"These jewel-like paintings intuitively fuse different aesthetic traditions, folk art and old master, with natural grace and an uncanny quality that may be a species of magic." —American Arts Quarterly
I normally work on traditional gessoed (the rabbit skin glue, marble dust stuff, not the acrylic stuff sold as ‘gesso’) boards from RealGesso or oil primed Ampersand Hardbord or Ampersand Claybord sealed with thin imprimatura of ochre and M. Graham Walnut Alkyd Medium. However, when I work larger or wish for a change in surface, I love oil primed linen.
Here’s my method of mounting linen canvas onto panel:
“Was it worth it?” Is perhaps a proper question to ask when one wonders about the relevance of one’s work. If there ever was a manifesto on the artist’s life, Robert Henri’s seminal collection of writings, “The Art Spirit” come immediately to mind. It has been the bible for many a generation of hopeful creators. He explains the inexplicable desire of those who endeavor to pursue this calling. Below is an excerpt form a “Letter of Criticism.” These are wonderful words to remember when one doubts the validity of his or her work.
Art is, after all, only a trace – like a footprint which shows that one has walked bravely and in great happiness. Those who live in full play of their faculties become master economists, they understand the relative value of things. Freedom can only be obtained through an understanding of basic order. Basic order is underlying all life. It is not to be found in the institutions men have made. Those who have lived and grown at least to some degree in the spirit of freedom are our creative artists. They have a wonderful time. They keep the world going. They must leave their trace in some way, paint, stone, machinery, whatever. The importance of what they do is greater than anyone estimates at the time. In fact in a commercial world there are thousands of lives wasted doing things not worth doing. Human spirit is sacrificed. More and more things are produced without
My most important tools are obviously brushes. Here are my favorites at the moment:
Escoda bristle filberts
Isabey mongoose rounds
Silver Brush ruby satin synthetics rounds and filberts
I typically use around two dozen brushes in a painting session. I don’t like rinsing them while painting and prefer to have new clean brushes per color. To clean brushes, I rinse in oil then use Studio Products’ Ugly Dog soap which works great. I also use Reine Kernseife pure curd soap from Natural Pigments. It comes in very cute little ivory bars.
Recently I’ve been exchanging emails with a friend and collector about having that “eye” for spotting good paintings. How do you know if it’s good? Is it a gut reaction? The answer is yes, of course. As a painter you know when you need a red color here or when the composition is lacking or “off.” Or egads, when it must be destroyed. After years of painting, it’s something that comes subconsciously. As an exercise, my friend asked me to pick my most successful paintings and explain why I thought they had “it.” After much thinking, because I arrive at different and unique solutions for each painting, the best answer I can offer is this:
My most satisfying paintings are the ones that made me feel the most nervous in their creation.
Nervousness – because of technique (not really much of a concern, solutions manifest along the way), or idea (bigger concern, as this is always an act of faith)
I prefer a classical palette composed of earth colors. David Rourke in his weblog All The Strange Hours wrote an informative post on the classical palette, if you’re a little more curious. My wood palette itself is one designed by artist William Whitaker and manufactured by Real Gesso (who also make great traditional gesso panels).
In the color listing below, I don’t use all of the following colors at the same time. Those with an asterisk (*) are my mainstay colors. Yes, there are some “duplicates” but I get different results from using Williamsburg’s Italian Raw Sienna (grainier and shimmery) versus Michael Harding’s Raw Sienna (smoother consistency); and between Williamsburg’s Italian Raw Umber (greener) and Michael Harding’s Raw Umber (browner). These are subtle differences indeed but important enough to use both versions of these colors.
As evident in the photo above, I don’t premix any colors but mix directly on the canvas/panel. I also don’t use solvent but use M. Graham Walnut Alkyd – not to thin paints (which I never do) but to serve as a “couch” and “drier” or to seal the very absorbent traditional gesso ground or Ampersand Claybord. I like solvent free putty mediums. My painting method is fairly intuitive and changes daily it seems like. It’s an ongoing learning process, so I’ve stopped posting demos as what I write on any given day can change the next. So in general, here’s my palette: