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Friday, October 30, 2015

How to gallery wrapped paper (revisited)

Running Up by April M Rimpo
Running up is a triptych done using fluid acrylic on a gallery wrapped paper surface.  A triptych is a type of polyptych, the term for all multi-panel works of art; in this case a piece of art composed of three panels. You can see the color scheme used for this triptych is similar to the color scheme used for my Rhythm abstract discussed in my November 15th blog post.  The same complementary triad color scheme of orange, green, and purple was used since these paintings are in the same home as Rhythm.

This was my first time creating gallery wrapped paper surfaces.  I used 1.5" deep stretcher bars that measure 45" X 24" that were varnished with Liquitex Satin Varnish. 

I initially used a process described by Ona Kingdon in her blog. After I had more experience I modified her approach with the text marked as an "UPDATE." YOu can read Ona's posts here:

UPDATE: As time has passed I have learned that starting with one or two coats of gloss varnish give the finished piece a nice sheen.  There are two reasons for this: the glossy finish is more reflective, but more importantly if you use more than two coats of satin or mat varnish the varnish can become cloudy.

UPDATE: I have found using foam core and gallery wrapping has worked wonderfully for small paintings, but larger pieces can sometimes have problems with rippling in the corners after varnishing. For those I have started to attach the paper to Alumalite (a corrugated plastic board with a thin aluminum surface on both sides) using Acrylic Medium Gel. Since the paper is essentially glued to the board there will be no buckling. These can be framed watercolor or fluid acrylic pieces that are mounted, varnished and displayed without glazing. Those who know David Daniels' watercolors will be familiar with this approach. Unlike David, I often gallery wrap the paper around stretcher bars and paint around the edges so no frame is required. 

To create the abstracts shown above, I placed a small amount of each fluid acrylic color in a small measuring cup, added some water to dilute the paint sufficiently for it to flow over the paper, while still being an intense color.  The colors were allowed to mix on the paper as I painted.  Only a few colors were premixed on a palette before applying to the paper. The spray bottle shown in the picture at right contains water, which was sprayed on the paper prior to applying paint to encourage the paint to run and flow freely.  Below you can see the finished painting installed in its new home.

Running Up, installed in the living room, helps emphasize the vaulted ceiling, dark beams,
and expansive view from the adjacent wall of windows
For more details on the process of gallery wrapped paper, see Ona Kingdon's posts on her process.  

UPDATE: Ona mentions two options for folding the corners. I've found the corners are too bulky if you do not cut the corners.  Ona did not provide an image of how to cut them. Here is an image of how I cut the corners. First I remove the large triangular piece. If you were to fold the paper down the paper would extend about 1" from the corner of the stretcher bar corner. The small triangle is then removed so the point of that triangle is about 1" from the stretcher bar corner. 

I fold one side so it is very tight against the stretcher bar and staple near the corner. Press and crease so the paper is snug all the way across from top to bottom of the corner and test that when the paper extending to the right is folder up (in the next step) that it will be parallel with the corner.  I try to place the staple so it spans the corner with one leg in each piece of wood.

The last step is to fold the right side up and staple it to the back. Again be sure the edge is parallel to the corner. You don't want it to extend out past the corner of the stretcher bar. 

I normally flip the painting over to dry and because I live in a humid area I have a fan blowing across the surface for a full day to help the paper dry and tighten. 

One final addendum: One of my paintings that I had gallery wrapped and varnished went through the May 27, 2018 flood in Ellicott City.  The bottom two inches of the painting were submerged briefly when the wave his the painting. Mud and debris was left on the painting when the water level fell back down.  When I got the painting back I was able to easily wipe the mud and debris off the surface to see the painting surface was unaffected.  The stretcher bars had gotten wet and I felt they could become a problem over time, since they are made of wood. I removed the mounted painting from the stretcher bars. Verified the painting was still well adhered to the Alumalite board and then framed it in a lovely Silver Wood Frame.  A great testimonial to how well this mounting and varnishing process protects the painting from the environment.
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Copyright April M Rimpo 2015 All Rights Reserved. You may share my work with attribution and a link to this source site, but all other uses are prohibited.


  1. Your blog is a gem! Thank you for sharing your incredible artwork and knowledge. Can't wait to try my hand at acrylics!

    1. Thank you, Chris. I appreciate hear your feedback.


I look forward to hearing from you. - April

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