One of our joys is the respect that our work receives from the people who see fit to take it into their homes. Compared to many other products, even hand-made products, art is guarded, insured, honored, re-framed and passed down from generation to generation. This may be in part due to its perceived value — the sense of treasure and precious quality that art holds. People run out of their burning homes carrying their art.
But not everyone respects art in quite the same way. Some who know art only as commodity show little respect for the work or its creators. Perhaps the worst disrespect shown to art is by artists themselves.
By this I mean the lack of knowledge and effort that has to be put into art in order for it to be somewhat permanent. Primings and grounds are the commonest lack of respect. In my less palmy days I painted on anything I could find — insulation board, ordinary paper, cardboard, “D” grade plywood. Some of these fugitive supports were pretty creatively primed, too. Nowadays, for most of us, there’s no excuse. Curiously, many art schools these days don’t see it as important. Furthermore, public galleries, particularly those that collect art for reasons other than permanence, employ conservators to preserve the most unpreservable ones — some not more than a decade old. This is all the more strange because the information and techniques needed for permanence have been in the libraries for several centuries.
What we do for joy is not necessarily precious, but we artists ought to use the most permanent materials — for the people who respect what we do, and for the sake of history.
PS: “Some incompetent artists do not use a ground and paint direct onto the support — i.e., the bare canvas or wood. On canvas this practice is always, eventually, fatal.” (Peter and Linda Murray)