Thursday, June 25, 2015

Painting Questions

Got an email with a number of painting questions from David Barclay. David is a great still life painter. His paintings of musical instruments are really impressive. If you're interested:

Most of his work is in acrylics, but lately he started working in oils. He kindly gave me permission to quote some of his questions.

1. "What would you recommend regarding the series of the oil paints that I purchase?  I have no sense of how much difference there is between a series 1 and a top of the line series 8, so this is a real puzzle to me.  My guess is that it makes more of a difference for some colors than others, but don't know.  What improves as you go up the series "ladder?"
Problem is that manufacturers have different ways of dividing their paints. The only one I know that works with 'series' is  Royal Talens with their Rembrandt line. Series 1 are the whites, series 2 the yellows and so on. In this case it's not a matter of the higher the number the better the quality. My advice is to buy the earth colors, the flesh colors and the greens from a cheaper brand like for example Lukas. Their Lukas 1862 brand has an excellent price-quality rate. When you get to the warm colors it pays off to buy a more expensive brand, like Old Hollandt. Their paints are packed with pigment.

Reflections #2, oil on panel, 50 x 150 cm

2. From watching the videos, it appears to me that when you use W&N Liquin Original, your paintings dry overnight so that they can be worked on again the next day.  Is that right?
Yes. I used to work with traditional media. They took ages to dry. I was forced to work on two or three paintings at a time. Now I can continue working the same painting the next day. Much better.

3. "In your first video you used Liquin Original and in the second Liquin Light Gel.  Did I understand that you have basically switched to the Gel, or do you use them in different situations? Why?"
 Yes, I switched to the gel. For me it works better in getting smooth surfaces, especially with large paintings. I also like the gel better when it comes to glazing. The price is the same. You have to store it in the dark. It hardens under the influence of light.

4. "Do you use alkyd oil paints? Why or why not?
Yes, I have used alkyds. I found it harder to get the smooth transitions I want. Plus they smell funny... But that's personal. I know people who prefer alkyds over oils. One of the advantages is that you can apply a finishing varnish after a few monthts, where as with oils you'll have to wait at least a year.

Evening Breakers, oil on panel, 15 x 40 cm

5. "I noticed as I looked at some suppliers listings of oil paints that there are toxicity ratings that the state of California requires be listed for certain colors.   I could not help but think of your frequent use of your thumb.  Do you do anything to minimize this possible danger?  I would say that I am not an extremist on this front, but would prefer to err on the the side of safety.  (Our joke here is that there are certain chemicals that only cause cancer in California.  A bit of black humor!)"
Since the days my dad worked as a house painter, health hazards have been greatly diminished. Legislation in Europe as well as in the USA and other countries has become much stricter. It never entered my mind that my thumb technique could be a health hazard. Been doing it for over twenty years. I often wash my hands after using my thumb, but that's because my brushes get slippery if I don't.

So much for the Q and A. If you have questions like this, please feel free to ask them. On this blog or through my email:

Thursday, June 11, 2015

About brushes

Got an email from my good friend Marc, with a few questions about my tutorial videos. He kindly gave permission to quote him.

Lyon brush/stippler
"It seems to me that when you are doing your first layer of both sky and sea, you could be getting it done a lot quicker if you used a larger brush with big strokes. Instead you used a very small brush making little strokes coming from many directions  QUESTION: Why?"

I use a small brush to get more control over the transition from light to dark. It enables me to take small steps, slowly changing the color from light to dark. It makes the transition more gradual.

"It seems to me that you could blend all your colors together without the need for stippling. QUESTION: Why all the stippling?"  

The stippler is important to make the transitions as smooth as possible. Every time you add a slightly darker color you'll get a visible edge between the two shades. These edges are blurred by using the stippler. When you skip the stippler, and only use the badger hair fan brush, you'll get good results as well. With the stippler you'll get great results.

Do you have questions like this? I'd be happy to answer them if I can. Or you could download one of my tutorial video's at