The James Gleeson oral history collection
James Gleeson interviews Australia's major artists
Painting, synthetic polymer paint on unprimed canvas
177.0 h x 180.0 w cm
© Michael Johnson
James Gleeson: Mike, how do you prepare the duck? Do you paint straight on to the cotton duck, or do you size it, prepare it in any way?
Michael Johnson: Well, in most cases I stretch the canvas. In this case, of this particular painting Gentle 1, is English canvas and it has a powder size within the duck.
James Gleeson: I see.
Michael Johnson: So that when you lay some water on, it seals the surface.
James Gleeson: Can we have that one–you’ve got a copy of that–just to identify it? Good. Okay, so that already has a surface. It’s a commercial kind of canvas that you can buy and it’s already prepared?
Michael Johnson: Yes. Well, you can buy up until next year. Most cotton ducks are introducing nylons and synthetic bases. I’ve found that most canvas now has some—I don’t work on it myself. All the canvas I’ve painted up to date, is pure cotton duck.
James Gleeson: I see. All the ones that we’ve got, except that early one, are acrylic? The first one, the Sofala one is oil.
Michael Johnson: Sofala one is oil. That’s acrylic, Gentle 1.
James Gleeson: Corrugated?
Michael Johnson: Corrugated 1 is Jim Cobbs chromocryll. This painting—
James Gleeson: That’s Emperor.
Michael Johnson: That’s a homemade paint. Cornealson pigment, pure pigment, which is—
James Gleeson: Cornealson?
James Gleeson: Cornealson, which is out of business now. It’s a straight lemon yellow pigment. The white line is the raw duck itself, raw cotton duck, and the interior is mid-chrome yellow pigment mixed with a PVC, which all yellows easily mix with, greens don’t, and fugitive reds don’t.
James Gleeson: Veronese?
Michael Johnson: Veronese is painted in Le Franc, which is branded Flash acrylic paint which is in genuine pigment before the company changed hands. But now they’ve gone back to the original pigment, but that pigment is quite reliable and still available and will be available for the next 10 years.
James Gleeson: I see. I notice on the back it says flash vinylic.
Michael Johnson: Vinyl.
James Gleeson: Vinyl. V-Y-N-N-Y-L.
Michael Johnson: Well, the company’s name is called Le Franc and they’re stationed in France and beautiful pigment, the best pigment, but very low in glue content.
James Gleeson: I see.Michael Johnson: So it has a tendency to burnish and mark easily, but after two and a half years it tends to seal itself. Even though the glue dries underneath, it tends to get tougher.