Friday, November 25, 2011

Oil, Thick, Thin and In Between

Lately I have been observing people in a class painting en plein air with oil paint.  Some people have been painting for a considerable time, some not so much.  Aside from the fundamentals, many are experiencing difficulty on their palette.  The problem is controlling the amount of paint on their brush.  This results in too much paint too soon in the process, or a gooey mess.  Some people can work with these conditions, some can't.

Thick and Skipping

Well, this person was not trying to get broken colour.  The paint was too thick to manipulate or move around.  Dry brush when something else was intended.

The cause - on the palette the painter could not manage to take a sensitive bite of paint from the squeezed out piles to match the medium in the brush.  Too much paint, inability to mix the the required tone.  Then the squeezed out paint ran out.  Interruption and more squeezing out.  The other extreme for this person was a load of mineral spirits and a bit of paint for preliminary underpainting, followed by more of each.  Both practices progressed to end with too much thin paint that was too wet to work with.

A Start With Thin Paint

Here is a start with lots of mineral spirits in the grey paint.  Now, if you can just continue with ever more paint in a slow progression.....

Of course, there are no rules for this.  Lots of practice will usually straighten out the problem and result in coping mechanisms that allow for occasional overdoses to be dealt with.  You can work with mineral spirits, or paint from the tube, or paint treated with a medium, etc.

Keys for success;

  • Put out more than enough paint.  Use it to get the required viscosity.
  • Practice taking appropriate amounts of paint to get colour and maintain desired viscosity.
  • Hold the brush properly to let the paint come off.
  • Listen and feel the paint coming off the brush.
  • Practice increasing the viscosity in small amounts for each layer - ie stop using mineral spirits - fat over lean
  • Experiment with mediums, raw paint, mineral spirits, or combinations.

Keys for Recovery from an overdose;

  • Scrape off excess with a palette knife.
  • Remove excess with a rag, paper towel, or finger.
  • Take a break to let the paint set up.
In less detail this means practice, practice, practice.  Or, "go to your room" and paint as Robert Genn says.

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