How to–grounds

Most artists do not know how to prepare grounds for oil painting. I know this is true because none of my teachers were able to prepare acceptable grounds, and none of the commercially-prepared canvases that I’ve used have been acceptable. This is even true for vendors who claim the highest expertise. A bold statement maybe…

RGH vs Utrecht

A reader asks wether I prefer Utrecht flake white or RGH’s. To answer the question directly: I prefer Utrecht (barely). Utrecht covers better and has more body. To demonstrate this, I share a simple side-by-side comparison. (Note: I currently have some of RGH’s extra fine white. The extra-fine paint is ground in safflower oil, which…

Backslide

I know me. When I finish a painting, if I don’t put it away I’ll find something to fix or improve. Paintings never get finished that way. It’s the deepest and rabbit-ity of all rabbit holes. I finished this painting, Phone Call on Main Street, some time ago, but every time I look at it,…

Grounded

I don’t mind being grounded by the pandemic. After all, I already spend most of my time isolated in my studio working. But I’m not alone; I’m in constant contact with the world–the current one the past one. It’s not work either. Working on art nourishes and refreshes me. I do miss my weekly trip…

Retouch varnish

When you work on an oil painting over an extended period, colors sometimes become dull. The upper paint layers merge with an earlier layers. This process is called sinking in. If the problem isn’t corrected, it gets worse as the painting progresses. A final varnish can mitigate the bad effects of sinking in, but how…

Glowing lights

I have several themes in mind for today’s post. One theme is about varnish–intermediate varnish. An intermediate varnish is used to seal the surface and prevent subsequent paint layers from sinking into the earlier layers. This “sinking in” robs the colors of their light and life. Since I paint in layers, I use intermediate varnishes…

Those who live in glass houses…

…or use glass palettes. I get a lot of questions about my homemade palette. I’ve been using this palette for several years and by now it’s pretty beat-up. In fact, I attempted to replace it recently but the replacement’s glass cracked before I could use it. What is it? It was a glass-framed reproduction that…

Painting in the time of pandemic

We painters are lucky. We already self-isolate when we paint, so when the pandemic s**t hits the fan, we can continue painting and just carry-on as usual. Last week I ordered some oils from RGH, and today it was delivered to my porch. No delays; business as usual. This was a small order–a tube of…

Not all synthetic brushes are awful

I heap abuse on synthetic brushes. But some synthetics are not too bad–for oils. I haven’t found any synthetics that can replace sables for watercolor painting. Not even close. These synthetic rounds from Winsor and Newton are OK. Monarch brushes are made from “synthetic mongoose fibers,” whatever that might be. Winsor Newton claims that they…

Maulsticks

When my daughter was very young, with a very serious face she asked, “Daddy, why do you hold a big stick in your studio?” To a child, the most question-provoking thing about the studio was my homemade maulstick. You can see my maulstick in this photograph. It’s resting against a 40″ x 52″ painting (the…

Bristle brushes

Even though I sometimes disparage bristle brushes, I use them all the time. I use them for medium or broad passages–not for finer areas. Like most students, I was taught that real painters used bristles (‘hogs’), and the bigger the better. Of course, this only led to frustration on those times when I worked on…