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Thursday, November 6, 2014

The Subtle Art of Bondage - Artists Using Glue Like Paint

Bondage [bon-dij ]

The state of being bound by or subjected to some external power or control


Because of the nature of my art, I've come to very well versed in various bonding techniques. In fact, my glue work on a particular piece is almost as important and refined as are my painting techniques.

Now I know that it is highly unlikely that anyone reading this will need the information for the same exact reasons I use it, but I am hoping you are at least able to use some bits and pieces for your own work.

While there are many more types of bonding agents than what I have listed here, these are a few of my favorites and why I work with them.

Super Glue

Now despite what others will tell you, Super Glue does NOT work for many things. Its great for small items that just need a dab to keep it in place, but for larger projects its probably the worst of options, plus it gets everywhere regardless of how you try to keep it contained. But saying that, it does serve its purposes. I have found that its good for placing an object that will be bonded with something stronger later. It is still great for jewelry projects and things of that nature. Out of all the super glues on the market, Loctite has given us the best results and has a bottle that tends to be easier to grip, which if you are doing something intricate is very important. I will often use it with another glue that takes longer to dry. Its fast drying time makes it good for holding an item while other glues dry.


Weldbond is by far my glue of choice. It is strong, dries completely clear and works well for filling cracks. Because I work a lot with clay, I find this glue works great for cracking that inevitably comes with air dry clay. I used to get frustrated with the cracking, but now I just let nature take its course and then fill the crack after. I use a paintbrush to do this, smoothing the glue across the surface so that its barely noticeable after it dries. I also use it as a pre-coat, painting it completely over the clay to seal it in place. Because it has a flex seal it will expand a bit with drying. I've also used it to create texture and raised surface areas. Usually I will use it this way along with a hair dryer used after I apply the glue to create a seal so the glue wont ooze. Then it can dry naturally the rest of the way in the form I wanted it to be in. Because I use the large 21 ounce bottle, its sometimes not good for fine work because the nozel is larger than smaller bottles are. In this case I will sometimes move some of it into a smaller bottle that has been saved from older painting projects (rinsed thoroughly of course) and then apply it from there. I've also used it to create glue tints, by placing the glue in a new container and then adding paint to it. This wont last forever though, so don't make a large quantity unless you are using it all. Whats nice about this is that I can create texture in exactly the same color as what I may have just painted.

It is not good for fast projects that need precision or for things that are large like wide cracks because it tends to melt into the crack. If its a deep crack then it may need to be applied multiple times until it fills it totally.

Gorilla Glue

They key to remember with gorilla glue is that its a foamer. When applied it looks similar to a wood glue. But once it begins to dry (about 7 minutes) it expands. The more you apply the larger it becomes. This can be messy and cause a lot of problems if you are expecting it act like regular glue. But, for filling larger areas that need to be totally bonded its invaluable because it expands to fill the whole area and it becomes incredibly hard! One of the other benefits is that if you spill any, or get it on your hands, as long as you clean it up in the first few minutes its easy to remove. Past that though, its there to stay. Besides filling cracks well, it is awesome for creating texture. I've used it for so many textures that I cant list them all, but if you are looking for a unique way to give your art three dimensionality and don't to spend for pricey modeling pastes, this is a possible alternative as long as you are not looking to be real subtle with it. I use it quite often along with a sponge. I put it down on my canvas where I want it and then use a damp sponge to move it around by dabbing at it until I have it where I want it.

Loctite Construction Adhesive

Loctite is some serious glue. Its cement hard and the best use for things that need a huge amount of strength. I've used it for support struts behind heavy frames or very heavy pieces that need maximum strength. Like gorilla glue, its easy to clean up in the first few minutes after applying but it takes longer to dry also. You will want to give this 24 hours at a minimum to bond completely. I use an old dowel to spread it with and then clean the dowel off after use so it can be used again later. Its thick though, so you want to make sure you have something that can spread it properly. There will be no dripping or oozing with it. Where you place it is where it will remain. It is not subtle and cannot be used for precision projects, but it is absolutely the best I've found for permanently bonding two objects together.


EP6000 is an industrial strength adhesive. Its equal in bonding strength to Loctite, but it tends to be messier to use. Its advantage over loctite is that it dries clear. This is good for projects where appearance counts. But it can be very stringy when applying and this can cause some problems. I've not found a good way to work with it, but it does have its place from time to time.

Elmers Precision Embellishment Glue

The best thing about this product is shape of the container. Its super easy to work in tight spaces with and it applies cleanly and dries clear. Its strong, which makes it good for small things that need a dab of strength to hold it in place. I find superglue bottles to be a bit difficult to work with at times because they sometimes give out more than you want. Controlling the outflow with this glue is very easy. Keep in mind this is not like normal Elmers glue even though it looks like it. Its much stronger but does take some time to dry also.

Elmers Glue Stick

I know this seems rather childish to have on this list, but I include it because in my opinion any good art studio that wants to be serious about its glues needs to have something as simple as a glue stick around for simple adhesion. Its a necessity and I can't tell you the times where I've looked around at my glues thinking "damn" if I just had a glue stick I could solve this problem without any hassles!  I like the Elmers brand because it glides on purple and dries clear. This way I know I have complete coverage. But with that said, never use it for permanent gluing. Its best when you simply need a tacky surface to hold something in place temporarily.

Acrylic Latex Caulk

This is probably the oddest item on the list because most people don't think about caulking when they think about glue. I use caulking for a wide variety of things. Primarily ts great for creating texture and sealing areas that need something permanent but that has some give to it. Since it basically rubberizes when dry, it allows for flexibility in your project. But be warned it can be very very messy. Finding tools to use to spread it in a way that is to your liking is a challenge in itself. Surprisingly I use plastic tableware for it. I keep a plastic knife, spoon and fork nearby to rake it and smooth it properly. I also use my clay tools and palette knifes also, but every thing has to be cleaned off properly using a dry cloth or paper towel before it dries. On the positive side, once it does dry, it peals off relatively easily from most surfaces.

The problem with caulk is that it comes in a dizzying array of types and in a basic hardware store there can be 40 different kinds. I suggest grabbing up a few different kinds and experimenting with what works best for you. Its relatively cheap, about $5-$10 a tube and lasts quite awhile. I tend towards acrylic based, clear caulk. so I can paint over it after. Keep in mind that some paints will bead up on it. I usually underpaint with a basic black first then overpaint with the colors I want to use. Spray paint works well on it also if your working on a project where you can spray paint and not worry about overspraying.

Mod Podge

I can't even tell you the importance of Mod Podge. It gets a bad rap amongst many professional artists who think that its use is strictly for "crafters". I can tell you they are flat wrong. This is an amazing product. It has the widest variety of uses of anything I've ever come across.

I use it for filling cracks and seams. Undercoating a project to act as a protective layer. Overcoating finished work to give it a high gloss shine. I've used it with paint mixed into it to create a tint. I use it to overcoat projects using sand and rock to keep everything in place on the project. I use it to overcoat clay before the clay dries to minimize cracking. I use it to diluted as a wash. I use it to keep paint on frames from getting chipped.

The company that makes it in recent years has also come out with a whole variety of variations. Pictured above is a high gloss version that comes out looking like glass and a dishwasher safe version for projects that may get wet. For even more protection they also have an outdoor version that protects and seals against the elements.

Now for the one drawback it has, its freaking expensive. A small 8 ounce bottle can run $6-$10 and a gallon in the store runs for about $45 dollars. I can be bought online though for substantially less. Thankfully a little goes a long way. Of course when your working on a canvas that is 8 feet wide like I do, nothing takes a small amount of anything!

I hope this info is helpful, I know its very basic. But when I first started working with glues I knew absolutely nothing and ruined more than a few projects thinking I'd gotten the right glue and finding out that it was absolutely the worst to use.

Happy Bonding,


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