Techniques

Construction

This page is constantly under construction, so please come back again.

Materials & Techniques
So many people who see my work want to know how they were painted, what materials I use and, always, how long the painting took to complete. I always try to answer all their questions, even the last one, accurately as I believe that the insight gives the viewer more enjoyment of the work and in some way incorporates them in the process.
In this spirit, here are a few common elements to all of my work.

Studio
I have a small study where I keep most of my materials and equipment, but I paint almost exclusively in my living room. Although this means that I cannot have a permanent setup, I have developed a very neat and convenient temporary system which takes no more than 5 minutes to set up or dismantle. It also forces me to work neatly, which adds discipline to the process. I enjoy having space, good light, company, music, a fire in winter, and even animals around while I paint. Over the years, I’ve developed the habit of relaxing and painting simultaneously and by painting where my family is, I can spend time with them while “working”.

I keep all of my paints in Buddi Filing drawers which are kept in cupboards. Each drawer includes a palette knife, spanner, masking tape and other tools that I may need. This enables me to take a drawer of the appropriate paints (oils, alkyds or watercolours), complete with tools through to the lounge for the session. This habit makes it quick to tidy up and restore the lounge to its intended state for visitors!

Paints and Medium

I work in oils, alkyds and watercolours, with occasional works in pen & ink, coloured pencil or pencil. I use a variety of brands of oils, but the availability of high-quality, inexpensive local ranges (Zellen and Dala) make the more expensive imported brands less attractive. I use a mixture of linseed oil and genuine turpentine as medium, with Liquin added to accelerate drying time when necessary.

My favourite paints (by far) are Griffin Alkyds which are fast-drying oils, enabling me to work continuously as they dry overnight. I use Liquin as medium with these wonderful paints.

I’ve recently started working in Artisan water-miscible oils and they are superb! They are environment-friendly, convenient and make the clean-up process a breeze, but I find the texture a little different and stiff. I find them particularly useful for airbrushing as the non-toxic medium (water) is far better for one’s health!

I use Cotman watercolours, but have various other brands in my supply cupboard. Obviously, water is the medium, but I do add gum arabic, either to the paint or to the mixing water.
Brushes

For oils, I use a wide range of brushes, some old and some new on the market. I have recently started using Ruby and I find them superb! Robert Simmons White Sable are also among my favourites. For watercolours, I use Kolinsky Sable by a selection of manufacturers, including Isabey, Creative Mark, Yarka and Royal Langnickel. I have an abundance of brushes and keep them in what I call Brush Forests. I use blocks of fairly solid foam packing material and “plant” the brushes as I use them. This keeps the shafts away from other bristles, therefore keeping them clean. It’s also simple to move the entire collection, clean or loaded, back to the study or to the cleaning area.

If I have a single invaluable piece of advice for any aspirant artist, it is this… clean your brushes after EVERY painting session. Besides the high replacement cost of good brushes, any paint left to dry on the brush WILL be more difficult to clean tomorrow and the brush WILL lose some of its liveliness once paint has started to dry on it. No matter what time of the day or night, I spend the last half hour of every painting session over a sink, washing brushes. It is also a good winding-down period before going to sleep!

I find it far more inspirational to start each session with clean brushes and knives and it is amazing how long a new brush will maintain its shape, spring and feel if treated well.

Airbrushes

I’m a firm believer in airbrushes. hey are ideal for covering large areas and applying specific effects. I use a Paasche Millenium to spray Artisan oils and an Iwata HP-B for watercolour and gouache. If my recommendation to clean bristle brushes is true, double the emphasis for airbrushes. And strip them completely every time! There is nothing worse than picking up a full airbrush and finding it sticky, sluggish or just jammed up.

I use dental floss and dental picks to clean the finer parts, especially the nozzle and paint inlets.

Canvas & Paper

I paint on Fredrix or Creative Mark canvasses of various grades which I order from the USA. My local supplier of canvas is Art Stuff, who have a great range of high quality canvas and will also make up sizes according to specific requirements. For my watercolours I almost exclusively use Arches 300g/m2 Hot Pressed paper. This fine and well-known paper is tough, reliable, forgiving and versatile. I couldn’t paint without it! I am trying some other, newer papers, so watch this space!

Suppliers

I buy most of my canvas, brushes, paint and equipment from either Jerry’s Artarama or ASW Express in the USA. Both of these excellent suppliers process my local credit card and ship reliably to my local post office. Including shipping costs and local tax, I can consistently buy my supplies at 30 -50% cheaper than local suppliers.

Easels

For years I have painted on a homemade easel which I built to my own design. The only shortcoming was that I could not easily change the height of the canvas from the front. I recently changed to a store-bought easel which does not have this limitation.

I use this for most studio-sized works. For travelling, I have 2 or 3 light aluminium easels which are great for watercolours in the studio too. They’re easier to move around and very convenient to pack away.

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