Saturday, June 28, 2008

The Way I Work

I tend to flow between oil, acrylic and watercolour, with the occasional pastel for good measure.

I don't often paint 'Plein Air', although I do sketch outdoors and take photographs as source material. (I am sure that had the camera been available to the likes of Constable and Turner, they would have used it.)

The best of the game starts when I get back to my studio (shed), and start sketching out what I want to say, given the thoughts I had when I collected my material. It's so pleasantly surprising when something entirely different suggests itself and I end up using maybe just one tree from a photograph, to produce something so far removed from the original, locals wouldn't recognise the place and I dare not entitle the work, for the place I was at.

What do I paint on?

My favourite support for oils and acrylic is stretched linen canvas. I stretch my own raw canvas, size it and prime with lead-based primer, for oils and acrylic primer if I am using acrylics. I tint the primer with oil paint, to a colour that suits the subject I am going to paint; this is because there is a slight under-glow from the grounding, that does affect the look of the finished work. I have considered using marble-dust as a texturing medium, but I can't seem to source any in the UK. Instead I use a decorator's filling powder, and mix it with the primer. Especially if I am preparing a panel of 6mm MDF for a pastel. Much less expensive than proper 'pastel-primer'.

Other supports for oil and acrylic are primed MDF; ready-made artists' panels and even watercolour paper, suitably primed and glued to a firm ground. (The heavier weight the better here.) I have tried plywood panels, but not with so much success I fear. I much prefer solid wood, if I am going in this direction. .

What kind of paint do I use? Without advertising, I will just say I use artists' quality colours. They are more vibrant, they cover better and the pigments are richer altogether. That isn't to say I decry students' quality colours. I don't. I use them at times, mainly because I still have some left from the days when I started!

For watercolours I use the heaviest paper I can find, and I tend towards Arches (Pronounced 'Aaahsh' - the first part of a sneeze! That's what I am told, but I don't know for sure. As it is French it's probably true. ) I also like Fabriano; once again in as heavy a weight as I can get. Particularly, I like the ivory colour of this paper, coupled with its interesting and irregular texture. Ideal for loose watercolours. I also use Saunders Waterford and Whatman's papers. Unfortunately, I find Whatman acts like blotting-paper, soaking up colour much more quickly than the other papers I use. So, Whatman isn't a first choice as it doesn't suit my technique. (Wet into wet mostly.)

Brushes are sables and the modern sable-synthetic mix. I keep a set of long-handled sables for oil and acrylic work and my mahl stick is a piece of dowel, with a stuffed linen head on it. I saved here, as I made it myself!

So that is the practical side of my approach to painting... Make of it what you will!

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