Things I Learned as an Oil Painter: Thing #1

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Thanks for the positive feedback about my upcoming series of posts!

Here it is: thing #1.

Don't go cheap on your raw materials.  You get what you pay for.

Not exactly rocket science I know, but I have really begun to see the wisdom in this. When I first started painting I saved money by buying cheaper canvases that came in packs of 5. As I started to mix with folks who know what they're talking about, I was warned more than once that my canvas choice could be problematic. Apparently, over time the primer used on the cheaper canvas could cause the painting to peel away from the surface. This has never happened to me (touch wood) and I think it has to do with using an acrylic under-painting that binds to the acrylic gesso...but that's just a guess. In some cases when I didn't use an under-painting (on a quick study, for example) I found the canvas would have way too much "bite", dragging paint out of my brushes too quickly, not allowing me to paint how I wanted.  Also, the stretcher bars on cheaper canvases are pretty flimsy and and easily become compressed by a tight frame. This results in the canvas slackening, seriously detracting from the appearance of the work. Before long I had switched to a higher quality canvas made locally in Montreal.

I'd be really interested in hearing of anyone's experiences with using differing qualities of oil paint - that's a journey I'm just beginning...

Why am I posting this stuff?  maccski.deviantart.com/art/Thi…

Take a look at my Facebook page...if you like it, please "Like" it! www.facebook.com/MontrealArtis…

Thing #2 coming soon...
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Silent-winterland's avatar
Thanks for the tips! Still feeling afraid to draw oil painting...lol
maccski's avatar
You're welcome. Try it - no need to be afraid!
glunac's avatar
I bought a cheap stretched canvas once...we were living in the Seattle area, the humidity warped the wood & that painting stretched out of shape & is as tight as a drum. I keep meaning to re-stretch it (using new stretcher bars), but I haven't. I'm not only lazy I guess I am curious as to it's breaking point.
line-melte's avatar
Very wise indeed... this is a piece of advice I've always taken, and never regretted it. :nod:
21stCenturyDamocles's avatar
i used the wrong tittle on that book refrince its called the Artist Handbook here is a link to it on Amazon.com [link]
maccski's avatar
Awesome - I'll check it out.
21stCenturyDamocles's avatar
cool i did look at that PDF
JennyMoedKorpela's avatar
I agree on the canvas issue, if you buy cheap canvas you very often get poor quality that maybe doesn't reveal its bad qualities first after the painting is finished.
And the oil colours: I have always tried to buy the better quality, or brands I know I can trust, such as Rembrandt and W&N. The 'artists - quality' is a little bit more expensive, but I have noticed that because of the better quality, such a tube last much longer than a cheaper one. I also find that the pigments are much richer in the good quality oil, at least in my way of painting when I want to use thin layers of oil. The quality ( and quantity in this case) of pigments use to make paint can vary, and I noticed it last in some waterolours I bought. I bought some cheap chinese brand to use in my journal. The problem with them was that they dried so dull and colorless, it was a total waste of the money!
21stCenturyDamocles's avatar
iv been told and i find this to be true that W&N is a horrible paint full of marble dust and other extenders. the only truly archival paints sold in the US are Gamblen brand and Williamsburg. Gamblen is the only paint in the United stats that provides restorative materials for the National Concervincy trust as well as they are considered the only knowledgeable consultant in maters of historic preservation that's Golden Brands but they cost a good deal more then other paints. iv heard that Rembrandt is a good solid old school brand do to their length of operation thy have not changed there formulas much over the years. some other vary good brands not made in the us are Holbein they are not old school but spend a good deal on research there are others but the list are to long to go in to. but suffice it to say that in this case for the most part older Co. do a better job then newer with the exception as i already mentioned Windsor&Newton. and my last rule is that if its thick out of the tube its probably but not always loaded with pigments the thinner and more creamy a paint is the more binders it has in it sure its easier to work with but in the end it will fail
JennyMoedKorpela's avatar
I did not know that about W&N, I have always considered their paint good... maybe I have just become so accustomed to that I know exactly how all the colors I use of them behave, that I consider it good... It would be sad indeed if they will fail in time! I have also noticed that it is a difference between the W&N student and artists grades, and the W&N I have bought here in China is different than the tubes I bought in Europe. The colors are the same and they behave the same, but the consistent of the paint is different now that I think of it... Interesting!
I have never heard of Gamblen or Williamsburg. But yes, Rembrandt and Van Gogh oil paints are good, they have been around long enough that time have shown that they last at least one life time... ;-) Talen's I am not sure of, have you any experiences with that brand? It would be interesting to know! Thank you for your comment!!
21stCenturyDamocles's avatar
iv not used Talen brand Roubulkof is good if your looking for a really high end brand but the cost is outrageous and i cant find it in The US and they don't sell online. there are so many really great brands hey if the W&S artist color works for you and you like it then stick with it but don't use the student brand that's the worst its not made for achieving just to get students in to the practice mostly students don't create work that is good enough to save no offence to any young people out there if your that good then you need to be using better paint. but in the end no mater what brand you use if your not painting fat over lean your work will never survive to be saved. in the end its all about technique the really most important part is to just paint and have fun if its meant for our work to last then it will you cant worry about it!. its about a life well spent not how great your paints are!.
JennyMoedKorpela's avatar
I agree! I think that when I move back to Europe I will change to Rembrandt whenever I have to buy new paint. Even if I have used the W&N mostly so far, I do not like the sound of it's bad quality! I want to have fun and enjoy my painting without having to worry about the quality of the paint. I would hate it if something I am very proud over and loved doing would start fading/deteriorating before I myself is cold in my grave, especially as I want to sell my art, then I want to give the customer good quality for their money... ;-) if And yes, the fat over lean rule I had to learn the hard way...
21stCenturyDamocles's avatar
you can get Rembrandt in the US
JennyMoedKorpela's avatar
That's good, but I live currently in China...and I can't remember if I have ever seen rembrandt here. I have to check next time I fly to Shanghai.
21stCenturyDamocles's avatar
you can buy almost any paint on line
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maccski's avatar
Thanks for your comment. I use a very limited palette (alizarin crimson, ultramarine, cad yellow pale, pthalo emerald and titanium white) and I have the impression that the quality of paint I'm using is limiting the range of colours I can mix. Sooner or later everything tends towards grey and it takes a lot of work to keep the work looking vibrant. I'm using Holbein Ecolse because it's the best that I've found of the cheaper brands and is easily available at a local art store. For my next painting I'll be practising what I preach and I'll use W&N artist grade. It's good to hear that it will go further because the cad yellow isn't cheap!
TomOliverArt's avatar
I agree. Some of my earlier paintings were done with student paints and the colors have faded.
maccski's avatar
Luckily the colour fastness of the paint I use has been pretty good. I'm still going to upgrade to see if I can get deeper, richer hues...but handing over all that cash for some teeny tubes of paint is going to sting!
TomOliverArt's avatar
Exactly. They are very costly. I try to use cheaper brands for white and then more expensive ones for the colors I mix with it.
maccski's avatar
Good advice, Tom. One thing that really gets to me is that paints are much more expensive here in Quebec than in the US or western Canada. I just ordered a full palette (for me that's only 5 tubes) from Alberta. I would love to support my local art store but it's very hard to justify it.
21stCenturyDamocles's avatar
i concur on all that bad canvas and cheep paint leave the artist paying back money here in the US a buyer can go back on you for 10 years i dont use stretchers any more i mount my canvas on ridged panels they never loos there look much easier and no staples to mess with i use an archival glue that can be removed and replaced easily
maccski's avatar
Hey Paul - sounds like you've really thought this out. Good to hear that you're taking your art so seriously!
21stCenturyDamocles's avatar
o yes history is full of artist that went bankrupt paying back on paintings that have gone prematurely bad all the more reason to practice Fat over Lean it is really important!if you want any info on archival painting techniques let me know i study Renaissance art and have acses to lots of info on the subject
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