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Question asked 2019-08-23 17:53:09 ...
Most recent comment 2019-08-27 17:46:50
Solvents and Thinners
Studio Tools and Tips
Can anyone recommend a book, article or website that would teach me the best practices for creating a structurally sound oil painting, especially in layers? I read so much conflicting information on fat over lean, and the use of mediums. I am experimenting with water mixable oils, but I figure that a resource on traditional oils would be helpful if I replace "solvent" with "water." Many thanks.
Answers and Comments
I know of no textbook that is completely up-to-date. Gottsegen
is probably the closest but even it is behind on a number of issues. Probably
the best current resources on oil paint are our downloads (although they are not
systematic about specific applications), the various articles by George O’Hanlon
More great info that is current can be found at https://www.justpaint.org/ hosted by
Golden Artist Colors. They do tend to focus a bit more on acrylic dispersion
colors but issues surrounding oil paints are also a frequent topic.
Unfortunately, all of these are generally a list of
parameters, or suggestions, or test results suggesting ways to promote
longevity in your artwork. They are not, and cannot be lessons on how to paint
things. This would be inappropriate for us to come up with a list of procedures
as to how to depict what you want to paint. It is also not really possible
given the format of these forums and pages.
Nothing can replace the situation where a knowledgeable instructor
works with a small group (or one-on-one) to guide a student in how to achieve
certain effects. This can glorious or stifling. It also can result in the
creation of clones without their own voice or vision. Unfortunately, there is
also the issue that many people whose works look amazing, do not follow
anything remotely close to what is currently considered best practice. Many
highly skilled instructors have great techniques to achieve effects but poor
decisions relating to the longevity of their artwork. Sometimes this is because
they are following outmoded ideas but have honed their craft to create amazing
looking works. Other times, they just do not care about issues of permanence,
especially when if hampers creativity. Sometimes
they have stumbled onto a particular effect that requires a deviation from
standard practice, but this deviation is thought to be worth it. The apparent
technical virtuosity of a work does not correspond in any manner to how it will
fair in time.
Honestly, I do not have a problem with the 2nd
two scenarios. Our goal is to see if we can come up with a more permanent way
to facilitate whatever aesthetic you are trying to achieve and let you know the
risks associated with particular practices. We do not want to dictate what you
do but only advise on options. I far am more annoyed by the self-proclaimed experts
in materials and techniques (almost always with an atavistic penchant for an
archaic natural resin, a goofy take on a generally typical substance, or an apotheosis of another long-discarded material) who dogmatically
proclaim the superiority of an outmoded material despite confirmed evidence to
None of the above is particularly helpful given your question. I am sorry that there is no way to be more exacting.
In my experience, most painters probably already know enough basic principles to construct a reasonably sound painting, if only they would apply them. The performance advantages of different support/primer combinations are well understood among painters today, as is the idea that oil painting mediums and thinners should be used conservatively. Most also seem to know that oil paint should not be diluted excessively with solvents.
A lot of bad practices, in my opinion, originate with assumptions artists make about historical art based on study from reproductions, rather than viewing the originals. There is a lot more direct painting in 16th-18th pictures than many people assume, and what often looks like pools of glaze over mountains of impasto is often much more subtle and in low relief. Works by Goya, for example, that look heavily painted with thick passages in photographs are actually surprisingly flat in-person. What makes the difference is skill and drawing ability.
I mention this because pictorial or optical effects ascribed to complicated sequence of exotic materials are often actually the result of skilled drawing and color juxtaposition. When we are dazzled by a calligraphic hand, we don't attribute the skill to the ink, nor an ornately carved piece of furniture to the varnish. So, why should we diminish the role of artistic skill where oil paint is concerned? One example that leaps to mind is the mystery of the Van Eyck oil technique. Yet, in tempera book illuminations ascribed to the master, the same luminosity, paint handling and descriptive power are apparent, with no oils. So, to paint a Van Eyck, I think this shows it's more important to be Van Eyck than to have oil paint.
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