Friday, February 5, 2016

The fat-over-lean rule

When I received my training in the late sixties at the Minerva Academy I got to paint with oils for the first time. I loved it from the very beginning. It's a fantastic material, with endless possibilities. No other paint, be it acrylics, water colors or alkyds, comes close to oils, as far as I'm concerned.

Reflection #3,
oil on panel,
15 x 45 cm
One of the things we learned was the fat-over-lean rule, which meant using terpentine (lean) in the bottom layer and oily media like linseed oil (fat) in the upper layers. This was to prevent dull spots in our paintings. Something to do with one layer absorbing oil from another layer, I don't know. Ofcourse I always had dull spots and had to apply retouching varnish to add medium to the spots.

Oil paint takes ages to dry. I found it hard to wait long enough before applying the next layer and I ruined more than one painting with my impatience. In the end I worked on several paintings at a time, just to give each one sufficient drying time. There was another solution, which meant adding a siccative to your medium, a substance that shortened drying time considerably. But in the long run, our teachers told us, this would have a catastrophic effect on the colors of our paintings. I don't know if that was true, I never put it to the test. I used to listen to my teachers...

With the new media (like Liquin) all these problems are over. The fat-over-lean rule doesn't apply anymore. Liquin is a petroleum distillate and not a fat, it's fat nor lean. On top of that it dries real quick. I don't have to work on more than one painting at a time anymore. Long live chemistry...

If you want to learn more about my painting technique, please go to

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