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MITRA Forum Question Details

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  • Resource of Oil Painting Best PracticesApproveRejectUn-ApproveSubscribeUn-Unsubscribe
    Question asked 2019-08-23 17:53:09 ... Most recent comment 2019-08-27 17:46:50
    Oil Paint Solvents and Thinners Studio Tools and Tips Paint Mediums

    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

  • EditDeleteModerator Answer

    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 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 the contrary.  

    None of the above is particularly helpful given your question. I am sorry that there is no way to be more exacting.

    Brian Baade
    2019-08-23 22:47:56
  • EditDeleteModerator Answer

    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. 

    Matthew Kinsey, Utrecht Art Supplies
    2019-08-27 17:46:50

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