Random oil painting products

Random or not, there is good and bad everywhere, here are few observations of mine on oil painting products.

I’ve found Da Vinci Kolinsky Marder red sable brushes to be of very good quality, long lasting, and affordable, they do exactly what a good brush should. Brights and filberts suffice for my technique, for detail I use Winsor and Newton series 7 rounds. I prefer size 1, size 0 is useable but brushes of this size have no strength. As to stiff haired brushes, I’m not too fussy, although again I have found Winsor and Newton to make good hogs hair brushes.

One particular item I can’t do without is lead white, it has become increasingly important to me as I’ve painted skin more and more. It has a luminescence to it and is absolutely not chalky. One lead white to avoid is made by Vasari, I haven’t tried their other paints and wouldn’t as my experience in dealing with them by phone was a joke. What a shite, fake product, fuck you Vasari, your ‘lead white’ is a joke. I called them and was greeted by one of those phoney posh American accents, where the idiot tries to sound colonial British, this person had the pretentious attitude to go with it, I should have stopped right there. I ordered a tube of their expensive shit, lead white and have never been more disappointed with a tube of paint before. The paint had separated so much that I had to decant it, re-mix the oil with the remaining paint and put it in another tube. The paint yellows within THREE weeks, this is unacceptable, I couldn’t recommend this goo for painting your house. Expensive white treacle. Avoid like the plague if you are a serious painter. Blockx lead white on the other hand is wonderful stuff.

I don’t often use mediums as I paint the C.S.O. method with sun thickened linseed oil, chalk and egg. I do occasionally though and I find Alchemist Mediums to be very good, although the amber varnish will, yellow tint whites. It isn’t suitable as a finishing varnish for a painting that has a lot of white in it. The mediums are taken from the de Mayerne manuscript, so are historically accurate. Painting a large painting with these mediums would be very expensive but they are excellent for small paintings, portraits and the like. The optical effects offered by these mediums are easily matched or surpassed by the C.S.O. method as it too offers painters who use extensive layering quick results that give real depth to the paint finish.

As to tube paints, I favour, Michael Harding ,Winsor and Newton, Blockx, Talens Rembrandt series, Daler Rowney, Georgian series (cheap but consistently good) and Old Holland. There are a lot of good manufacturers out there but I would avoid Vasari.

I buy most of my products from https://www.jacksonsart.com/ they offer free postage to Europe on orders over ÂŁ100.00, they have just about everything, though are not brave when it comes to selling the more toxic products. The complete opposite is the silly attitude of greatart. co.uk who if you try to buy something from them and have it sent to France, they will refer you to the French website where the same products are considerably more expensive, fuckin’ stupid!

I buy chalk, cold pressed linseed oil, glass powder and a few other items from the massive German art supplier http://www.kremer-pigmente.com/de. I make my own sun thickened flax oil.


Return to health continued, Holbein

Holbein may have enjoyed a healthy life but in general I haven’t, least not as an adult, years of severe disability are finally catching up with me. Health is extremely important to do pretty much anything, most people know little about fine-art painting and the hours you have to spend as an artist, not only on the paintings that are part of your ‘oeuvre’ but forever learning and maintaining technique; fine-art painting actually requires a fairly high degree of physical and mental stamina. One must always be a student and as I still don’t have the strength to spend hours at the easel on bigger more involved paintings, I’ve taken December’s partial return to health to make small A4 sized or less copies of renaissance, ‘great masters’ works. I have about 7/8 on the go, all in various states of completion. The aim being as a life-long student to improve technically, in classical art, ‘art’ meaning all disciplines, music, poetry, writing sculpture etc. technique serves emotion, it is the bedrock of the meaning.
I’ve managed to complete so far a detail from ‘The Ambassadors’ by Hans Holbein The Younger (1497-1543), painted in 1533 it is known not only for the consummate skill of Holbein in rendering texture and detail but the astonishing anamorphic skull, which today looks like a Photo-shop effect. See here, for my exert from the much larger painting, for the anamorphic skull, search google. The Ambassadors_detail Sorry for the photo quality, my little painting is far superior 🙂
I hope to complete the rest by the end of January at the latest and then if my stamina is ready to be tested I can move onto the bigger ideas I aim to complete in 2016. Three paintings to be rendered in oils are, ‘The Last Judgement of Pope Frances’ which I hope will cause some controversy, a female nude surrounded by a Möbius strip and my second painting in a series of realisations of poems by Wilfred Owen.
Owen’s poem, ‘Spring Offensive’ with its descriptions of buttercups catching the blood of the fallen and the shock of meeting a hail of bullets, having climbed a ridge. Literally like falling off the edge of the world, will be painted on a wooden panel prepared in the renaissance way, using rabbit skin glue and six or so fine coatings of real home-made chalk gesso as opposed to cotton canvas or linen which I favour. I hope I can do it justice, I can certainly imagine it now as I did when I first read it many years ago.
I have many sketches to turn into paintings so I hope my health holds up and that I can be busy painting again this year and finally get around to selling high quality Giclée prints.



Pablo Picasso_Guernica

Guernica is probably on balance, the greatest painting of the 20th century both in terms of content and also in style, summing up as it were a new age in painting. I believe beyond that it can also lay claim to being one of the greatest paintings of all time and can be considered alongside paintings by Bosch, Van Eyck, Carravagio, Vermeer and other Renaissance masters.

Guernica is a small Basque town, it was bombed to hell and back in 1937 by the combined military airforces of Germany and Italy following a request from the Spanish Nationalist government of the time. Guernica was truly ‘blitzed’ and we must never forget the Guernicas of history, lest we repeat the horrors of that day, it was bombed not because of any military value but to ‘silence’ the voice of protest from the region.

Picasso’s painting (it is truly an awe inspiring thing to see) was a direct response to what he saw as an attack on ‘humanity’, especially women and children. Picasso mated style with substance so perfectly in this painting and that is why it will continue to speak to future generations; not to the cerebraly blind though.


Two great paintings

SALOMÉ_Henri Regnault

Like Wilfred Owen Henri Regnault died aged just 25, he was killed in battle defending Paris at Buzenval in 1871. I mention Regnault, not because he is a major player in the history of art, although that may change as the popularity of artists waxes and wanes with each generation, but to illustrate his wonderful technique in revealing the type of cloth that the garment that Salomé is wearing is made from. The semi-transparent nature of the material is particularly difficult to render but here so well achieved that his technical skill looks effortless. Just so the skin and the character of the model, even more difficult to pull off but Regnault does that with the accomplished hand and eye of an experienced master, he was a great loss to the world of art, what would he have gone on to paint?

Henri Regnault_Salomé


A painting that needs no introduction, I put it alongside Regnault’s ‘SalomĂ©’ to show Dali’s equal skill in rendering cloth, the gown that ‘Gala’ is wearing is beautifully painted. Inspired by the painters of the renaissance such as Raphael and Bellini, Dali searched his entire life to unlock the ‘secret’ techniques of the renaissance painters. He never found them but that didn’t stop him from finding his own answer to the difficult technical problems, constantly faced by painters in the fine-arts.

Salvador Dali_Crucifixion


Wilfred Edward Salter Owen

I first read the war poetry of Wilfred Owen as a child of 12 or so – at the local grammar school. The English teacher was sadly an exception in that place, as Mr. Leach actually took the time to discover the rapidly forming personalities of his pupils. He somehow helped me to understand the message of this poetry, although, at age 12 I can’t have understood what I do now but I certainly ‘felt’ the truth of Owen’s story and it had a profound effect. I remember making a pencil copy of the soldier in my painting, though without the mask and some other details.
‘Dulce Et Decorum Est’ is Wilfred Owen’s most well known poem and not without good reason, for it is a tour de force, graphic and eloquent. Although my painting honouring the memory of Owen isn’t based on Dulce Et Decorum Est, it certainly influences the emotional content, it’s impossible to sidestep the dark content of the poem, its emotional power rises with increasing intensity as the poem reaches its final two lines and leaves you shredded, at least if you’ve not become to inured by 21st century life, to still really feel such things – the images are truly horrific.
Someone asked me the other day if I was obsessed by death, well it certainly has been on my mind lately, due to ill health and other events, I should have answered that beauty is central to everything that I do, that – and hope – and the placement of myself at the centre of each painting. Death is a theme, just as re-birth is, also decrepitude and reconstruction through art. I can see what they were getting at though but I’d hate to be thought of as an artist obsessed with nothing but the finality of death and the end of hope that it brings. Without hope, the daily grind isn’t worth anything.

More here


A few words on The Craft

In a world that races by ever more quickly there is often little time to get everything done in a day, maybe it was always so but the more technologically advanced we have become, the more the age old established crafts and manual skills have been lost. I’m particularly thinking of the crafts needed to be a fine-art painter, canvas and support preparation, the making of special oils and mediums. Recently I’ve begun to buy various supports, panels and canvases. I now stretch my own canvas and apply a size made from rabbit skin glue to protect the canvas from the acid in the paints which over time would destroy the canvas.
I’ve experimented a little with making oil paint with pigment and linseed oil but for the moment I’m happy to continue using quality tube paints with the addition of Louis Velasquez C.S.O. grinding medium, it is a lot of work to do everything for yourself and then paint and of course in the past successful artists had ‘ateliers’, with apprentices to do the more mundane manual tasks. My plan is to add skills as I need them and if they really are too labour intensive then I’ll see them as such and find an alternative solution.
I arrived at the idea of preparing my own canvases for two reason, firstly it gives you a greater freedom in choosing what size of canvas to use and I grew frustrated with applying acrylic gesso, I don’t like the stuff, I’ve found it dried unpredictably and too quickly when applying it to large canvases, rabbit skin glue conversely is easy to work with so long as it is kept at a reasonably warm temperature, similar to hot tap water. It can be sanded between coats until a smooth surface is obtained when a toned or tinted gesso can be applied. For panels I use a traditional gesso made with hot glue and chalk from Champagne in France.
I think the craft of painting will ultimately only be learned by those who wish to become more complete as an artist but of course this is not meant as a slight at painters who wish to paint and are happy to use the shop bought materials which are currently available. There is one other benefit to learning how to make your own canvases and prepare panels and that is one of cost, it’s true that shop bought panels are available for little money in all sorts of stores but the cheap ones are cheap, they twist and they still require the painting surface to be coated with a couple of coats of acrylic gesso. The more expensive canvases are just that – really expensive, once the craft of canvas preparation has been learned, there is a cost benefit to be had from doing the work for yourself, along with the afore-mentioned freedom to customise the canvas size and apply a quality glue size and glue based gesso.

I stretch my own canvases and prepare the surface with RSG and distemper. My preference is for cotton canvas. 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 ground, transferring 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 a household plant sprayer, I apply several coats, wiping the excess off with a squeegee and also ‘blotting’ the support with paper towels, I leave the support to dry and then apply the next coat and so on.

I continue usually painting a grisaille, aiming for a charcoal tone rather than a blue-black. I 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 achieved with any other mediums that I have tried.

In the final stages I add transparent glazed shadows. 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.

I have made a large drying cabinet which allows the painting to dry well enough to continue adding layers, (thanks to Donald Fels of Alchemist Mediums for the information on how to do this) 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.

Regarding a finishing varnish, if there is not too much white in your painting, amber varnish gives a nice deep glossy finish but your whites will slightly yellow. I stay away from Damar and similar 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 the negative properties of solvents.

I’ve been somewhat remiss in blogging, whether about technique and the preparation for painting or about the subjects in my paintings, thoughts on art, politics and the world etc. But I should mention at this date 22.8.2019 that I have recently prepared a canvas with a primer from W%N. I still sized the large canvas (1.5cm x 1.3cm) with R.S.G. glue though, I really liked the resulting finish and for the next canvas I am going to try P.V.A. size, hand stretch the canvas (with some help) and then use the W%N white primer again. I’ve previously used a ‘stretching tool’ to stretch canvases but this time I just got a friend to hand stretch it with me, even before I put in the corner wedges I can say that I will be even happier once they are installed and make the canvas – drum tight.


What is art?

The Gagosian Gallery in New York will look at the workshop of the Italian architect Renzo Piano in an exhibition there from June 27 until August 2. He said recently, “real architecture, real painting, real poetry, real music is never detached from physicality, architecture is at the edge, between art and anthropology, between society and science, technology and history – architecture is about illusion and symbolism, semantics, and the art of telling stories.”

Whilst it is easy to immediately understand what is meant by anthropology, society science, technology and history, I struggle to define ‘art’. Is it readily definable in any sort of a serious, meaningful way? Perhaps the very fact that it is a struggle to pin down art tells us something about its lasting hold over all of human life.