It all starts with boxes. In my many years of painting (over 40) and nearly as many teaching, I have discovered what 90% of the artists I worked with (and myself) stumbled over; what gave us the most grief. These points are covered in my workbook “What’s It All About”. There comes a time when we paint, that we figure out it isn’t about painting inside the lines! It’s about exciting compositions and the interplay of values and shapes, created through shading, color and texture that make amazing works of art. What we ultimately realize that we are building the images in our paintings without depending on the drawn line. That leads to a recognition of how well do we understand how to build our images with paint, instead of depending on the drawn line to describe an image. Which leads to the question of how well do you understand how to build the structure you’re painting? If you’re painting realism, dimensional form and perspective are all wrapped up in everything architectural in our world today.
And everything architectural relates back to boxes. Tackle boxes, of all shapes and sizes, and you’ll get a better grasp on building that nostalgic house or town you discovered not too long ago.
Stop into Michael’s Art Store or Hobby Lobby and pick up some (very affordable) boxes and starting drawing them.
And guess what? You’ll be able to do complex structures. After that, learning to do the same thing in paint alone.
Think about shoes and/or hats. They’re boxes too. Laces and straps, high heels on shoes, ribbons and flowers on the hats, come from knowing what to do with ribbons (https://maggiemcclellan.com/2016/08/why-ribbons/).
Ribbons teach us how to draw and/or paint everything that’s organic. Things that twist, roll over, bend, fold….all those amorphous shapes that we encounter when painting fabric, hair, waves, birds wings, flowers and leaves, the twists and turns that tree branches take….I could go on and on.
When we fully understand how the edges of a ribbon functions to describe the loops and bends, we’ll be able to create beautiful folds, waves…..folding leaves, curving – bending flower petals.
Mediums – the most misunderstood word in oil painting. There are 3 components we use when painting in oils. All 3 are often referred to as “mediums”. Here is a description of each one, when and how they are best used:
Medium #1: Solvents LEAN
Medium #2: Oil Paint NEUTRAL
Medium #3: Oil Painting Mediums FAT
Solvents (often referred to as paint thinner or brush cleaner) are used for thinning paint and preliminary brush cleaning. These solvents are either turpentine or mineral spirit (petroleum products) based. The mineral spirit products are marketed under a variety of manufacturer names, such as: Gambsol (Gamblin product); DaVinci; OMS; Masterpiece; etc. Turpentine products are usually marketed as such. Be aware that Turpenoid is NOT a turpentine product. Acrylic paint can be successfully used UNDER oil paints to tone a canvas and/or set in images. It is strongly suggested that acrylics not be applied thickly or built up into thick layers, as it doesn’t dry as quickly as previously thought and can “snap” oil layers that might dry faster (above the acrylic layers).
One of the main uses for a solvent is to thin down paint out of the tube when applying an initial layer of paint on a canvas. I have used the word “scrumbling” for years (it was told to me) to describe this process. It is not to be confused with the word “scumbling” which is a different technique. Using scrumbling approach gives me time and opportunity to explore color and value choices (referencing my thumbnail sketch for the composition’s value design).
Example of scrumbling (not scumbling)
Oil paints (straight out of the tube) consist of pigment mixed with oil, usually vegetable in nature. This is the first introduction of “fat” over “lean”. Once paint thinned with solvent has been applied, the next step is applying paint either directly “out of the tube” or mixed with a painting medium (below).
Painting mediums are added to any oil paint in order to change the paints’ longevity, malleability and viscosity. There are many, many varieties of mediums: those that make the paint runnier; make the paint thicker; make the paint dry faster; make glazes and so on. These mediums are made with a wide variety of oils: walnut, poppy, linseed, stand, etc. For expert information on how to safely use a medium (and what choices to make), I suggest you start with Ralph Mayer’s Book “The Artist’s Handbook of Materials and Techniques”. Available in your local library (if not, ask for it) or at Amazon.com.
Paint can be applies with bristle and/or natural hair brushes as well as palette knives. Brushes come in bright, flat, filbert and round shapes.