably use titanium, which feels very different. It's hard to put into words, but the A E lead primed linen has a slippery, but absorbent feeling. They're also the only people that I've found who make toned grounds. The other oil ground linen I like is Fredrix double-primed, 125 Kent. Fredrix will send you a sample book of their oil grounds if you reach out to them. It helps to be able to feel them beforehand because they're expensive.
5/6/2021 04:48:29 am
Yeah, Claessens uses a layer of titanium primer over a layer of zinc primer for their double-primed linens, and the zinc makes it very brittle. I actually find it to be a nice surface to paint on, but worry about longevity. The quality of their raw linen (particularly their #13 linen) is superb, though, so I'd definitely be interested in a lead-primed version.
5/6/2021 10:22:43 am
I didn't know that Claessens uses a zinc primer, that is worrying. Thank you for letting me know. I have a big roll of Claessens that I'll use for studies and other less important work. Thank you guys for this info because it's a great addition to my blog.
8/9/2021 05:11:38 am
Claessens does use a zinc primer as Ben said, but from talking to them, they're aware of the newer studies on brittleness and feel confident the priming will stand the test of time. I think they are still using the old recipe from 1906, minus the lead, which they stopped using entirely decades and decades ago.
8/9/2021 06:29:35 am
Thank you Kevin, this is great information and I appreciate your time. Please check out some of my other posts and I'd love your feedback. Have a great week.
john f davis
7/13/2022 06:35:01 am
I really need lead oil primed canvas. I don't care for titanium grounds and I agree with Virgil Elliot that zinc grounds are unreliable and therefore unusable
11/21/2022 11:02:01 am
Hi John, I agree completely. It's a shame that these materials are getting more and more difficult to find. The materials make a big impact in the final result.
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