preparation - Learn To Oil Paint With Darrell Crow

preparation - Learn To Oil Paint With Darrell Crow
Chapter 1
The Basic Techniques of Oils
Art Supplies
The Basic Techniques of Oils, Chapter 1
The Basic Techniques of Oils
Chapter 1: Preparing For Oil Painting
Preparing Yourself………………………………………………………………
The Workstation………………………………………………………………….
My Portable Workstation Setup…………………………………………..
Preserving Paint On Your Palette……………………………………….
Working With Old or Drying Paints……………………………………
What Brand of Paint Is Best?.........................................
Water Mixable Oil Paints……………………………………………………..
How Much Water Mixable Oils Can I Mix Into Oils/Acrylics..
What Does It Mean To Be Green…………………………………………
The Paint Colors I Use (Chart)……………………………………………
Paint Layout…………………………………………………………………………
Oil Painting Brushes & Knives…………………………………………… ..
The Forked Liner Brush Cure……………………………………………….
Water Miscible Oil Painting Brushes & Knives…………………….
Medium And Its Purpose………………………………………………………
Black, White & Gray Gesso…………………………………………………
Under-painting A Canvas With Gesso………………………………..
Under-painting A Flower Vase With Gesso………………………….
From Cave Walls To Canvas………….…………………………………...
Painting Accessories……………………………………………………………..
Protective Sprays For Painting……….…………………………………...
Cleaning Brushes………………………………………………………………….
Oval Setup For A Rectangular Canvas…………………...…………..
Transferring A Pattern To Canvas………………………………………..
Using Reference Materials……………………………………………………
Preparing Outside Wood Surfaces For Oil Painting……………..
What If I Can’t Finish A Painting In A Single Session………….
Keep Your Thinner Bucket Clean………………………………………….
Transferring A Portrait Drawing Or Pattern Onto Canvas……
What Age Is Best For Teaching Kids To Paint………………………
Art Supply Shopping List………………………………………………………
The Basic Techniques of Oils, Chapter 1
Preparing Yourself
"I know absolutely, positively, without a doubt that I cannot paint."
There is one basic concept that must be altered in order for this book to be of value. In order for this book to successfully guide you in learning to paint, you must first believe in yourself.
You must believe, without a doubt, that you can learn to paint.
I know this because back in 1991, I was you. I knew without a doubt that I had no artistic abilities whatsoever.
Nothing, nada, zilch. I even sweated drawing stick people.
I know that sounds like I'm over stating the facts, but the truth is I knew nothing about art. I knew what I couldn't
do. So I didn't even try what I knew I couldn't
The man who broke through my wall of disbelief is Jessie Martin, an artist in E. Freetown, MA.
At a flea market Jessie personally spent 45 minutes talking me into just TRYING. I simply did not believe in myself. I knew that I couldn't paint. I was rock solid in my disbelief. I had no faith in me.
I remember my disbelief!
I'd seen the fuzzy headed guy on TV now and then. Although I knew he was talented, I didn't believe him either
when he said he could teach me to .
Come on. We all know that one has to be born with talent in order to paint.
And many of you will believe me when I tell you that birth is long over with for most of us. And we were not born
with any talent for painting.
Throughout school my teachers reaffirmed this fact. They even told me there were people who had talent and people who could appreciate art. Fortunately, I was one of those who could appreciate art.
But Jessie said something to me that day I've never forgotten.
His words got through my thick-headed engineering mind.
First thing he said was signing one's name is an art form. We spend more time in school teaching people how to
write than how to paint. And anybody with enough practice can sign their name.
The second thing Jessie said that hit me like a ton of bricks was that learning the fundamentals of oil painting was
simply learning the techniques. He could teach me the techniques and all I had to do was simply practice, practice,
In fact he went on to explain that I could practice anything if "I mentally understood what I was doing". Jessie
made it clear he would help me to understand mentally the concept of the painting techniques.
It's all history now, but let me tell you.....I sat down with Jessie, took a class with a lot of disbelief, but still faith in
myself that I could learn technique.
I asked Jessie about having talent and he said talent was nothing more than techniques second natured.
I walked away differently from that lesson.
The difference, was that now I truly knew "I could paint". I'd learned so much from the first free lesson he gave me
to become convinced that I could oil paint." I now had tons of faith in me. With enough practice, I could turn technique into talent.
The Basic Techniques of Oils, Chapter 1
Today, I'm so amazed by all the people who tell me how talented I am. I owe it all to Jessie's comment, "Darrell,
anyone can paint, even you. Learn the techniques. Practice them until they are second nature and never quit practicing. When the techniques become second nature, than you'll be amazed at how the world opens up to you and
you literally will want to paint everything you see. You'll look at the world with different eyes. You'll be an artist."
Jessie was right.
That's why today I offer one of my full, 2-hour instructional oil painting video as an incentive for you to take that
first step. So that you can believe in yourself. No matter how matter how doubtful, sit down with
me for a couple of hours at and the experience will totally transform your concept, your belief in you. You will walk away with absolute faith that "Yes! You can oil paint."
My Very First Painting with Jessie Martin in a flea market in the summer of 1991. The four hours it
took me to paint this little seascape changed my belief factor in me and my whole way of life. YES! You
Can Paint.
The Basic Techniques of Oils, Chapter 1
In this chapter we’ll begin our study of the Basic Techniques of Oil Painting by reviewing the paint brushes,
paints, mediums and accessories you’ll need to acquire, how to set up your private art studio and some methods of
preparing the canvas to paint.
Our discussions on preparing to paint with Gesso is a bit advanced for you right now. We discuss how to underpaint landscapes and floral images on canvas with gesso as a preparation step for tackling a painting later. Just
review this material initially to gain an idea of the different avenues available in preparing a canvas. After you’ve
learned the techniques for water, trees, bushes, grass and rocks, return to those sections and practice the exercises
Just simply focus now on the supplies, setting up your art studio and the process of painting.
Let’s begin with the workstation.
The Basic Techniques of Oils, Chapter 1
Workstation Setup
I like setting up my workstation so I can always minimize the amount of time to begin
each painting session. I have two basic set-ups; With a Tabletop Easel, and with a
Standup Easel. It took me a long time to figure out what makes sense for the way that
I paint. And that’s the main thing you’re going to decide.
Do I have one spot in my house where I can go back to
paint or do I move my supplies from spot to spot?
I use one of three or four tabletop
easels here. Photos are in the Easel
section. The key to a great work area
is organization and comfort. Notice
the very comfortable chair. And make
sure you always have a lid on your
cleaning bucket whether you use baby
In this configuration, all of my accessories are set up on
the outer edges of the work table. I used to use an old
microwave cart to hold the paper palette, supplies and a
brush cleaning station. But now I use a rolling 5-drawer
toolbox with a flat top. I store the paints in one drawer,
brushes in another, accessories & mediums in the other
drawers. One full set of painting supplies is kept in a
this rolling toolbox for instant, daily use. This set up allows me to always be working with the same organization.
A beautiful accessory for your workstation area is an air
filtering system. I just went to the local hardware store,
explained the painting station I was setting up and
$125.00 later I had a good studio air filtering system.
I use four different table top easels as shown in the Easel section. The nice thing about
multiple easels is that I can put a different canvas on each easel and work on four different
painting projects simultaneously. I just pick up the easel with the painting project that I’d
like to work on that day (or hour). When I’m done, I just exchange the easel with a new
project. The wet canvas is out of the way and drying until I’m again ready for it.
I like to practice daily. So one of my easels always contains the practice session. Each
morning, all I have to do is put the practice easel onto the table top, paint for 5-15
minutes and set it aside until the next morning. I must confess that sometimes I get so
involved in my painting and before I know it, 2 or 3 hours have slipped by.
With a standup easel I set it up next to the work table along with my brush cleaning bucket and a trash can as shown below.
The Basic Techniques of Oils, Chapter 1
My Portable
Workstation Setup
I’ve found one of the best workstation setups is using a wheel-a-round
tool box.
The top serves as a painting platform for the palette and other supplies
like medium and cleansers. I’ve placed a folded paper towel to temporarily store wet paint brushes while I’m working.
A trash can with liner is to the right of the tool box and I place dry, partially finished paintings to the left. The masking tape dispenser is a
prized possession and located for immediate access.
I selected a wheel-a-round tool box so I could easily move the one set-up
to any of my easel workstations
I’ve organized the 5 drawers below as follows:
Soft Brushes
Bristle Brushes
Mediums and Liquid Accessories
Dry Accessories.
Spring Dream, an original painting by Darrell was the outgrowth of fooling around with some students after a class in 1998. The students listed
all of the elements in a painting, location and essentially challenged me
to paint this new composition .
Once you know the fundamentals, you can concentrate on composition.
The Basic Techniques of Oils, Chapter 1
On chart 1-1, you’ll find the list of paints I use.
I lay all of my paints onto palette paper when I’m painting in the studio. Out in the field, or in the classroom, I’ll
use a wooden palette because its such a versatile carrier/holder of paints. And they clean easy with Baby
Wipes or similar products.
This is my setup for the paints
I use. In the studio, I use paper palettes. They’re available in pads and have many
different sizes. While on location or teaching a class I’ll use
a wooden or acrylic palette.
When putting the colors onto
the palette press down on a
corner of the paint pile to
force it to stick to the palette.
This prevents the colors from
sliding off the palette.
Palette paper has a shiny surface on one side to hold
paints. The size I use is 12”16” pad. This size is appropriate, because I use big brushes. You can just imagine
how much space is required in order to mix paint with
these large brushes.
How do I preserve unused paint if I
am unable to finish painting?
One procedure I would en1.
IF you’re not finished with
courage you to follow religiousyour painting and believe
ly is getting in the habit of putyou’ll be back the next day,
ting your paints down on the
than cover the palette with
palette in a specific location. If
Saran Wrap. Just peel it off
you’re doing portraits a lot, put
when you’re ready to paint
them down in a way that
makes sense for painting portraits. If you’re putting them
2. You could put a paper paldown for florals, than in a way
ette into a ‘sta-wet’ container
that makes sense to paint flow(designed to keep acrylics
ers. The same is true of tall
wet overnight) when you
ships, landscapes, seascapes
paint and then when you’re
and any genre you like to
done for the day, seal up the
air tight container.
When painting landscapes, its
best to use thick, very firm
paint. So choose your brand
name wisely. I chose one of
the more popular brand
names. You will learn to adapt
your painting style to whichever brand names that are out
there in the marketplace.
One tool I use regularly is the
“Tube Wringer.” Available in
either plastic or metal, I’ve opted for two heavy duty metal
wringers. I believe I bought
these from Dick Blick’s on-line
store. This will save you countless time and frustration in
squeezing out the last bit of
paint from your tubes before
declaring that tube empty.
The Basic Techniques of Oils, Chapter 1
IF you’re done with the painting
and simply want to save your
paints, put each color into a separate sandwich bag. Squeeze
out all of the air and rubber band
seal it good. You can even store
the bags in the refrigerator until
you’re ready to use. To use,
simply poke a small hole into the
bag and squeeze out the paint.
Now does brand name really
make a difference?
If you’re a manufacturer, your answer is “Yes.”
If you’re a student, the answer is, “It depends…” We
explain this in the next couple of pages.
The one thing that I found to be extremely critical is the
white paint that you choose. Some manufacturers are
very specific in having a very thick white paint. You
may need to go to some sort of a zinc white. I like using
the Titanium White manufactured by the Martin F. Weber Company, that is very thick.
When I lay out white paint, I always place 3 piles of paint on the palette.. And the reason is TQ can
become contaminated quite easily. With three separate piles of white paint, I generally ensure I’m always able to have pure white paint that’s clean, when I need it. So if I have three separate piles, at
least two-thirds of my paint will always be white, and the other third could become contaminated because it’s so easy as white is one of the most mixed colors on the palette. A slightly dirty brush or palette knife will contaminate TW. The recommended practice is to always use a clean palette knife when
grabbing some TW for mixing. Dirty contaminates and wiping the knife prior to each use ensures purity.
Preserving Paint On Your Palette
When the day’s painting session is over, wouldn’t you like to preserve the paints on your palette? I hate losing
paint as it is so expensive. Here are a couple of suggestions that should help you immensely ...
For oils, I recommend two or three approaches.
1) If you’re only leaving for a few hours or one day at the most, place your palette into a very large zip lock bag.
2) 2) If you’re leaving for a larger period of time, wrap your palette in cling or another clear plastic food wrap.
This will preserve the paints for 2-3 days.
3) 3) If you’re done with the painting and not sure when you’ll be using that color or that mix again, use air tight
sandwich bags. Place paints into the sandwich bags and seal. If you have one of those vacuum sealers, that
works as well. When you go to use the paint again, simply take a needle and poke it into the bag and squeeze
out the paint you need. When done, reseal the hole by covering it with masking or scotch tape.
For Acrylics, I recommend that you use a wet palette system. There’s a product on the market called Sta-Wet palette. It’s essentially a 12×16″ plastic box that has an airtight lid you can put on it. The trick is always getting the
lid off.
Remove the lid from the Sta-Wet tray and place a piece of double strength glass on the bottom that fits the tray.
Fold paper towels in long strips of no more than 2″ wide. Soak the towels in water and place them saturated with
water along the outside edge of two sides of the tray on top of the glass. Place your acrylic paints on top of the wet
The Basic Techniques of Oils, Chapter 1
Working With Old Or Drying Paints
This is a problem generally caused by one of the following:
(1) Your paint is drying out, or
(2) there’s insufficient oil in the tube to push out the soft oil paint.
If the oil within your paint is drying out, then after you squeeze some out onto your palette, simply take a mixture of 50% turp and 50% linseed oil and with a palette knife work it into your paints. Use a small amount to
begin with and gradually add more until the paint is at the consistency you like.
Without getting into a lot of detailed explanations, there’s two kinds of oils in a tube of oil paint. There’s the
oil mixed into the paints which keeps it nice and soft. Then there’s the oil that is used to line the tube to help
‘push’ out the oil paint when pressure is applied to the tube itself with your fingers. This oil will not mix with
the oil paint. I’ll just call it tube oil for right now.
If your tube oil is dry and you cannot get the paint out of the tube, then you’ve got to cut the tube open and
transfer your paint to several small freezer bags. The smaller, the better. Seal them tight making sure you get
all of the air out. If you have a vacuum sealer that’s even better. Key is small bags or vacuum pouches. When
you need the color, take a small bag and poke a hole into it with a pin, squeeze out what you need and cover
the hole up with packing tape.
Dream Cabin by Darrell. This is an early painting Darrell has taught in hundreds of classes.
The Basic Techniques of Oils, Chapter 1
What Brand Of Paint Is Best?
Students who are learning to paint should use a student grade paint, or a TV Artist brand named line of paints. But
my top suggestion is for students to use the same brand their instructors are using so you can learn color and the
mixing of color.
There are typically two types of oil paints, student grade and artist grade. The first clue as to which you have is the
amount of money you’re paying for your paints. Professional grade or artist grade is more expensive than student
grade. And most manufacturers list on their websites which of their products are student grade and which are artist
Student grade is less expensive as it is ideal for teaching people how to paint. Student grade quality level varies by
manufacturer. In some cases, fillers may be used that compromise the permanence of the resulting paintings and
less pigment is used per tube than in artist quality paint.
The effect is you use more paint to achieve color mixing. With less pigment and more filler, than mixing any specific color will take considerably more paint to achieve than with artist quality paints.
Another consideration is the brushes you’re using. If you’re using big brushes like I do for my landscapes, than I
prefer to use all student quality paints. I’m using a lot of paint anyway, so long as I use all student grade I should
be fine. Since I make up for the lack of pigment and over-use of fillers by using more paint. Even though I’m using
more paint, its still less expensive than artist-grade for the style I’m using. And in a way, its conservative.
Be careful when using TV artist brands. Most of them are student grade, but priced at or just under artist grade.
Generally, you can achieve the same results with generic brands.
Most TV Artists have certification programs which typically means that they have certified instructors to teach
their “STYLE” but only when using their products. So if your instructor is adamant about certain such brands,
chances are they’re bound to a certification/trademark agreement. There’s nothing wrong with this agreement, its
just a fact of life.
When first learning to paint, any brand will work for you, TV Artist brand, student grade, artist grade. The important thing is painting. Painting everyday. As you gain experience, you’ll gain preferences. So its also important
to experiment as well once you’ve gained some proficiency. Then you’ll see what grades you like and what brands
you prefer.
Often we’ll see paints labeled as “hue”. This is a tube of student grade paints using less expensive substitute pigments. For example, its not uncommon to see a tube of paint labeled “Cadmium Yellow Light Hue.” This is essentially the same color as cadmium yellow light but contains a less expensive substitute for the more expensive cadmium yellow pigment. Just because a pigment is less expensive does not mean it is inferior. As long as you are
aware of its behavior, you should be perfectly happy with what you purchased.
Artist grade paints are rich in pigments, have well behaved and predictable properties and you use considerably
less paint to achieve your desired color. Whereas their price tag is staggering when purchasing your first full set,
the replacement costs for paints is quite modest when purchasing single tubes.
I was at a local art supply store the other day and bumped into a professional artist. He had four or five tubes of
Winsor-Newton Winsor brand paints. I told him I was surprised to see him holding student grade. He said he sells
his works just fine with this level of paint, and he was quite happy with the results.
That’s the answer…..what makes you happy?. What works for you? That’s the brand you should use. Most of my
paintings in oils are student grade paintings. And yes, I know the probability of my paintings yellowing after 100
years is probably pretty good. But, I’m going to enjoy them that the first 100 years.
If your preference is the least expensive, than student grade will do that quite nicely for you.
The Basic Techniques of Oils, Chapter 1
Water Mixable Oil Paints
About two years ago, I introduced a 4-DVD series on the brand new, green series of paints, WOils from Martin F. Weber. This new series of
paints is planet-safe. Manufacturers claim three
primary benefits for those of you who are converting the products we consume to being environmentally safe.
1. The materials used in the manufacture of the
paints and mediums are non-toxic, nonhazardous, and safe for our planet.
2. The water-mixable solvents and mediums
used with the paints are also non-toxic, nonhazardous, and safe for our planet.
3. The materials used to clean the paints out of
the brushes are non-toxic, non-hazardous,
and safe for our planet.
Green has a very definite meaning and as artists
and students, its great to have choices.
I love this particular brand of water mixable oils.
I can get all of the colors I need. They’re green
and quite earth-friendly. Their use is simple and I
can easily mix with oils and acrylics.
Unfortunately, these choices mean we have to
alter our approach in painting. But rather than
being an incontinence, its actually fun.
I had so much fun using the Water Mixable Oils…….and the one thing
the Martin F. Weber company did that I believe is one of their biggest
benefits. We can make the transition from whatever oils or acrylics
we’re currently using to W-Oils as our older supplies deplete.
There are several optional choices
with water-soluble oil paints.
These paints are water miscible -not water-based. This simply
means you treat them just like you
would traditional oils. With one
exception, that is. Instead of using
mediums, thinners or solvents,
you use water or a water-soluble
medium. They behave virtually
the same as traditional oils
What this means is we can avoid a
huge upfront transfer cost. As our
acrylic or traditional oil paints are depleted, we can replenish them with
Water soluble oils.
The water-mixable oils are great for
plein-aire painting and for those who
live in apartments or confined quarters
with little ventilation.
Brush clean up is simple, use water. And best of all, water soluble
oils do not stain your hands.
I really enjoy going on location because I only need the paints and water.
No real fuss or clean-up mess.
Water soluble oils dry faster than
traditional oils.
We do have to purchase special linseed
Blending colors remain unchanged.
You’ll be able to lightly spray
your oil paintings with a fine mist
spray to enhance blending, much
like we do today with acrylic.
I’ve had no problems finding the colors I used as listed in our Paint Chart. All of
the major paint manufacturers are introducing new colors each year. And in the
near distant future we’ll probably see television artists select Water-Mixable Oils
over traditional oils for their weekly art shows. The painting techniques and tools
learned with traditional oils are transferrable to water soluble oils.
The Basic Techniques of Oils, Chapter 1
I’d explored the use of acrylics and water-based oils to find something for me which would paint exactly
like traditional oils but without the problems that affect people with respiratory ailments.
You see, I was on the verge of respiratory problems a few years ago, but that’s all behind me now.
As I was researching, I found that many of my students lived in apartments, rooms, and motor homes
where ventilation is not that good. So I had a dual purpose in looking for a good substitute.
Water-based oils, or rather water-soluble oils, or water-mixable oils work very well with my painting technique.
In fact, there is no real difference, aside from the mediums. I put together a couple of DVDs to illustrate
just how easy it was to adapt my techniques to the Basic Techniques and to painting flowers.
What you primarily learn from my videos is the use of new mediums. And clean-up is much easier. I
just absolutely love, love, love this medium.
When I travel, this is the set of paints I like to carry with me.
When I go plein-aire painting in my own territory, these are the paints I take along. The traditional oils
are a lot messier for outdoor use. The water mixable oils, travel well.
About the mediums. There are mediums prepared especially for water-mixable oils and then, of course,
one can use plain old water. I’ve used both extensively and have found that I like the water and the
modified linseed oil from the Martin F. Weber company.
The mediums and paints have worked superbly for landscapes, seascapes, florals, tall ships, wildlife,
portraits and just about everything I’ve tackled..
I have not found any commercially available medium white on the market. However, you can easily mix
your own. Mix the water with a bit of white paint and then spread it over the canvas and paint as one
would normally with traditional oils. Be careful not to use too much water.
Recently, I’ve simply been wetting the canvas with water, then mixing the exact sky color I wanted,
painting it on the canvas, and so forth. Essentially putting the medium into the paints and not so much
on the canvas. Both techniques work well, so its simply a little matter of your preference in working with
But for you, simply apply the water to the canvas mixed with a little white paint and you’ll have amazing
I actually like a brand of acrylics from an Australian company, Chroma. They make a brand of acrylics
called Atelier and their acrylic mediums is second to none.. Great stuff. My advice is to learn to paint
with the water-mixable oils and once you’re proficient and happy with the results, start playing around
with acrylics. The name of the game is always …. Practice, practice, practice.
Once you learn to paint with oils, you’re essentially learning to paint with acrylics. The skills and techniques are very, very transferable.
The Basic Techniques of Oils, Chapter 1
Summer Love, a Water Mixable Oil painting by Darrell,
The Basic Techniques of Oils, Chapter 1
How Much Water Mixable Oils Can I Mix Into
Either Oils or Acrylics?
Common Questions I generally receive on water mixable oils include ...
Can I use Medium White with W-Oils? And still stay green?
How much other paints can I use with my Water Mixable Oils
How should I clean my brushes? Can I still use Baby Oil?
I would not use Medium White, Clear or Black or any other traditional oil painting mediums with water mixable
oils. Here’s why.
Each of these mediums are designed to mix with traditional oils. They’re not able to mix with water. Mediums for water soluble paints have been chemically modified by the manufacturer so that the linseed oil and
medium will mix with oil paints.
Your brushes can be used for either water-based paints, or oil-based paints. If you’re using your brushes for w
-oils then they will reject mixing well with the solvents of traditional oil painting mediums. Your performance
will suffer as well as the cleaning of your brushes.
In general, manufacturers are suggesting you mix no more than 50% of traditional oils or acrylics with woils. Sometimes, I’ll use 100% of one color, but it will generally be less than 50% of what my final mixture
is. For example, I recently ran out of Indian Yellow (IY). So I grabbed my IY from my traditional oil paints and
laid a dollop on my pallet. As I mixed different greens, I would add IY as I saw fit.
Do not use Baby Oil to clean your w-oil brushes. Baby Oil does not mix well with water and by cleaning your woil based brushes in Baby Oil your brushes will bead and cause difficulties in future paintings with water mixable
oils. Clean your w-oil brushes in water, use the pink soap if you’d like, etc… Be sure to wrap your 2 1/2″, 2″ and
1″ brushes in either a paper towel or saran wrap to keep the shape of the brush intact. Refer to our section on
cleaning brushes for a detailed explanation of this process.
Butterfly by Darrell
Originally composed by Darrell
using oil paints, Darrell has redone
the painting in water-mixable oils.
Students love the transferrable techniques of learning to paint with oils
which allows one to be as equally
proficient with water mixable oils.
Darrell has put together a complete
series of the Basic Techniques of
Painting With Water Mixable Oils.
Water Soluble paints are great for
students living in close quarters and
those who have low tolerances or
allergies to traditional oils.
The Basic Techniques of Oils, Chapter 1
What Does It Mean To Be Green
To be green means being a good environmental steward of our planet. This typically involves three elements:
1. The materials used in the manufacture of the paints and mediums are biodegradable, non-toxic, nonhazardous, and safe for our planet.
2. The solvents and mediums used work with the paints are non-toxic, non-hazardous, and safe for our planet.
3. The materials used to clean the paints out of the brushes are non-toxic, non-hazardous, and safe for our planet.
There is a growing movement of environmentally conscious and well-informed artists and consumers who are
thinking about their finances, managing their money and making choices for the future in a new way that impacts
the earth we live in. They are making choices based on whether or not products and services are earth-friendly,
ethically-produced and made, recyclable and energy-efficient.
But “what exactly does it mean to go green” for the average artist or the average person? What can we do today,
right now that’s practical, affordable and economically sustainable. Especially in light of the current economic
downturn? We can’t instantly replace everything we own with Planet-Safe Green products today.
Artists and students of art have always commented on the world around us throughout the ages through the art they
create and through public forums. We, too, can make a difference in how we produce our art.
To “go green” means we’ve made a big decision to stop doing and consuming products that are harmful to Earth
right now, and to start making decisions to learn how to modify our behavior and purchase products that will enhance the life of our planet.
In other words, “going green” is the conscious decision to take care of where we live.
This involves looking for Planet-Safe behaviors and products.
1. We make decisions that result in more environmentally friendly behaviors over those that are less environmentally friendly
2. Shopping for products that gradually replace a few things you purchase on a regular basis, with green products
that preserve our environment.
Going green is then a process which means achieving the goal of an environmentally friendly relationship with our
planet through small steps one at a time. I cover the use of water mixable oils to help those who have made the
“green” decision.
The Basic Techniques of Oils, Chapter 1
The Paint Colors I Use
Alizarin Crimson
Burnt Sienna
Burnt Umber
Cadmium Red Light
Cadmium Yellow Light
French Ultramarine Blue
Indian Yellow
Ivory Black
Paynes Gray
Permanent Violet
Prussian Blue
Pthalo Blue
Pthalo Green
Raw Sienna
Raw Umber
Sap Green
Titantium White
Yellow Ochre
The Basic Techniques of Oils, Chapter 1
Wildlife, Pets, Portraits
Tall Ships
Basic Techniques
Paints (Oils, Acrylics or Water Miscible)
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Paint Layout
Across The Top
Sap Green
Alizarin Crimson
Burnt Umber
Burnt Sienna
Ivory Black
Prussian Blue
Pthalo Blue
Pthalo Green
Paynes Gray
Titanium White
Right Bottom
Cad Yellow Light
Yellow Ochre
Indian Yellow
Cad Red Light
Across The Top
Alizarin Crimson
Cad Red Light
Cad Orange
Yellow Ochre
Cad Yellow Light
Titanium White
Down Left Side
Burnt Umber
Burnt Sienna
Sap Green
French Ultramarine
Ivory Black
I’ll often use other
of my colors, but the
ones listed above are
always used in flowers.
The Basic Techniques of Oils, Chapter 1
Oil Painting Brushes & Knives
It seems artists are always ending up being ‘paint junkies’ or ‘brush bunnies.’
I’m always in search of the perfect brush. It really doesn’t exist, but I’m constantly searching for brushes that will
help me to accomplish a tricky task or make difficult painting subjects easier to paint.
Its not a search in vain. I’ve been fortunate twice now in finding a great brush for painting animal fur as well as a
brush for helping in wildlife, pets and portraits.
Below I’m going to review each brush I’m using for oil painting and for water-mixable oil painting. My objective
is not to suggest a particular brand of brush, but what brush to use and why I use it.
First, two cautions.
#1. Always make sure you clean you brushes properly either
when you no longer need the brush in a painting, or when the
painting session is over. Waiting even just a little bit is bad.
You run the risk of being two tired, or worst yet, the brush drying and of no further use.
#2 Learn to load your brush properly with paint.
Many, many beginning to paint problems are a direct result of
either #1 or #2 above.
I only use a few brushes. Therefore I can store
the brushes in a travel carrier that also serves as
a brush caddy when I’m painting on location or
teaching a class. This is a great bonus as it
means whether on location, in the classroom, or
my studio, I always have all my brushes.
Right now, resolve to never leave your painting station without
all of your brush being clean and conditioned. We’ll talk about
the proper cleaning techniques later in this chapter, but for
now, resolve you will not complete painting for the day without
cleaning all dirty brushes.
I use this size brush from 2 different manufacturers.
The brush is made with natural horse hair and is
used for applying to bare canvas and for blocking in
huge areas like sky or lakes, etc…
Although this brush looks like you’ve come to paint
the barn it’s a great instrument for highlighting and
detail work.
I use this size brush from 2 different manufacturers.
The brush is made with natural horse hair and is
used for bushes, trees, grass, foothills and much,
much more
The 1” brush is quite similar to the 2” brush but
allows greater versatility in painting details and
The Basic Techniques of Oils,different
Chapter 1objects
Tree Brush (Black Handled Oval & Mop)
I’ll highlight bushes and trees easily with these.
Load the brush at a 45 degree angle and pull the
brush through the paint toward you. Once satisfied,
than (while still at the 45 degree angle slide the
brush forward to load up a slim bead of paint.
The brush is made with natural horse hair and
Great for blocking or detail work.
Soft Blending Brush (Hake)
Soft, soft clouds. That’s my first reaction when I
see the Blender Brush. Either of these brushes work
#3 & #6 Bristle Fan Brushes
I use this size brush from 2 different manufacturers.
The brush is made with natural bristle hair and has
an infinite number of uses. I use it for details, general painting and blending.
It’s especially suited for landscapes and seascapes.
#2 Script Liner Brush
I use this brush whenever I need lines such as tree
branches, twigs, bush stems, tall ship rigging, hair,
fur, and signature.
The brush is made with sable and is loaded by thinning the paint with medium or thinner to the consistency of ink and applying to canvas
#6 Filbert Bristle Brush
A Work horse for painting trees, waves within a
seascapes as well as rocks and boulders.
Also useful for the under-painting step for wildlife,
pets and portraits
The Basic Techniques of Oils, Chapter 1
Scrubber Brushes (#2, #4, #6 Bristle Flats)
One can almost paint entire paintings with these
three brushes.
I use for mountains, rocks, boulders, cabins and
other buildings, lighthouses, foam patterns for the
sea, portraits, pets, wildlife and tall ships.
They’re so inexpensive, I use them to really scrub in
color to the canvas.
Paint Eraser
Known by many names, this paint eraser will allow
you to lift paint off of a canvas so you can correct a
section that’s unsatisfactory. Notice the flat, angled
edge on the top. This rubber edge will let you
scrape paint to the bare canvas, if desired. The opposite end has a point which is great for drawing in
wet paint so that either the underneath color or canvas will appear through giving the illusion of a line.
Great for signing your painting as well.
#5 Palette Knife
I love this knife for painting fencing, pylons, small
cabins and small boulders and rocks.
There are two different #5 palette knives I enjoy.
One has a rounded edge and the other has a sharp
corner angle instead. Both are equally useful in
painting and also function well to mix paint.
#10 Palette Knife
This knife is the best I’ve ever used in painting
mountains, trees, rocks, boulders and buildings.
The biggest trick is knowing when to apply pressure
and when to apply no pressure whatsoever.
It was also the hardest painting instrument for me to
learn, but it proved to be the best instrument to use
after paying my dues.
5/8” & 3/4” Badger Filbert Brush
Used predominantly for painting floral leaves, daisies, sunflowers, wildflowers, tall ship sails... One
must really concentrate on the amount of pressure
applied when using this brush as well as the amount
of medium mixed into paints. Just think of 4 consistencies with 4 different pressure levels. Soup,
Cream, a drop, and no medium.
The Basic Techniques of Oils, Chapter 1
#2 Badger Round Brush
This brush is super for painting sticks, twigs and
wiggly things in floral composition. It also can be
used to paint small buds.
In wildlife, pets and portrait paintings, I use this
brush to paint different portions of the face during
the color phase. I use it to underscore face lines,
ears, nose and eyes.
Mixing Knife
Known by many names, this knife is used for mixing paint.
Its thin, very long and easy to mix paints by combining two or colors together. Can also be used to
mix a 3” trail of color. Mix 2 colors together in a 2”
long strip. Than at different points along the trail
add more of one color so you can spot the color
you’re looking to mix.
Mahl Stick (Presentation Pointer)
I chose to make a Mahl stick out of an ordinary collapsible presentation pointer. ($2.00—$3.00) Easy
to use, just carry around with your brushes and
whenever you need a long stick to rest your hand on
as you paint, grab the presentation pointer. Extend
it and rest your hand as you paint.
Storing Your Brushes
After cleaning my brushes thoroughly with Baby Oil (or odorless thinner or
OMS), I will dip each brush into baby oil and gently (that’s GENTLY) slide the
brush through my forefinger and thumb to remove excess oil. Then I store them
in a flat container until the next time I’m ready to use me. I store my brushes
like this if I believe it will be three days or more before I use them again.
The Basic Techniques of Oils, Chapter 1
The Forked Liner Brush Cure
Liner brushes come in all sizes. Often called script liners, I’ve seen them from size 4 down to 3, 2, 1, 0, 00,
000, …. ten zeros. They also come in different lengths as well. A script liner is longer than a liner brush,
which is longer than a round brush. So what size should we be using?
That depends upon you more than anything………….and the condition of your brush.
I use a #2 script liner which is a fine, fine brush perfect for just about any kind of detailed work PROVIDED we adhere to three basic practices.
1. Keep the brush clean. I use scr ipt liner s that ar e typically made of sable hair s. After each use, I
carefully clean my brush with either Orange pumice cleaner or the Chroma brush cleaner. I’ve used several
brands of brush cleaner with equal success. By gently massaging the brush with the cleaning solution between your thumb and forefinger, you’ll work out all of the paint deposits, solvents and chemicals that have
accumulated in the hairs and under the metal ferrule binding the brush hairs. Once thoroughly clean, I rinse
out the cleaning solution using baby oil and lightly dry with a paper towel As I dry, I reform the brush tip
so the brush will dry coming to a perfect point.
2. Develop a light, light touch. To be able to paint fine detail, you’ve got to develop a light touch. A
hard touch forces a lot of paint off the brush onto the canvas in a very short amount of time. This generally
results in lines that are much, much thicker than we’d like. Our first inclination is to get a thinner brush to
compensate. Try developing a lighter touch. Heck, I don’t care if I make straight lines, I just want very,
very thin crooked lines.
3. Use a large quantity of thinner or medium. When using a liner br ush you want your paint mixture to be as thin as ink. Otherwise, the paint will not transfer from your brush to the canvas without pressure. So if you do not see a line when you glaze over your painting surface and have to apply more pressure, add more medium or thinner to the paint. When loading the brush to be paint, begin with a clean dry
brush and roll just the tip of the hairs in the paint. Then go to the canvas.
4. Finally, if you find your liner brush separates at the metal ferrule and will not come to a point, you’ve
got a couple of options. Clean the brush. The reason the hairs are separating is that there is dried paint
inside of the metal ferrule that is forcing the hairs to spread out. Winsor Newton makes an excellent
‘soaking’ brush cleaner. Leave your liner brush soaking in this solution for 1 to 2 hours and re-clean as
directed in step #1. If this fails, than load lots of paint into the liner brush to force the hairs to a point. It’s
almost like caulking, if you will. Then you can load your brush as described in step #3.
The Basic Techniques of Oils, Chapter 1
Water Mixable Oil Brushes &
When you look closely at the set of
brushes I use for Water Mixable
Oils, I can just hear your comment.
“It doesn’t look any different than
the oil painting brushes!”
That’s true.
Except, they’re dedicated to the
Water-based oils.
Do not use these brushes one day
with W-Oils and then try to use
them the next with traditional oils.
The results are dismal. Use one
set exclusively for oils and one set
exclusively for water mixable oils.
Storage of the brushes are different as well. Water has a tendency
cause the larger brushes to lose their shape as the hairs seem to get a
major case of the frizzes. (hair pointing every which direction) To
prevent brush hair frizzes, I strongly recommend that you wrap the
bristles in a paper towel or something like saran wrap. I use the
saran wrap if I suspect it will be a while before I use the brush
again. If I believe I’ll be using the brush within a week I wrap the
brush bristle area with a paper towel. This really helps retrain their
original shape.
The Basic Techniques of Oils, Chapter 1
Medium And Its Purpose
Medium is a liquid substance we use in
paintings to make it easier to spread paints
onto the dry canvas and to assist us in the
blending of color onto the canvas.
For oil paints, mediums are typically a
mixture of 1 part linseed oil and 5 parts of
odorless turpentine.
For acrylics, this is water or a special
‘acrylic medium.’
These are the mediums I use for all of my oil paintings.
They include for landscapes and seascapes, medium white, black
and clear. They’re available throughout the USA and many other
countries. If you have any difficulties finding these products contact the websites for the Alexander Company, or the Martin F.
Weber company to see if there are distributors in your area. You
could also contact a local Alexander® or Bob Ross® certified
For all other types of painting projects I like using the Lean Oil
Painting Medium from Chroma®.
When mixing your own medium, use less linseed oil to produce a leaner medium.
My standard formula is 1 part linseed oil and 5 parts of
odorless turpentine. This is the fattest medium you should
ever use. Never use over 25% linseed oil, or it will take
many forevers to dry. Lean is less and less linseed oil.
Winsor Newton Glazing medium is pretty lean and its frequently mixed with other materials to make it fatter for projects like wildlife or portraits after the painting has been
The Medium White, Clear and Black are very fat as they
keep paintings wet for days.
The general rule I use is that most oil painting mediums are
fat unless specifically market as “Lean” or “fast drying.”
For water-soluble oils, this is water or a
special ‘water-soluble’ medium, such as a
modified linseed oil. Modified means that
the chemical composition of linseed oil has
been modified to allow it to mix with water
rather than oil.
Medium with color, i.e. white, black or
clear mediums, are specifically formulated
to keep the paints wet for a long time so
students and artists can finish a painting in
a single session. These are known as ‘fat
Mediums are classified as either fat or
lean. Fat means they extend the period of
time for a painting to dry. Lean means
they shorten the period of time for a painting to dry.
Whereas the common thought is that weton-wet, or wet-in-wet by definition means
a painting must be finished in a single sitting, this is not necessarily correct.
Wet-on-wet, is simply a matter of layering
paint on top of paint while its still wet. So
wet-on-wet isn’t necessarily restricted to
oils. Newer acrylics will allow this to happen as well. Choose your supplies wisely.
Mediums have a few jobs, the most common one is allowing paints to flow smoothly onto the painting surface
(canvas). If you’ve ever tried to just take oil or acrylics and apply directly to the canvas, you’ll understand what I
The Basic Techniques of Oils, Chapter 1
In general, medium’s purposes include:
My medium Mix is 1 part
linseed oil and 5 parts of
odorless turpentine.
Be sure to thoroughly mix
your medium after mixing. I always mix up a
month’s supply at once.
Allow paints to flow smoothly onto the canvas
Keeping the canvas wet
Facilitate the blending of colors
When tinted with color, will permeate this color throughout
the entire canvas
Allowing the paints to dry either shinny, dull, flat, glossy,
Build structure or relief with paints
Allow faster drying i.e. Archival Lean Medium
The two primary purposes are to allow the paint to flow smoothly onto the canvas and to keep the canvas wet during the immediate painting session to facilitate layering of paints on top of
each other and the blending of color..
There are two types of mediums ‘fat’ and ‘lean’. Fat keeps the
canvas and oils wet longer. Lean hasten the drying time.
In preparing my own
medium I’ll use 25% linseed oil and 75% OMS
(odorless mineral spirits).
In florals I use 4 different
1. No medium.
2. One Drop of medium
The following have become my favorite mediums.
For fast drying mediums,
you could add 2 drops of
Japan Dryer or Cobalt
Landscapes & Seascapes: Medium White, Clear and Black
All other oil paintings: Chroma ‘Lean’ Medium
Water-Soluble Oils: Water
Acrylics: Chroma Atelier Clear Painting Medium, Chroma
Atelier Binder Medium (Used to prepare the surface) and
the Martin F. Weber company’s Modified Linseed Oil.
3. Creamy consistency is
a few drops and paint
loaded onto 1/4” onto the
Now one of the biggest questions I consistently receive from my
international students is how they can order these mediums because of their local art stores not carrying these supplies. If you
have any difficulties finding these products contact the websites
for the Alexander Company, or the Martin F. Weber company to
see if there are distributors in your area. You could also contact
a local Alexander® or Bob Ross® certified instructor.
Or you could mix your own
I love the Chroma Archival Lean Oil Painting
Medium as it by passes
all the mixing.
The Basic Techniques of Oils, Chapter 1
4. Soup consistency thins
the paint considerably
and the brush instantly
loads fully.
Darrell’s Oil Painting Formulas:
Medium (fat)
In preparing my own
medium white I’ll add a
little paint color of my
choice to my medium..
25% linseed oil, or boiled linseed oil, 75% odorless turpentine.
This is the proper amount
of Medium White, Clear
or Black to put on brush.
Medium (lean)
1 part linseed oil, 5 parts of odorless turpentine
Now if you’d like a white, or black or name your own color medium, simply add a very small amount of the desired
paint color to your medium and this’ll assist you in getting
a medium that’ll make you happy .
When should you use medium white or black or ‘Name
Your Own Color?’
Always test consistency.
Mix thin enough so that
two drops will quickly fall
off the brush handle.
It depends upon the blending effect you want with your
First, let’s understand the wet-on-wet technique.
When we layer Magic White onto a canvas, the white color will blend any paints placed on top lighter. The colors
are brighter and more vibrant. Each layer mixes with the
medium and becomes ‘thinner’. The medium works its
way to many of the layers on top. And as we layer paint
on top of paint on top of paint, the layers essentially becomes thicker and the medium is dispersed through more
paint thus becoming ‘leaner’. That’s why when we highlight, we add more medium. We want a thin paint
(highlight) to stick to a thick paint (under-painting).
Add more medium and
mix thoroughly if mixture
is too thick after testing.
To prove this, have you ever noticed how your trees and
bushes will dry faster than say your sky in the center of a
painting? This is because the medium only mixed with
one color, one layer of paint (sky color) and essentially
stayed ‘fat.’ The trees and bushes had several layers of
paints and thus the paints became ‘lean.’ Lean dries much
faster than fat.
Apply medium to canvas
using crisscross strokes.
Test by lightly putting
your finger onto canvas.
If you can clearly see the
fingerprint lines, its correct. Not seeing lines
means add more medium.
Seeing a blob means
you’ve got too much medium. Thin by painting
over with a clean dry
So when you go to mix your own color, white will make
your colors brighter, black will dull down or ‘gray’ down
your colors. A lot of time when painting a floral background I’ll want a lavender or misty gray kind of background, so I’ll mix up some special medium and apply to
the canvas. This is very effective.
The Basic Techniques of Oils, Chapter 1
Darrell’s Water Soluble Oil Medium Formulas
The Fat and Lean Medium Ratios are the same. For Example…...
With Water Mixable Oils,
add modified linseed oil
to water.
You can also make your
own Medium White by
pouring W-Oil medium
onto paint.
The Basic Techniques of Oils, Chapter 1
Mix thoroughly until consistency allows two drops
by easily fall from a
brush handle.
Place medium white into
a storage container for
quick access.
Black, White & Gray Gesso
Gesso has two primary purposes. It is an acrylic based paint that can be used to prime canvas and it
can be used to under paint canvases before traditional paints are applied.
Canvas are available non-primed, single prime coat, double prime coat. I
suggest you buy the double coat primed canvas. If I purchase single layer
or non-primed canvas, cover the canvas with two coats of an off white gesso (white gesso with a small amount of gray gesso to tint the white). Should
you apply medium to a canvas and it dries in a few minutes, than you’ll
need to prime your canvas.
One way of creating painting that has a lot of impact and drama is to use Gesso to under-paint a canvas, can certainly help achieve this effect. The
reason is that a color on top of a dark canvas with
a thin coat of medium really stand out. The colors
are brilliant and dry with a shiny look.
I use two types of gesso; black and white. I can
also use a gray color, which is derived from mixing black and white. This allows me to control
how dark or light I’d like the gray.
I typically use two types of gesso; black and white.
When applying to a canvas pour a small amount onto a
disposable palette. Apply to canvas using a gesso brush
as shown above or a 2” sponge brush.
I prepare canvases with gesso on a flat surface,
like a table, as opposed to using an easel. This
way, I keep my easel and workstation nice and
clean. Gesso can be quite messy.
After applying gesso, let the canvas dry thoroughly. Add medium and begin your painting project.
I can control the intensity or value of a gray gesso
by how much black and white gesso I mix together.
We’ll see how this really adds drama to a painting.
I use a 2” sponge brush to load up the gesso and
apply to my canvas using “X” strokes. I typically
will do several canvases at once.
Do note that when you apply gesso to a canvas, you must let the entire canvas dry before painting with oils.
You can only put oils over gesso. You cannot put gesso on top of oils, even if the oils are dry.
The Basic Techniques of Oils, Chapter 1
Also, I like to keep my oil painting area clean and free of water. Its important to keep the oil paints
separated from water. Oil paints and water simply do not mix.
I like using a 2” or 1 1/2” sponge brush to apply gesso to a canvas. I’ll dip my
sponge into a pile of black gesso and then using “X” strokes, I’ll cover the whole
canvas. Let it dry and then repeat the process for a second coat.
When applying gesso, I constantly travel back and
forth across the canvas using the X stroke with the
sponge brush. You’ll see that the canvas quickly
turns dark.
In this example I’ve
turned the brush sideways
to put in a whole forest of
trees with black gesso.
That’s all there is to painting an entire canvas with
black gesso. The canvas will take about a halfhour to dry, or one could just go ahead and use a
hair dryer to blow dry the canvas in a few minutes.
You cannot paint until the canvas is dry.
You can also paint a scene onto a canvas with
gesso. This is particularly useful if you’d like to have depth in your painting by showing mountains, waterfalls or trees way back in the distance.
One approach I enjoy is to under-paint a nice wooded scene with dark
gesso using a natural sponge. Natural sponges are fairly inexpensive
and readily available at popular arts and crafts stores.
You can also use a crumpled
paper towel instead of a sea
sponge to accomplish the
same results. But the sea
sponge works better.
Take a fine mist spray bottle filled with water and lightly spray the
sponge to get it nice and damp. Squeeze out any excess water. You
don’t want water dripping out of your sponge, but the sponge must initially be wet.
Using a combination of side strokes and
lightly dabbing in far trees with a sea
sponge, paper towel and black gesso, the
under-painting really takes on shape.
Dip the damp, natural sponge, with all of its little crevices, right into the
black gesso. These crevices will make some of the nicest effects for a
tree. Then just tap the
sponge lightly onto the
canvas to shape your
trees. Use only enough
pressure for the gesso to
stick to the canvas.
Again, the stroke is a tap, lift up off the canvas, tap.
And if you like different shapes, then acquire a collection
of different sea sponges. Don’t use the synthetics, use
natural sea sponges. I know in some of the art stores that
I frequent, they offer bagfuls of sponges that provides a
great variety. I’ve even had an elephant ear sponge.
Now, once we get into the center of the bottom portion of
the canvas I no longer want detail that will show through
the oils, I want the canvas from the center to the bottom
painted black. So I can just go ahead and grab a two-inch
sponge brush and darken everything up, This will my painting
brilliant colors
a lot of
The show
Basic off
of Oils,for
1 impact.
Gesso is not the only paint for under painting
canvas. I like using acrylic colors as well. The
canvas above has been under painted with pthalo blue acrylic in the sky area and Prussian blue
in the ocean area. The seascape will quickly
come together due to the under painting.
Under-Painting A Scene With Gesso
It is suggested you first read all of the basic technique chapters prior to doing this exercise.
Gesso Sky and Land
1. Paint the bottom half of the canvas with black
gesso using a 2” sponge brush.
2. Dry the sky/bottom with a hair dryer.
3. Mix up a dark, medium, and light gray gesso.
4. Beginning with medium gray paint in the tree
trunks using a #4 bristle scrubber brush
Path & Rocks
1. Using Medium gray paint in the large trees ,
and a path which widens from the horizon to
the river’s edge. Paint up a bunch of rocks using the scrubber and medium gesso.
2. Add distant rocks using the dark gray gesso.
It’ll give the effect of distance and depth in the
1. Return to the large medium gray rocks dividing
the land and river and paint in the cracks and
crevices of these rocks. Use the same scrubber
and a combination of the dark gray and pure
black gesso.
2. Add tree branches to the tree trunks to give
them a grand appearance.
River’s Edge
1. Paint small rocks and boulders all along the
river bank.
2. With the medium gray and using the #4 scrubber, be sure to loosely paint the water lines.
Lay the water flat by using steady, parallel
strokes. One trick is to loosely paint in a stroke
going down the canvas, curving along the
shoreline with a single wide stroke. Than pull
each portion of the line parallel to center of
Almost Done
1. Check to make sure that all of the details you’d
like are painted. Now using the #2 scrubber
take some of the off-white gesso and highlight
the tops of the rocks, here and there to really
give this painting quite a sparkle.
2. Cover the entire surface of the painting with a
thin, thin, (did I say thin) coat of medium clear.
The Basic Techniques of Oils, Chapter 1
Applying Medium Clear
1. Use a 2” or 2 1/2” large brush to apply the medium clear using crisscross or “X” strokes.
2. The next portion is extremely critical. Take a
clean paper towel and lightly wipe off the medium clear. What you leave behind will be
sufficient for our painting purposes.
Adding Under Color
1. Add a thin coat of color over the entire painting. With a clean dry 2” or 2 1/2” brush tap
brush into Pthalo Blue (or your choice of color)
and paint the entire canvas using crisscross or
“X” strokes.
2. Make sure the brush is clean and dry. Otherwise you may put on additional medium onto
the canvas that could cause the paint and medium to run down the canvas.
Completed Painting
Once the canvas is covered with the color of your
choice, the under painting is completed. You can
declare the painting done, or you can finish your
painting by adding more colors and elements as
desired. But don’t overdo it on this particular painting.
Again, you may want to wait until you’ve finished reading the trees, bushes, rocks and water techniques chapters
before tackling this exercise.
Let me know how you do.
The Basic Techniques of Oils, Chapter 1
A Gesso-Painted Flower Vase
Drawing The Circular Vase
1. Obtain a round paper plate the size of vase.
2. Liberally coat the edges of the plate with gray
Transferring Vase Onto The Canvas
1. Go to the location where you want your vase
and turn the plate upside down and firmly press
the plate onto the canvas
2. Toss the plate.
Light Side Painting Of The Vase
1. You’ll need two shades of gray: dark & light.
2. Using a #6 scrubber brush, begin painting the
lighter side of the vase with the light gray color.
Dark Side Of The Vase
1. After the light half of the vase has been painted,
clean your brush.
2. Using the dark gesso mixed color, paint the dark
side of the vase careful to not cross the center.
3. While the canvas is still wet (spray lightly with water if you feel the canvas is too dry), blend out the
border where light & dark meet.
4. Blend thoroughly pulling color as far as you can.
After you’re satisfied with the blending of the two
half you need to add a small amount of white gesso
and paint in a small spot where light is reflecting off
the bowl. You’re ready to paint the painting.
The Basic Techniques of Oils, Chapter 1
From Cave Walls To Canvas
As an oil painting instructor I’m used to all sorts of questions from students learning how to paint on the materials of our illustrious craft. In fact, one of the all time
biggies is about what painting surfaces to use for practice and finished products?
I traditionally choose two sizes of canvas. I like
the 18” x 24” canvas for conducting workshops. I
find my students learn better and faster with this
size as opposed to smaller sizes. For my own
practice, I’ll frequently purchase canvas paper
and mask tape them to a canvas. This allows me
an inexpensive painting surface with the touch
and feel of a real canvas. Touch and feel is extremely critical during the learning process.
When I was a beginning oil painting student, I quickly
discovered the great need for alternative painting surfaces. I like using canvas, but mind you, one canvas is
not all that expensive, but feeding a new insatiable habit with
two, three or even four canvases a day can add up. Man has
been in the great search for
practice painting surfaces ever
since he started doodling on
cave walls. Unfortunately, cave
walls are in short supply and
Canvas are available in
they’re really, really expensive
many different sizes.
these days.
This double-primed canSo what’s an artist to do? What
are our alternatives? What can
I use for practice? What should
I use for a final painting project?
vas is 12” x 24” . Its
unique size lends it nicely
for use in landscapes,
seascapes and florals.
You can really compose
stunning floral arrangements with this canvas
So let’s just take up with the cave
walls and come forward a few years.
Oil is a soft and fatty substance. So
the requirement is that the painting surface must be harder
than oil. The short of it all, you can paint on anything so long
as it is harder than oil. You are limited only by your imagination. With that said, you want to use a surface that won’t
change with the weather (warp) or corrode from the use of oils,
solvents and medium. What good does it do, to paint grandma
and grandpa and watch the work warp in three months?
Seasoned wood, masonite, canvas board or illustration boards
just to name a few, are rigid and great to use as painting surfaces. This used to be the primary painting surfaces until about
500 years ago when canvas was discovered. The most commonly used painting surface today is canvas which must be
correctly mounted on a set of stretcher bars which ensures that
the entire surface is taut. A good canvas is equally tight and
firm throughout. This gives canvas its peculiar feel that’s softer
and bouncier than wood, cave walls or other rigid surfaces.
I like a small canvas for painting
pop art portraits. I have a stack of
studio canvas whose sides are 2”
deep. This really lends itself to continue a painting across the top flat
surface and over the sides to the end
of the canvas material. No frame is
The Basic Techniques of Oils, Chapter 1
As each of us develops our skills and craftsmanship, we get
used to the properties of our painting surfaces. We rely on it.
We may try many surfaces, but we settle down on what we
generally like and become comfortable.
Canvas is popular because its light, rigid, yet elastic at the
same time. Canvas can be made from sackcloth (burlap), cotton (most popular), synthetic, a combination of materials or
even smooth linen. The texture of the surface of the canvas are
rated the their smoothness, known as “tooth.” The coarser the surface, the more ‘tooth’ it is said to
have. Canvas are available as economy (rough with lots of tooth), medium, fine (portrait smooth)
and smooth linen. Each cloth can be constructed to any quality level. Linen is considered to be the
best in quality and therefore sports the heftier price.
A “primed” canvas is one that has been covered with a solid
layer of substance that protects the canvas cloth from rotting
away because of the acidity and harshness of oils and mediums.
In a nutshell, an unprimed canvas will dissolve over the long
term from the acidity inherent in oil paints. The next time
you’re shopping, look at the canvas label. It should mention
whether or not the canvas is primed. If there’s no mention,
than safely assume the canvas is not primed.
Canvases are typically primed with one of the following:
Thinned glue that does not affect the color of the canvas.
Canvas are typically labeled as either single or double primed,
meaning coats of application. The canvas must dry before the
next coat is applied. Double primed application is best.
I’m really particular about which scene I’ll
paint on an oval canvas. The scene must
look better than if painted on a rectangular
canvas. Often, if I believe a scene will best
show on an oval, I’ll paint both an oval and
rectangle canvas and then make a decision.
One problem with oval canvas is your easel will have to be able to solidly hold the
oval canvas. If it doesn’t you may have to
build an adaptor. The simplest is a 1”x”4
shelving board with the top of the oval
canvas cut out to the size you need to install on your easel. I have one that supports 18”x24”, 16” x 20”, and 12”x14”
A compound of rabbit skin glue and Spanish white or chalk.
Acrylic gesso.
It is normal practice for manufacturers to label their canvas as
primed, materials used, degree of material mix if any, texture
and quality.
As a guideline,
think of it in
these terms.
Economy is
great for practice and giving
Reserve fine
for those prized masterpieces.
If you’re getting paid, go fine. You can do your
studies on rough, but for the final masterpiece,
make sure its fine.
Wood is an excellent painting surface, however solid
wood surfaces are seldom used anymore. Chipboard,
made of wood chips and glue pressed tightly is becoming popular. Masonite and plywood are also ideal
surfaces for painting since they resist warping and
climate changes.
One idea is to take a sheet of masonite rough it up
with sandpaper, and then coat with a thin layer of a
primer. ( I typically use acrylic or gesso). I’ll take a 4′
The Basic Techniques of Oils, Chapter 1
Not only do canvas come in different sizes and
primed/non-primed offerings, but different quality
levels as well. As a beginning student, you’ll go
through a lot of canvases before you begin to develop
your own unique style. During some really hectic
practice days, I’ve been known to go through two
dozen canvases in a single day. So I’m grateful for
x8′ sheet of masonite, prime it, then saw it right down the 8′ foot center. Each half would then be
sawed again at 18″ intervals. This provides you eight (8) 18″ x 24″ wooden painting boards to use.
The only problem with the above approach is the hard surface. But if you like hard, this is an excellent tip for securing inexpensive painting surfaces.
Another approach is the use of canvas boards. This a very hard cardboard with a canvas like surface.
Very popular due to their low pricing. Most art supply stores carry these. Again, an excellent low-cost
alternative, but the hard surface is different than a canvas. If you like hard surfaces, this could well
be the approach for you and save you the preparation required for masonite, chip boards and plywood surfaces.
If you’re a die hard canvas person, let me introduce you to canvasette papers. This is canvas paper.
In general, papers are unsuitable surfaces for oil painting, because they just simply absorb the oils.
However, canvas paper is a very thick paper especially prepared for oils. I therefore use it for practicing. It cuts costs to well under a buck each. I buy a pad of 16″x20″ canvas paper and mount them
onto a 16″x20″ canvas with masking tape or thumbtacks. I paint my heart out, toss or give away
and move right onto the next session. I love this approach as I retain the look and feel of canvas
throughout my practice session.
A third method is purchasing an economy 24″ x 36″ canvas and a wallpaper scraper. Paint until you
Canvas pads are available in many different sizes in pads of 10-12 sheets. Each ‘canvas paper’ has the
touch and feel of a real canvas. By mask taping a sheet of Canvas pad to a regular canvas you extend the
sensation that one is actually painting on a canvas with the touch and feel of canvas
drop, scrape the paint off with the wallpaper scraper, clean with thinner and you’re ready to go
again. You can always divide your canvas into four equally sized panels with masking tape on the 24″
x 36″ canvas.
I love the thought of one day creating a masterpiece on cave walls that’ll be gazed upon for centu-
The Basic Techniques of Oils, Chapter 1
Econo Easel
This small inexpensive table top easel is ideal for
beginners as they discover the art world and develop their skills. It’s easily carried to a classroom and
can be securely fastened to a table by using an 8”
length of tape on each easel leg. Secure legs to table with two strips for each leg. The first strip goes
around the leg and criss crosses the front of the leg
when pressed onto the table top. The second tape is
applied the same, but opposite direction.
Stanrite Table Top Easel
This is another great easel Easy to fix a canvas on
while painting and seconds as a wet canvas carrier
on the return trip home. I like adding a piece of
plywood to the bottom of the easel which is securely fastened with a long bolt that goes from the center of the plywood through the center support bar of
the easel. Expand the picture to the right to see
what we mean.
Wooden Easel With Drawer
This easel sells between $40 and $80 depending on
the store and has a beautiful drawer in which you
can transport brushes and/or paints & Medium. An
ideal portable classroom.
Alexander Wooden Table Top Easel
I have a few favorite easels and this ranks as one of
Very sturdy, easy to adjust for different canvas sizes, Very durable for my style and techniques of
Inexpensive Floor Wooden Easel From Best.
Another favorite that functions as a sit down or
standup easel. Has a bottom shelf and extraordinarily easy to learn. Can hold canvases that are huge
as well as the smaller canvases.
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Full French Easel
I prefer the full version of the easel so I can carry all
if not most of my supplies. You can find these easels from $49.95 to several hundred dollars.
I’m hard on easels and wear one out each year. I
had bought a nice Italian, expensive French Easel
only to find out it lasted maybe 2 years. I went back
to the $49.99 version. Use in classrooms. Can also
sit on a tabletop.
Soltex Portable Standing Easel
This Easel was designed by artists for artists. Extremely light weight and easy to carry.
But the price tag is steep. Expect to pay between
$700-$800 for this easel.
But I’ve had mine 6 years already and counting.
Easel Bag
Available on line, this allows me to carry either my
Soltek or French Easels on location quite nicely.
Level Your Easel
I added this level to my set of supplies so I can test
to make sure the easel is level and that the canvas is
level when mounted onto the easel.
Easel Feet For Gripping Canvas.
I install these small rubber feet from a local hardware store. Place them onto the canvas grip board
and using a clamp over the newly affixed rubber
feet. Let sit 12-24 hours and not only can you again
use your easel, but it’ll grip canvases with lion power.
The Basic Techniques of Oils, Chapter 1
Have you wondered how
you could use your camera tripod as a portable
easel? Sun-Eden Artists
Gear offers one. Contact
them at (303) 828-4430
and see if theirPreparation
will meet your needs.
Painting Accessories
Baby Oil & Odorless Turpentine
I clean my brushes during and after painting sessions. I formerly used odorless thinner. But for
health reasons, I switched to Baby Oil. I only use
turpentine now for the thinning of paints. In general, I use OMS (Odorless Mineral Spirits) instead
of turpentine for thinning paints.
If using Odorless Turpentine or OMS, make sure
you’re in a well-ventilated area.
Brush Holders
I store my brushes when they’re not in use lying flat
in a tool box drawer. But when I’m painting, I’ll
put them into a special brush holder. This brush
holder easily fits into a coffee can and can hold a
large number of brushes.
Portable Brush Storage
When traveling you’ll find it preserves the brush
life to store them in special cases that will allow
them to lay flat and be safe from the other art supplies you carry. This is an example of two excellent
“brush bags.”
Paper Towels, Masking Tape
Paper towels are used to clean brushes while painting and during clean-up.
Masking tapes have an infinite number of uses so be
sure to keep an abundant supply of 1/4” and 1/2”
masking tape rolls.
Linseed Oil, Japan Dryer, 2 oz Cups
Often you may want to mix your own painting medium. As such you’ll need these three products and
OMS. I use one part linseed oil, 5 parts OMS and 2
-3 drops of Japan Dryer per ounce of mix.
The Basic Techniques of Oils, Chapter 1
Baby Wipes, Q-Tips
Baby Wipes will clean just about anything. I use
them to remove paint off the palette, painting
knives, brush handles, my hands, face, head, hair
and students.
Q-tips are great for wiping off mistakes from a wet
Brush Buddy
This small brush caddy is ideal whenever you’re in
the midst of painting and need to switch from one
brush to another. Simply rest the wet, paint laden
brush in one of its ‘nooks’ and it frees your hand to
grab another brush.
Sizing Photos
When working from photos or on location this instrument will help frame your painting. By adjusting the rectangle size you’ll be able to identify the
ideal painting composition for your next project.
Tube Wringer
This is one of the most used and appreciated tools in
my art box. Paint is expensive enough and being
able to squeeze out the last drop of paint is sooooo
exciting. Two versions are out, metal and hard plastic. The metal is about $25.00, but well worth its
price. I went through about two plastic versions a
year until I found the metal version. That was 8
years ago and I still have my original metal wringer.
Thinner Bucket, Thinner Screen
With our big brushes we need to clean them frequently. Since they hold a lot of paint, I like to put
a paint screen into the bottom of the thinner bucket.
Rubbing the brush against this screen will scrub out
all of the pigments until the bristles are clean.
The Basic Techniques of Oils, Chapter 1
Fine Mist Water Spray Bottle, Orange Hand
When using gesso the fine mist water spray bottle
will lightly wet your painting surface allowing you
to quickly cover the area with Gesso. The Orange
Pumice hand cleaner is the perfect choice for cleaning the #2 sable script liner as well as yourself at the
end of a vigorous painting session.
Wooden Palette, Mahl Stick
When teaching or in the field, the wooden palette is
superior to the pad of paper palette. Cleans easily
with baby wipes as you head home.
The mahl stick is an assistant you can rest your
hand on without messing up your painting. Typically used when painting detailed work with a script
Tools: Screw Driver, Pliers, Level
The flat screw driver is great for opening up thinner
cans, baby oil and for mixing mediums. The pliers
quite useful for stubborn and half-dry painting tube
The level helps level your easel and canvas.
Palette Paper
I primarily use palette paper for painting in my studio or being a student in another class. Where
they’re available in different sizes I find two are
sufficient for me. A 12” x 14” for most work and
an 8”X10” whenever I’m using a few color such as
wildlife and portraits or Tall Ships.
Trash Can & Liner.
Keep a large trash can close to your painting area
that has a liner. Some really gooey stuff will end up
in the trash can, so all you have to do is close up the
liner and transport to the outside waste storage area
for pickup. Use a trashcan or cooler to store your
brush beater rack for drying brushes.
The Basic Techniques of Oils, Chapter 1
Protective Sprays For Paintings
The reason cited for using the protective sprays are to preserve the intensity of color and to protect the finish of
the painting itself.
Personally, I don’t use the sprays since most sprays require that the oil painting be absolutely dry before application. The recommended time is six months to a year to allow sufficient drying. I also find that by hanging a wet
painting right away, its out of harms way so there’s little need for additional protection. I have a wall in my studio with lots of hanging hooks and so its a simple matter to hang a half dozen drying painting. Perhaps one day
I’ll make a short tip video on how to make a painting rack to allow for drying.
Colors also fade a bit when they dry. And different colors fade a little faster than others. I find red fades faster
and more than any other color. That’s why I use it in sky colors and mountains, etc… If I had a bit too much, I
know the colors will fade a bit over the upcoming year. Now remember pink is not tinted white. Pink will dry a
little duller pink. So paint the colors you want on your canvas without consideration for fading.
There is one spray I’m aware of that can be applied while the painting is wet and that’s the finishing spray under
the Bob Ross brand name. But I’ve found that on hard, smooth surfaces, such as glass, that your paints may run
on applications. So test, test, test whatever spray you’d like to use.
Bottom line….. if you’re inclined to spray your paintings, follow the directions for the spray properties you’ve
purchased. Test before you use on any of your prized paintings. I didn’t test once, and I’ll never forget the look
of horror on one of my student’s face as her painting literally dissolved before our eyes and ran down the canvas..
The Basic Techniques of Oils, Chapter 1
Cleaning Brushes
I Use Baby Oil
I clean my brushes with Baby Oil.
It takes a little work, but its clean AND healthy.
I try to find Baby Oil either by the gross, or $1.00
for a 20 ounce bottle. This is getting to be a rare
find now.
You’ll Need A Thinner Bucket
I like using a small round plastic bucket which I
acquired at a local hardware store.
I’ll even drill holes in the side of the bucket so I can
fasten it onto the easel.
Place the thinner screen either directly into the
bucket, or use a plastic 1 gallon freezer bag to hold
the screen and cleaning oil.
Pour Oil Into Bucket
Pour enough baby oil into the bucket so that the
level of oil is about 3/4” to 1” above the screen top
surface. Then scrub all large brushes across the top
of the screen to remove all pigment from these
brushes. I repeat this until I no longer see pigment
flowing from these big brushes when pressed
against the side of the bucket. I soak hard, paint
dried brushes in brush cleaning solutions such as
you see on the right.
#2 Script Liner Brush
I clean all my script liners with Gojo by placing a
small amount of the pumice cleaner between my
thumb and index finger. Then scrub the brushes
(rinsing frequently) by rubbing the fingers together.
Once clean, wipe the brush handle with Baby
I clean all my brush handles with baby wipes.
Beat The Large Brushes Across Rack
Place the beater rack on the left into a trash can and
beat the large wet brushes just cleaned with baby oil
across the beater rack. The trick is vigorously brush
the brush bristles across the ribbed surface of the
beater rack until all of the baby oil has essentially
been ‘beaten’ out. Then take a paper towel and
thoroughly wring out any remaining oil from the
The Basic Techniques of Oils, Chapter 1
Using A Cooler Instead Of A Trash Can
Instead of a trash can, I’ll often use a cooler when
teaching on location. This allows me to seal the lid
tight so that even if the cooler tips in the car, the
baby oil will not spill out. I use 3 seals:
1. I place the oil into a ziplock bag with the screen
and seal.
2. The thinner bucket lid
3. The cooler lid.
4. Optional: Bunge cord around the cooler.
Make Sure Your Trash Can Has a Lid.
This will preserve the dignity of your studio and
more importantly, I’ve found that pets like to drink
the baby oil. So cover your cleaning stations to
keep your pets safe. They can get sick and mess up
the area in short order.
Cleaning Water Mixable Brushes
With Water Mixable brushes, I clean in the same
fashion, but instead of using baby oil, I use old fashion water. After the brushes are dry, I’ll wrap them
in paper towels to preserve their shape if I’m going
to paint within a few short days. If it’ll be weeks
before I use the brushes again, I’ll wrap them in a
kitchen wrap like Saran Wrap.
Scrub The Brushes In Water
When cleaning your water-mixable brushes ensure
you begin with clean water at the beginning of each
cleaning session. Thoroughly scrub the brush
against the wire screen to remove all pigments.
Press and Beat.
Press the excess water from the brush up against the
side of the painting bucket and then vigorously beat
the brush across the surface of the beater rack.
The Basic Techniques of Oils, Chapter 1
Dry With Paper Towel After Solid Beating.
Once you’re satisfied you’ve gotten all of the water
out of the brushes, than wipe any moisture you can
from the brush with a paper towel. Then wrap the
brush for storage in a paper towel.
Cleaning Small Brushes
For small brushes like a scrubber, or a fan brush or
a filbert simply remove the pigments from the bristles by scrubbing the brushes across the surface of
the water screen, pressing out the excess water
against the side of the bucket and finally drying
with a paper towel.
Cleaning Sable, Badger & Other Soft Brushes
I use either Chroma, Winsor Newton, or brush
cleaners produced by the Martin F. Weber Company
Beginning The Soft Hair Cleaning Process
Pour a small amount of the cleanser onto a paper
Then begin stroking or scrubbing the solution into
the brush. I like stroking the brush a couple of time,
flipping the brush 180 degrees and stroking a couple
more times. I’ll constantly repeat this process.
Tree Brush (Black Handled Oval & Mop)
As I work the Cleaning solution into the brush, I see
old dry pigment starting to color up the solution.
This is dried paint that is loosening up in the brush
and being extracted. Continue working the brush
through the cleaning solution until the solution is
quite dark from the pigment.
The Basic Techniques of Oils, Chapter 1
Rinse and Repeat.
Once the solution is absolutely filthy, wipe it with a
paper towel and clean your oil painting brush in
baby oil. Dry.
And repeat the process.
Repeat and Store
Continue repeating this process until the cleaning
solution remains clean when you scrub your brush
in it.
Then rinse the brush in clean baby oil, dry and
shape with just a touch of baby oil for storage.
The Basic Techniques of Oils, Chapter 1
Oval Setup For Rectangular Canvas
You’ll need a form to draw your oval.
I took a 16”x20” oval canvas and laid it on top of an
18”x24” 1/4” plywood I had prepared. I then drew
around the oval canvas and sawed out the center.
I repeated the process with a 14” x 16” oval canvas
and 16”x20” canvas.
Drawing The Oval On To Contact Paper
Take a contact sheet of paper the size of the canvas
you’re going to use.
Trace the oval cutout onto the contact paper.
Cutting Out The Oval Center
Once completed, remove the form and cut out the
center oval with a pair of scissors.
Toss out the oval center you just cut out. You want
to preserve the outer plastic.
Remove the plastic backing.
Placing Contact Paper Onto The Canvas
After the backing has been removed, stick the canvas paper (sticky side facing the canvas) so that the
contact paper is lying flat on the canvas.
Smooth out the contact paper from the oval center
cutout to the canvas edges.
You may need a buddy to help you position the contact paper on the canvas and smooth it down.
#6 Filbert Bristle Brush
If an air bubble is just impossible to smooth out.
Force the bubble to a single location. Using scissors, cut the contact paper in half on one side,
smooth the contact paper flat and mask tape over
the seam of the cut.
The Basic Techniques of Oils, Chapter 1
Transferring A Pattern To Canvas
Protecting a spot on the canvas.
Take your master drawing and place it over a large
enough contact paper.
Lay tracing paper between the drawing and the canvas (Shinny side down.)
Trace over your drawing
Cutting out the template.
Now cut out the drawing on the contact paper.
Then remove the plastic backing paper.
Apply the contact paper image of your drawing
(sticky side down) at the location on the canvas you
desire.Now you can paint without worrying about
keeping your one spot on the canvas free of paint or
When you’re ready to paint, simply remove the contact paper. You can now paint the freshly bared
canvas area without worry.
Tracing The Drawing Directly Onto the Canvas
1. Print out the drawing, image of photo I want to
use, the size of the canvas I want to paint on.
2. Place Tracing paper over photo.
3. Trace the photo and then tape tracing to canvas
4. Place tracing onto canvas and secure with
masking tape
5. Place transfer paper between tracing and canvas
6. Trace firmly over the drawing so that the image
‘transfers’ itself to canvas. Inspect thoroughly.
The Basic Techniques of Oils, Chapter 1
Reference Materials
I like painting from photos when I’m putting together a new painting. You can use just a portion of the
photo or combine with other photos.
Be sure to note what you’ve done and save copies
of your photos to substantiate that this is an original
painting by you.
Another way of studying and creating new compositions is to model the elements against a canvas.
Tape the elements onto the canvas, rearranging to
suit your objectives.
Step back from the canvas and size up your composition by looking through two cardboard right angles to frame of your composition. This really helps
to model your potential painting.
Coloring Books
Realistic coloring books provide enormous details
you’ll be hard pressed to find elsewhere. Don’t
copy them, but study the details for inspiration on
how you can approach your work.
#2 Specialty Books
All different genres of painting subjects can be
found in specialty magazines, manufacturers brochures and catalogs and books.
Feel free to study these documents in great detail to
determine the element’s composition and explore
new compositional ideas.
The Basic Techniques of Oils, Chapter 1
Books and Research
I never tire of researching my subject before picking
up my brush. I’ll browse on-line, review books,
study other paintings, photo and post cards.
In preparing the Tall Ship Series, I rented a fishing
excursion boat for a half day to take six budding
young artists for a ride through the Full Sail, Tall
Ship Parade at Newport, RI one year. We collectively took over 1,000 photos in 4 hours.
Study What You’ve Already Done.
Examine your most popular, fast-selling paintings
to see if there’s another way you could arrange the
composition to produce yet another popular, fast
selling masterpiece.
I’m Loosing My Lines
If you’re losing your tracing lines on your canvas when you add medium, here’s a great
I discovered when learning to paint portraits. It has served me well in complicated landscapes, portraits and tall ships compositions and paintings.
Paint your canvas with a light gray gesso. Add some white gesso to the gray if you’re using
the gray gesso straight from a bottle. Paint your entire canvas or the portion of the canvas
as desire. After the canvas has dried, I’ll transfer my drawing to the canvas by using graphite transfer paper and a pencil. I’ll then load a #2 liner brush loaded with the gray that is
darker than what I’ve painted the canvas. I can use gray straight from the bottle, or gray
gesso with a little black gesso to gray the mixture down more. Paint all lines with the darker gray. The lines will now be distinct and will show through either medium clear or medium white. (Caution, they will not show through a darker than grey medium i.e.…. medium
black) Apply medium and paint as you normally would. The dark lines will show through
the medium, but will be covered when you apply paint. Furthermore, if you ever decide to
change your mind on the painting you can use a wipe-out tool or paint eraser to get back to
the raw canvas and your lines will still be there.
The Basic Techniques of Oils, Chapter 1
Preparing Outside Wood
Surfaces For Oil Paintings
I receive a lot of questions from students who are preparing to paint on wooden surfaces.
The questions are typically…..
Hi Darrell: I have a wooden board that was previously varnished and I want to use it for an outdoor name sign and
I thought I would paint a picture of our lake scenery on it. After I sand it off, how would I prepare it for an oil
painting to be hung outdoors?
To prepare wood I simply sanded the wood and stained it the base color I desire.
Let the wood dry a couple of days.
After the wood surface is thoroughly dried, paint on it as you normally would a canvas using normal oil paints and
medium clear. Then let the painting dry thoroughly.
When the painting is dry all over, wait yet another week if its only a painting. If you’re using the painting also as a
sign either paint the letters on or affix the letters to the sign.
Let everything dry for a second week.
Now, spray coat the all of the exterior with an acrylic clear spray after it has thoroughly dried for the second week.
I’ll put a thin acrylic clear spray coat onto the wood surface twice a day for three days. This seals everything quite
When I owned a gallery in Newport, Rhode Island, I had a hanging wood sign that had a painting on each side,
with the store name underneath.
This is how I prepared the painting on the sign and it performed well for a good 2-3 years. In fact, I still have the
sign and at the tender age of 15 years, the painting looks great.
The Basic Techniques of Oils, Chapter 1
Sometimes I Can’t Finish A
Painting In A Single Session
I just got off the phone with a lovely lady that was perplexed what to do if she couldn’t finish a painting all in one
Was it permissible to finish a painting another day?
She’s not alone. I must receive this email 30 times a month if I receive it once.
Somehow, we’ve taken a benefit of the wet-on-wet painting style and turned it into a do or die rule that a painting
must be finished in one session or our painting just won’t be up to par.
With the wet-on-wet (or wet-in-wet) style of painting, we “can” finish our painting in one session. But what has
happened is this benefit is promoted vigorously by advocates, we therefore “think” we must finish a painting each
time we sit down at the easel.
TV artists promote then feature and, we have countless classes taught across the planet whereby a painting is finished in a single 4-5 hour workshop. This reinforces the concept that we’ll be eternally damned if somehow this
painting isn’t finished in a single session.
Nothing could be further from the truth. Students are simply “not taught how” to complete a painting in multiple
The short and sweet of it all is, yes you can. You can take as many sessions as you’d like to finish a painting. You
can finish a painting and then six months later come back and fix something if you’d like.
Over the next few minutes, I’d like to explore how, by using three simple techniques, you can return to a painting
that has dried and continue with the wet-on-wet style. I cover this in the Basic Techniques of Painting Flowers
DVD Series, so if you’d like to see how I return to a painting, that’s the series to watch.
I love painting when I’m in the mood to paint, but once that mood passes or I’m tired, I lay the brush down and
return another day. But before you lay down your brush for the day, take a look at your painting and plan your return.
For a landscape painting, where are you when you want to call it a day?
Have you finished the sky, but need to add clouds on another day? If so, then simply clean your br ushes and
walk away. When you return, put medium into your cloud mixture(s). You will not be able to pick up any of the
sky color as you paint your clouds, so take that into consideration as well. Add a touch of your sky color into the
cloud mixture if that’s the case. If you’re painting clouds with multiple colors, start by painting the darkest color
on, blend, then the next brighter color, blend and repeat the process until you’ve got your clouds painted.
Have you finished the sky, clouds, but need to pick-up painting mountains? The best advice I can give you is
if you feel you may not finish your mountains, don’t lay down the base color for the mountains. Wait until you
return to the painting. Then you just load up the base color onto your knife and build the shapes you want. Remember….shape, scrape, and spread the base to form your mountains. IF you should finish the base shape for your
mountains, but can’t continue, than I simply put medium into my mountain highlight color and shadow light color
and load up the knife with an even smaller roll of paint than normal and continue painting.
The Basic Techniques of Oils, Chapter 1
Have you finished skies, clouds, mountains, but need to pick-up with foothills or a distant shore? J ust simply
add a small amount of medium to the paint and continue painting as though you were on the first session.
What about evergreen trees, foliage, grass, bushes….? If you know you’r e going to need to br eak a painting
into two sessions and you’re wondering about whether or not to base color the trees, etc… don’t. It’s better to leave
the base coloring to the session you’ll highlight. Now if I decide after basing to end the painting session, than upon
my return I have two options. First, I can rebase these elements, or secondly I’ll wet the entire evergreen trees,
foliage, grass, bushes, etc… with an even THIN coat of medium clear. Then I’ll mix up the exact highlight I want
and paint. Just remember you’re not picking up any color from the base, so check out your highlight brightness to
ensure you’re not too bright. You can even add a bit of the base color to your highlight color to dull it a bit if you
are too bright.
How do I paint those big, tall, stately trees when I return to a painting? This is ver y easy to do. I’ll take a
filbert brush or a fan brush and load it up with the dark color (typically Van Dyke Brown or Burnt Umber) and
without any medium, dry brush the basic shape of the tree and its major limbs onto the dried canvas. Then I’ll pick
up the knife or brush and paint on the highlights as I normally would. I’ll thin the base color with medium (not
thinner) to paint on all those wiggly little branches. Don’t make this mixture runny like ink since the surface is dry.
It has to be soft enough for your script liner to easily paint on the branches.
Ocean scenes and seascapes? Simply wet the sur face you’r e about to paint on with an even, THIN coat of
medium (wipe off excess with an absorbent cloth or paper towel if you need) and continue painting as though
you’re on your first session. Just remember, that if the canvas is dry, you’ll need to add some of the base color to
your paints to adjust the brightness.
Flowers, tall ships, portraits, wildlife? Again, simply wet the sur face you’r e about to paint on with an even,
THIN coat of medium (wipe off excess with an absorbent cloth or paper towel if you need) and continue painting
as described in the preceding paragraph.
You primarily have 3 methods of regaining the “wet-on-wet” or “wet-in-wet” environment of your first session in
subsequent painting sessions.
1. Base coating the objects your painting using no medium and highlighting as you normally would.
2. Mixing medium into the paints you’re layering onto the canvas in the subsequent painting sessions.
3. Wet the canvas area you’ll be painting with a THIN even coat of medium and then continuing your painting
Keep Your Thinner Bucket Clean
Line your clean, empty thinner bucket with a plastic 1 gallon freezer bag. I’ve had the best results using the one
gallon freezer bags. I put the thinner screen into the bottom of the freezer bag and then slide the freezer bag into
the bucket or 2 pound coffee can. I then use the thinner bucket as I normally would for cleaning brushes and when
done, remove the thinner screen, wipe it off with a paper towel and pour the contents of the freezer bucket into my
storage container for odorless thinner (or OMS, or baby oil).
It’s beautiful. No more mud build-up.
Transportation is easier as you can seal up the freezer bag.
The Basic Techniques of Oils, Chapter 1
Transferring A Portrait Drawing
Or Pattern Onto Canvas
I love getting letters like the one below. And her question is a frequently asked question we should consider as we
prepare to paint.
Hi Darrell, I have purchased you landscapes and floral videos and I love them both. I recently bought a video on
techniques for painting portraits. The bad new is that no one, but no one is as clear and precise as you are in explaining how to paint, Darrell. The video starts out with the canvas already washed. My problem is this. Do I draw
the image on before I wash the canvas, or after? Or do you go around the drawing, like you do in your floral video\’s? The instructor talks about the entire canvas being covered, and yet the face is definitely lighter than the
wash she used on the background. (She was using burnt sienna). Then she said you can use any color, blue or
green. I am almost sure you would\’t want that on the face area. Can you give me your impression of this? I know
you are a busy man, but I value your opinion. Do you do portraits? ….Keep up the great work. Sheryl M.
Hi Sheryl, Thanks for the encouraging words. There are a lot of films out on the market to educate us in portraits.
But as you’ve pointed out, they assume us students know something and they just kind of start there.
As a student, I always like to begin at ground zero. I know nothing.
To answer your basic question, you need a drawing on the canvas to at least show where and the shape of the subject’s ears, eyes, nose, mouth, chin, cheeks, hair, etc….
Here’s how I would transfer an image onto canvas…..
I really can’t draw, so I need to create a drawing. I can create a pattern from a photo or I can shine a photo onto the
canvas using a projector.
The projector is simple. Just place the photo into the source tray of the projector’s and following the projector’s
manual instructions, focus the photo image onto the canvas. Trace the subject’s portrait directly onto the canvas
and then begin painting.
A digital camera approach is nearly as simple. The photo editor you have will determine the ease of building a
portrait pattern. Your photo editor should have a resize image feature, allow photo cropping, Have the ability to
remove color from a photo and the a filter that allows you to find edges (Where light meets dark, and vice versa).
In your photo editor (I use Photoshop elements 4.0 — Yes, I know they’re up to version 10 or higher now. But
I’ve been using my 4.0 for a long, long time.) Blow up the portrait photo to the size of the canvas you’re using
Make sure you’ve cropped the photo for the composition you want and you’ve used the editor’s autofix mode to
enhance all of the color/focus/brightness/contrast/etc… adjustments. Save a copy of your photo.
Now remove all color from your photo and save this photo with a new name as well.
Go to your filter drop down menu and select “Find Edges” button and select this operation. The photo editor will
look everywhere on the photo and produce a line drawing of your portrait that can be used as your portrait pattern.
Save this photo with new name.
The Basic Techniques of Oils, Chapter 1
Your photo now has been….
Cropped for Composition
All Color Removed
A Line Drawing from the Find Edges filter.
I like to use my layout software to print out the pattern. I use Microsoft Publisher, but there are many on the market. Even free ones like Big Picture Splicer, etc…
Open the layout software, select the page setup to match your canvas size. Insert the photo and arrange in your
layout software exactly how you’d like the portrait composed. This makes the job really easy if there are more
than one subject in the portrait painting.
Print out the pattern making sure the printer is set up properly for the image size and image orientation (portrait/
landscape). If the portrait is going to be on a canvas larger than 8x10, multiple sheets will be printed. Simply tape
them together for your tracing pattern.
When painting portraits, I like to use a portrait smooth canvas. Paint a single coat of misty grey gesso on the canvas. This is critical. After the Gesso dries, use black graphite paper or transfer paper and trace the taped up pattern
onto the canvas. Outline the subject’s head. Mark the eyes, eye brows, ears, side burns, nose, mouth, chin, neck
and generally 2-3″ of the top torso, maybe more. Trace any distinguishing marks or facial contours, scars, etc…
Once the tracing is completed, study the tracing against the photo and make any corrections deemed necessary.
Then make another mixture of grey gesso that is about 1 or 2 shades darker than the misty grey canvas color. The
objective is to get a light line color I can use to permanently retain the portrait’s facial features.
Paint over the portrait tracing on the canvas with the darker gesso using a #2 script liner until all of the graphite
marks have been covered. Once the Gesso is thoroughly dry, coat the canvas with a thin coat of medium. Depending upon the type of background I want, I may wash the canvas with a coat of very thin paint. Or I’ll leave it alone
until I’ve completed the portrait to a point I need to paint the background. Never keep the background until last.
You want to be painting the background along with the portrait as its an integral complement to the portrait.
This pattern approach works quite nicely.
The Basic Techniques of Oils, Chapter 1
What Age Is Best For Teaching
Kids To Paint
Here’s my best approach with my own grandchildren. I started most of them between the ages of 8-10. However I
had one grandson, Joshua in which I felt that at 4 he could paint. He’s been painting every since.
Be flexible as the right age varies with child. Its generally somewhere between 8 and 10. It depends mostly on
their maturity, how well they listen and follow instructions, but most importantly, how seriously they want to paint.
Its best to sit down with the child and watch the Basic Technique of Oil Painting Water video with them. If after
viewing the waterfall segment you find they’re excited and want to paint, then set-up and go. What I suggest is a 3
-part program to see how ready they are.
Watch the video in its entirety with them. Or by subject matter. For instance, watch the segment on the waterfall.
That’s approx. 17 minutes.
Discuss with them the techniques taught. Have them tell you in their own words what brushes they saw being used
and how everything was put together. Don’t answer or suggest responses to them. Let the child tell you what they
saw and learned.
Then watch that segment again and this time, you’ll both looking to see if their initial observations were correct.
Then paint the scene together referring back to the film as required.
When you’re done, compare notes and asses the enthusiasm of the child.
After their first painting is dry, let them take masterpiece to their next show & tell in school. That’s where they
will get real re-enforcement.
Praise just works wonder with kids.
The Basic Techniques of Oils, Chapter 1
Art Supply Shopping List
2" or 2 1/2" Bristle Landscape
1" Bristle Landscape
1" Bristle Filbert
#6 Bristle Filbert
#3 Bristle Fan
#6 Bristle Fan
Script Liner #2 (Pure Red Sable)
Palette Knife, #5
Palette Knife, #10
#2 Bristle Flat
#4 Bristle Flat
#6 Bristle Flat
Blender or Hake Brush
3/4" Badger Bright
1/2" Badger Bright
1/4" Badger Bright
1/16" Badger Bright
#2 Badger Round Brush
#12 Badger Filbert
Paper Palette
Wooden Palette
Acrylic Palette
Baby Oil
Odorless Mineral Spirits
Brush Caddy
Portable Brush Carrier
Paper Towels
Masking Tape
Linseed Oil
Pumice 'Orange' hand cleaner
Baby Wipes
Tube Wringer
Sizing Aide
Thinner Bucket
Brush Beating Bucket
Trash Can (with liners)
Thinner Screen
Brush Beating Rack
2.0 oz. plastic cups for medium
Water Spray Bottle
Flat Screwdriver
Standard Pliers
Small Level
Art Supply Carrying Cart
Alizarin Crimson
Burnt Sienna
Burnt Umber
Cad Orange
Cad Red Light
Cad Yellow Light
French Ultramarine Blue
Indian Yellow
Ivory Black
Paynes Gray
Prussian Blue
Pthalo Blue
Pthalo Green
Raw Sienna
Raw Umber
Titanium White
Titanium White Soft
Yellow Ochre
The Basic Techniques of Oils, Chapter 1
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