Technical page - home
Sometimes i use shop bought supports but for the most part I stretch my own canvases and prepare the surface with RSG and distemper. My preference is for linen over cotton canvas, although ti is more expensive. If I use a wooden support I will source these from a good art supplier such as Jackson's of England, I usually start a painting by drawing directly onto the support, transfering the drawing by using the 'grid' method, by using a projector (rarely) or tracing the image using ordinary tracing paper or carbon paper. From there the drawing is sealed with skimmed milk (casein) applied with the type of device used to spray household plants, I apply several coats, wiping the excess off with a squeegy and also 'blotting' the support with paper towels, I leave the support to dry and then apply the next coat and so on.
Next, I often proceed to paint a grisaille, I may add burnt umber into the black or make the black from burnt umber and ultramarine blue. I also sometimes add yellow ochre to black to produce a green tinted grisaille, a 'verdaccio'. A grisaille is a proven method to establish values early on. It works well if you have a very clear idea about how the finished painting will look, it is not so good if you have a freer, more painterly style. I then add colour, painting with a limited pallete, building up the painting using, glazing techniques, scumbling, opaque paints and impasto.. I use and recommend the calcite sun oil.com technique developed by Loius Velasquez, the paint quality created by adding a grinding medium made from sun thickened flax oil and chalk from Champagne in France is remarkable. In addition the 'oil out' is made from 'glair', (a distillation of egg white) and sun thickened flax oil. This is rubbed onto the canvas and the paint prepared with the grinding medium is painted into this 'oil out'. This viscous paint has a great 'flow' to it, quite unlike and superior to that acheived with any other mediums that I have tried. and sun thicken
In the final steps I add transparent glazed shadows and usually include blue in the shadow mix where the shadow colour allows its use. I may then add impasto paint where it is needed, it is rare that I will use thick paint in the lower layers as it will take a while to dry and may crack as the painting will dry at very different speeds. I mix more chalk from Champagne into my impasto paint, I'd like to thank Louis Velasquez of C.S.O. oil for the information on how to make the C.S.O. oil and for many other valuable tips and for his invaluable support. His website can be found here - calcite sun oil.com.
I have made a large drying cabinet which allows the painting to dry well enough to continue adding layers, the next day or the day after, C.S.O. paint is quick drying, usually less than 24 hours in summer but the drying cabinet helps in winter, when the air is not as dry. I buy supports and stretch my own canvases, I then apply rabbit skin glue and a gesso made usually from white pigment and R.S.G. I sand between layers to get a smooth finish, I will seal this from the paint layers with the fat free milk (casein) mentioned above.
For wood panels I paint on two layers of rabbit skin glue to the front, back and sides and then I apply up to six coats of gesso to the front of the panel which I make from rabbit skin glue, chalk and pigment, sanding between layers to get a very smooth finish.
Regarding a finishing varnish, if there is not too much white in your painting, amber varnish gives a nice glossy finish but your whites will slightly yellow. I stay away from Damar and simillar products and instead use the 'viscous emulsion' made from glair and sun thickened flax oil, invented by Louis Velasquez, it gives a nice protective sheen to the painting, is long lasting, easily re-applied when necessary and is without solvents.
I am moving towards a more 'painterly style' to speed things up and allow myself a little more freedom as I paint, so the grisaille method may be used less. I intend to continue preparing my own canvases though as there is much more variety when choosing the size of a painting and the materials to paint on. I appreciate materials which have archival quality and I enjoy exploring the craft of oil painting.