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  • Copper Tacks, Back

    For those of you that have been at easel painting (or carpet laying, I suppose) for over a decade, you probably remember the ubiquitous copper tacks that were used for stretching canvas once upon a time.  They were copper plated, which prevented oxidization, and in retrospect, also looked really sexy next to the color of your linen.  Not only super sharp, but they worked with a magnetic tack hammer so that you could quickly tap one after the other into your canvas, all one handed.  They are back-or perhaps never left, and I just didn’t know where to find them at a reasonable price.

     

     

    From what I understand, the price of copper skyrocketed, and rather than the art store selling them by the pound jug, they started selling just ten at a time.  Most painters I know either started using the steel carpet tacks from home depot, or using a stapler.  While staplers work fine (and you can even get copper staples), tacks have a few advantages: with a  magnetic tack hammer you can work very fast, tacks make but one hole, staples two holes in your canvas, and tacks can be reused, removed easily and easy to restretch.  Staples, while fine, are way more of a pain for removing and restretching.

    Anyways, click here for a link to the only place selling copper tacks these days.  D.B. Gurney Company is apparently a historic tack maker, and here in Massachusetts.  All due credit to weekly student Elaine Benfatto for finding them.  Using them the other day I thought I would share…  It is nice to have them back- not just for their color, but for my outdoor pictures to stop getting bits of brown rust around the tack edge.

  • Materials Class, Florence Academy of Art US

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    I spent last weekend with the students and faculty of The Florence Academy of Art’s US branch, in Jersey City.  The school is set up in the Mana Contemporary complex, click here for an interesting article from the New York Times on the history of the Mana complex.  It’s an interesting place to run an atelier-modeled school- not only because of nearby NYC’s endless galleries and museums, but also what’s going on in the building at any time.  Right now, there’s a show of Andy Warhol’s silkscreens in the building, as well the Mana Urban Arts Project showing work by Shepard Fairey, Adam COST, a RIME tribute to NACE, and any number of specifically not-traditional-painting-related-things.  Clearly the students of the FAA NJ branch will not be able to convince themselves that they are at the forefront of the art world, but in a new niche existing in parallel with the greater art scene, vying for attention.  This is probably a healthy bubble for an art student to be developing in, plus- Newark Ave in Jersey City has the best Indian food in the States.

     

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    grinding yellow ocher

     

    This branch of the school is new, they’re in their second year.  The director of the school, Jordan Sokol had asked me to come to help get the student body started in making their own materials, as many are now beginning to paint after finishing with their Bargues, casts and figure studies, and it seemed to me that I came at the right time.  Everyone had lots of questions, and we talked about everything from grinding paint, to oiling out and sinking in.

    It’s always nice to have a large group of students that are really hungry for information- they ask such a variety of questions  that I don’t really need to ‘lecture’, it’s more like a two day workshop.  Here are some photos from the weekend.

     

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    talking with the students about different supports, rigid and flexible

     

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    sizing linen with rabbit skin glue

     

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    mounting raw linen to panel with Rabbit Skin Glue

     

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    cooking gesso ground with the students for their panels

     

     

    We covered a lot- we talked extensively about paint rheology, ground 15 tubes of yellow ocher, around 10 tubes of ultramarine blue, made 17-20 stretched linen canvases with oil ground applied, mounted linen to wood panel with animal hide glue, mounted pre primed linen to aluminum composite material with BEVA 371, cooked and tested rabbit skin glue, cooked a gesso ground, and made 30-odd gesso wood panels.  I hope the students enjoy using all the handmade stuff that we made together.

     

    My next weekend materials class will be at the studio in Waltham, on January 21-22nd 2017.  Email me if you are interested in joining.

    click here to read a blog post on my materials class last year at The Florence Academy of Art branch in Gothenburg, Sweden

     

  • Russian Engineering, by Viktor Butko

    At the root of painting is not only art, but engineering.  You have to ask yourself questions like- how do I fit all these wet paintings in my suitcase?  How many wet paintings can you have in a car before you start to damage them (and get paint all over your car)?  Who builds the best little portable paint box (for the record, I do, and I am starting to think about how to produce these little boxes to sell).  Put enough artists together and eventually they will start talking about their materials, and hanging out last month with Russian friend Viktor Butko reminded me of a couple of his really good ideas-as he called them, “Russian Engineering”.  I thought I should share them here.

    Viktor’s a resourceful guy, but although most artists are handy, part of it may come from his history- he’s from an artistic family.  He’s a third-generation painter, and works in Moscow in his Grandfather’s studio (which is one of the old Soviet Realist studios, one of my favorite Russian artists Arkady Plastov also worked in the building). His Grandfather’s name was Viktor Chulovich, and it’s really worth taking a look at his paintings online, I come across them from time to time, he was an excellent painter.   When our group visited Viktor’s studio in 2013, we were taken not just with the building, its history and his work, but this totally radical easel-chair that Butko had found in the attic-it’s really compact, check this link for a video of it that Dalessio took.

     

    Idea One, “The Viktor Rack”:

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    This seems simple, but it’s ingenious.  I now keep a length of rope in my car that can crisscross between all four of the car roof handles, making a small rack to suspend a painting between your head and the roof.  When we got in Viktor’s car in 2013 and saw a perfectly suspended painting hovering above out heads we collectively all went “holy shit, what a good idea”.  If you paint large-ish, even if you don’t paint outside, from time to time there is a painting that just won’t fit in your car, or more importantly, won’t fit safely without risking denting it.  This problem has gotten a lot worse for me since having a kid in 2014, having a carseat in the car really limits the amount of larger work you can fit in the car, plus I need to keep work safely away from the young Mancini-Hresko’s kicking little feet.  This is a much safer method for transporting work than loading paintings vertically, (for the record, that is a 36×43″ canvas in the photo above)- and no, I have not once gotten paint on the roof of my car.  This works great for transporting delicate wet paintings, and larger framed finished works alike.  I wish I knew this one years ago.

     

    Below, a couple more snapshots-you can put a piece of cardboard to make a proper little shelf, just be careful that things don’t slip off as the cardboard is more slippery than the length of rope.

     

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    The other trick of Viktor’s came in especially handy at the end of our painting trip. Between our large group, most everyone prefers to work large on-site, and the work really starts to pile up quickly.  I was driving south alone, so it made sense for me to take as much of the work with me as I could fit in the car.  Most paintings if not completely wet were still tacky, and could have easily been damaged.  Fenske told me not to worry about it, that Viktor was an expert packer, whatever that meant.  When I asked the other Russians to pack up their work, they said, no, they’d let Viktor do it.

    Working in a smaller scale or on panel, I have a system that works fine (my friend Marc did a super-duper-clear blog post on it here).  That is how I brought home all my paintings from Greece this summer.   Using this method, I’ll be working on a wet painting up until the morning I head to the airport, just taping the final wet one into my stack of painting whenever I’m done working on it.  The problem with this method is that as panels get larger you need more bits of cork, and with the bumping around sometimes a piece of cork will come loose and scrape across a bit of the painting.  It’s foolproof in small scale, say 16×20 or 14×18″ maximum.  Worse still is if you paint on stretched canvas, with changes in humidity the paintings can come a bit loose, canvases sagging into another and touching.  I knew that trick wouldn’t work with all these large pictures and the bumping around in the car.

     

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    That is a lot of wet paintings to have to make it home safe with.  Notice the Viktor Rack in use as well

     

    Idea Two “Expert Packing”:

    So, Viktor’s idea also involves wine corks.  I’m not entirely sure why, but there always seems to be plenty of wine corks sitting around at the end of a painting trip.  Painting in Maine, I was astounded that there wasn’t a single wine cork left anywhere, and when I was packing my paintings I actually had to open a bottle just to pack up my 22×28″s and 20×24″s.  Turned out the Russians had been hoarding the corks the whole trip.

     

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    The tools necessary-Wine corks, Cardboard, Staple Gun and Knife

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    Staple half a cork to the center of the cardboard, vertically

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    Staple to the stretcher bar of painting

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    Staple to other stretcher bar, putting paintings (the same size in one direction at least), face to face, or back to back 

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    Repeat on all sides, making sure to leave a cork spacer in the face to face ones

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    Close up, you can see the little corks on the other side of the canvas.

    I hope this post can be of some use to people, and all due credit to Viktor Butko for showing our group these little tricks.  All paintings made it home safe.

     

    Our show Russian-American Painting Alliance opens later today at Grenning Gallery in Sag Harbor, NY.  Come out to say hello at the opening, I’ll be there with my family.

     

     

    Bonus Round “Russian Engineering by Fenske”:

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    Another issue on one of these painting trips is you’re limited while painting not by people or gear, but the wet paintings.  Ben Fenske came up with this simple little rack for transporting multiple people’s in progress paintings, when there’s just more work than you could fit in a Viktor Rack.  Note that all shelves are leaning to prevent wet paintings from slamming back and forth when turning right or left.

  • Brush Washing Soap

    Every time I am talking with a new group of students, maintenance of materials comes up, and invariably everyone will ask what soap is best for brush washing.  I have avoided writing this blog post for about two years.  That said, as this question keeps coming up over and over again in workshops (it did last week in the Gottlieb class) and finally I figured I should just put it here so it’s searchable.

    In the US here are the winners for brush maintenance…. these are the two I keep at the sink:

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    Fels Naptha was the historic choice of brush washing soap of the Boston School painters- as Tom Dunlay recounted on Facebook, Ives Gammell used it, as did his teachers, teacher’s teachers and so on.  It’s a laundry soap, not in with the hand soap in the supermarket.  What’s unique about Fels-Naptha is that unlike many other major soap brands, they have not changed formula and become a detergent product, it’s still glycerin soap.  It is hard to find glycerin soap these days in America.  John Carlson recommends in his guide to landscape painting to wash brushes after cleaning in kerosene, and clean the surface of dirty paintings with Ivory Soap.  Ivory of course still exists, but I would strongly recommend not cleaning your brushes or painting with it, it’s a detergent/lotion blend product now and will leave crazy residue in your brushes- and I shudder to think what it would do to the surface of a painting.

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    The other brush washing soap I use in the studio is Lava.  Lava is a heavy duty cleaning soap with pumice blended into it, so if there’s old paint in the ferrule, or the brush really needs a good cleaning, Lava is what I’ll use.  That said, sink washing is the most aggressive thing you ever do to a brush, so I try to use Lava on a brush infrequently.  It’s great for cleaning but will probably wear down the hairs with time if you use it daily.

     

    Honorable Mentions:

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    The Masters Brush Cleaner-  this is wicked nice brush washing soap, it’s what it’s designed to do, and also has pumice for tough-to-wash brushes.  That said, like all art materials, it comes at an added premium.   If you have a trust fund, or if you like literally pouring money down the sink, I would recommend that you use this stuff.  In my experience though, there is nothing that this soap does that the above two can’t do.  I haven’t bought it for years, and like other ‘branded’ artist materials (cough cough GAMSOL cough cough cough) it is essentially exactly the same product you buy in the hardware store or supermarket, just 5-10 times more expensive.

     

     

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    Murphy’s Oil Soap is an amazing product, it has many uses (I often clean my wood floors at home with it, but also my friend Rob Bodem uses it when he’s making casts of his sculptures), I know some love it for washing brushes.  It’s never worked for me for washing brushes, and it’s also terribly expensive.  Some folks like it though- maybe I just can’t get used to a liquid soap for cleaning brushes.  Still, deserves a mention here.

     

     

    Come to think of it, there is one other soap worth mentioning:

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    This is the soap I used for years in Italy, SOLE (yellow type only, the white one has some lotion or something which remains in your brushes).  It is probably the Italian version of Fels-Naptha, another bar laundry soap (though I do not think it has the addition of naphtha, or like Fels is recommended for treating poison ivy, especially since they don’t have poison ivy in the mediterranean).  Like Fels Naptha, it’s dirt cheap and in the supermarket, not the art store.  I only now, writing this post realized that they are probably analogues.

     

     

    Feel free to argue with me in the comments about what brush soap you like, but be forewarned, you are probably wrong.

     

    *whew* silly blog post on brush washing over with

  • Antique Easel(s)

    Last weekend I bought another antique easel, an F. Weber crank easel.  I now have three of them.  They are not easy to find, so I thought I would do a blog post explaining how I’ve been going about getting them.  Also, I thought it was worth putting a few pictures online for folks to check out (there is very little real information to be found on antique easels online)  Here is a link to a previous blog post on the first of these old easels I found, back in 2012.

     

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    I call them the three graces.  Just kidding, that’s silly, they’re ‘the nice easels’.

     

    For the past few years, I have been buying used easels, antique and not, because I always need extra easels for my classes.  First, a few words on the cheaper new h-frame model easels out right now-

    Click here for a link to the Winsor and Newton ‘Shannon’ model H-Frame easel– This is a fine easel.  It is sturdy enough, lightweight, and folds up smallish- it’s rack and pinion, so clicks into place and stays there.  It doesn’t go up super high, and the mast is tall, so you will need a tall ceiling.

    Click here for a link to the Best Richeson ‘Dulce’ Lyptus easel.  This is another good h-frame- especially good for sight-size and smaller ceiling heights as the tray goes way up, and the central mast can go down independently.    I do have a problem with the ‘best’ model easels though- the central shelf is fastened with a plastic knob that comes loose, and the whole thing comes slamming down like a guillotine.  That really sucks, so I keep a heavy clamp underneath them to keep them a bit more sturdy.

    Blick is now selling a studio h-frame that is inexpensive, and basically identical to the W&N shannon.  While it is identical in size, it is far more rickety, and entirely unstable.  I would save your money and get the shannon if you can.

    My favorite ‘new’ studio easel is the Mabef 06 this is a medium-size easel that can accommodate both huge and small pictures.  Sturdy.  I have three of them.

    An easel should really last a lifetime, so I don’t mind buying them used, even one of the newer models above.   That said, I love finding old easels like the above because they have features you just don’t find today- this antique easel was in very rough shape.  I took it all apart, sanded and oiled all the wood, glued and screwed everything back together, and had to have a friend custom build a bunch of new parts for it in his machine shop.

    Here’s what I know about it: The good folks at Martin/Weber helped me out, and I can say with confidence that this is a very early version of the Number 20 ‘Rembrandt’ Winding Studio Easel produced by F. Weber Co from 1903-1919.  (Number 20 was the only one with drawers).  I am guessing that it is much earlier than my other two as there are some major differences- the casters (wheels) are made of wood, not plastic/rubber.  The tray length is different, and the design of the base and frame of the easel interlocks differently (weakly, but beautifully hinged, instead of bolted).  The pegs on the mast are all wood, with a metal washer, rather than all-metal.  All three of them have to have been produced before 1919, as after that date the company name changed to “F. Weber Co, Inc.” and the nameplates would reflect that.   The other two are either the Number 17 or 18 model Rembrandt easel.

    If anyone has access to the Getty Archives, they have the weber old catalogs, you might be able to find more information:

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    Look at those drawers.

     

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    Like my other Weber Easels, it has the unique spiral cast-iron peg mounting crank rather than threaded rod that was already popular at the time.

     

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    Beautiful solid base for storing a drawing board or canvas, and ornate hinges

     

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    Embossed ‘F. Weber&Co. Artist & Draughtsman’s Materials, Philadelphia’ nameplate, clearly older than my other two models

     

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    compare the above simple nameplate from one of my newer Weber easels

     

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    The easel has a simple system for doing small canvases up at eye-level

     

    As I said above, the easel was lacking some pretty major pieces- I had my friend and neighbor Todd Cahill of Steamachine Sculpture make them– he had to make 3 new pegs for the crank, thread a new piece of rod for the clamp that holds the canvas down as it had stripped, and invent a new tightening Knob mechanism for the mast support.  Todd does incredibly precise work, functioning steam engine kinetic sculptures and works with old belt-driven metal lathes and all sorts of wonderful machines I can’t pronounce.  Here is a video of Todd showing what he does, and clicking here will bring you to another video, which shows a bit of our studio complex and surroundings.  Todd has been very helpful to me with my odd studio projects (he saved the day on a couple of my sculpture stands I built back in December), but the guy is a fascinating artist.  He just had a show of his drawings and process at the Charles River Museum of Industry and Innovation.  Todd’s drawings are beyond impressive, and you should see them in person to appreciate the meticulous linework.

     

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    My number 20 Easel was missing one of these cast-iron knobs- if the early model even had them

     

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    Todd built me this in wood, and i stained it to match. Metal detailing on the other side.

     

    So- the reason I go to all the trouble and expense of restoring these antique easels is because they just function better than new ones tend to.  They have a sturdy crank system, and they are seriously built to last.  They are also beautiful, the last time I did a blog post on them in 2012 I had a string of designers write me trying to buy them.  There is a trend of putting Flat Screen TV’s on antique easels, and though they would have paid me good money, I am a romantic and can’t imagine parting with them.  You can’t help but daydream about who has used it before you.

     

    Here is my advice on easel searching:

    This is the hard part- learn to recognize (often from bad photos) the basic easel designs you are interested in.  Is it an H-Frame?  Does it have casters?  Does it have a crank?  Compare, for instance, an Anco-Bilt antique studio easel to the pictures of mine above.  One hundred percent of the times I have bought an easel online I know more about the easel than the person selling it.  There are little elements of the design that give away what it is, and photos online are almost always terrible.

    Patience.  There are not a ton of them out there.

    I have a search set on craigslist to ‘easel’.  Any other keyword is too specific.  You will need to wade through tons of ikea kid’s easels, plastic easels, and presentation easels.  That said, it’s the way I have ended up buying nearly every used easel in this room.  I use this each particularly if I am traveling to another area and I will have room in the car.

    Freecycle.org works pretty well in Boston, check it in your area.

    The antique shops will have easels.  Sometimes overpriced, sometimes not.

    I search on Ebay for ‘antique easel’ or ‘vintage easel’.  This has turned up some nice ones.  Try to find one nearby though, that can be hard.

    If you end up shipping one, use a trucking freight company.  It will save you literally hundreds of dollars.

    Also, I have gotten good at inspecting the easels when I go to buy them- I ask myself,  ‘how much work will it be to get this thing working?’  Will it just need some glue and a couple of screws, or something more?

    When you get the easel, decide if it needs to be taken apart and repaired (it usually does, whether new or old).

     

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    See the tiny nails coming out of the tray and clamp?  That allows you to paint all the way to the edge.  I love those.

     

    If anyone finds anything out there, leave a photo in the comments.  And designers, just buy one of the Restoration Hardware reproduced crank easels, and hire an artist to use it for  a few weeks 😉  Leave the antique easels to people that will use them.

  • Old, Dirty, Worn Out and Misshapen (Brushes)

    This blog post’s title is not self-referential, it’s about brushes.  I am getting older, but more than dirty, worn out, or misshapen, I am cheap and very particular about my materials.  I know other painters that use their new brushes only a few times before retiring them, preferring the clear square/round shape, and everyone from time to time wishes they could just throw their brushes out rather than cleaning them.

    So here’s a simple studio trick I have been using for the past couple of years to squeeze a little life out of an old brush, I was showing my group of students this morning and thought I should share them here as well.

     

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    Personally, I like my brushstrokes to have an irregular shape; I don’t like the same touch to repeat itself everywhere in my painting.  Typically, these days I paint with mostly flats, filberts and a few rounds, and once in a blue moon a rigger or egbert.  Mostly hog bristles with an occasional kolinsky sable or mongoose hair brush.  I don’t much like synthetics and use them rarely.

    Although I keep my brushes for a long time and don’t mind as they wear down, they have to keep a distinct calligraphic shape.  the brush you see above and below was one I typically would retire- throw in with all the other old brushes for scrubbing in the background or mixing colors.  You can see the belly of the brush has become swollen, and errant hairs have started to take over, and paint in the ferrule has fossilized the bottom of the hairs.

     

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    I grab a sharp knife, and basically sharpen the brush as you would a wooden pencil with a knife- slowing cutting from the front and back before sharpening the sides.  I only cut forward, away from my hand, and work slowly to not cut off more than necessary.

     

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    Just like sharpening a pencil with a knife, it takes a bit of practice, but I really like the end result, it definitely brings some clarity back to the shape of the brush.  Believe it or not, I had the gall to show this trick to Symi from Rosemary Brushes last time she was here in the studio.  I’m sure she found it slightly offensive, but did remark its a much better way of rejuvenating a brush than cutting the tips down to attempt to make a ‘flat’ out of an old brush.

     

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    Also, starting today Keith Linwood-Stover is featuring my work on his website, The Cyber Art Show.  First gallery of 12 pictures went up today, other 12 will be featured tomorrow.  The way it works is he picks all the paintings he likes and puts them up with an artists’ bio, straightforward.  Though I only just discovered his website he’s featured tons of artists and many impressive painters in his archives.  Check it out.

     

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  • Fall Materials Course

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    2 weekends ago I had a small group of students here in the studio for one of my materials courses- having never done a materials course with less than 15-20 students I was slightly concerned we wouldn’t get as much done as some of my previous courses- click here to be taken to a link on my marathon materials course in Sweden early this spring.

    Instead, each of the students worked super hard and we ended up with more materials for each of them out of a 2-day course than I get out of a 3-day course.  We washed linseed oil, cooked rabbit skin glue numerous times and experimented with a variety of glue applications, stretched canvas, mounted linen to panel, cooked a gesso ground, made oil ground for our canvases and made a bunch of hand ground tubes of paint, exploring each pigment and oils’ natural rheological characteristics.  All in all, a successful weekend.

    Additionally, having a smaller group allowed me to get some of my own materials done: I made 11 or 12 large linen oil-ground canvases, a few gesso panels, 3 linen canvases mounted to board, and my liter or so of freshly washed linseed oil.

     

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    Besides the experience and their notes, each of the students went home with:

    • a tube of Titanium White, left long and stringy in a blend of Linseed and Walnut oil

    •a tube of long Ultramarine Blue, in Linseed oil

    •a tube of Yellow Ocher blended with Raw Siena, in Linseed oil

    •four assorted size gessoed wood panels

    •a 12×16″ stretched linen canvas with a half-chalk Lead oil ground, applied

     

    *edit* here’s the basic reading list I gave the students.

     

    Max Doerner’s Materials of the Artist.  Great book, this is the first one I really got into.  Very romantic, but not everything in it is useful- that said, it’s my favorite of the bunch.

    Ralph Mayer’s Artist Handbook .  This book was the ‘bible’ of materials from the 50s-90s.  Some information now outdated, but excellent overall.

    Mark Gottsegen’s The Painter’s Handbook . This is the most recent certainly overall most accurate of the books on materials.   Gottsegen passed away last year- I haven’t ever owned this book but have looked through it many times.

    And one of my favorite materials books, because it’s more of a book-

  • Materials Class in Sweden

     

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    I spent a few days teaching at the end of last month at The Florence Academy of Art’s branch in Gothenburg- one of the most comprehensive materials workshops I’ve done to date.  These students were particularly hungry for information, asking questions that kept us going into lunch or after class each of the three days.

    As a student, one of the more immediately gratifying aspects of learning to paint was finding out more about the materials; it changed the way I looked at pictures.  To put it in simple terms, it gave me a heightened sensitivity to paint textures and canvas types, glazing, scumbling and scraping.  It’s stayed with me- now that I have far less time on hand to make my own materials, it’s still given me a better sense of what I want out of a tube of paint, how to deal with sinking in, or ‘simply’ how to fix a big hole in a painting (the holes I’ve fixed recently thankfully have not been on one of my own).  I’m very grateful to have had the opportunity to study all this materials business in depth starting  years ago, and in turn it’s gratifying to share what I’ve learned with a group of hungry art students.

    Schools like the FAA are intense.  There’s a lot of pressure on the students to produce work across the board at a very high level consistently; and I remember how much pressure I myself felt when getting to the end of a term.  I was happy to see the class well attended, full of students willing to get their hands dirty on their very last day of the trimester no less.

    It was a lot of work; exhausting- both for jetlagged me and the students, and the students did literally get their hands dirty.

     

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    These days, traditional painting materials are an (unfortunately) overlooked aspect of a student’s education.  Part of this is because of the ubiquitousness of modern, mass-produced materials- why make gesso when you can buy something in a tub ready made that’s called gesso (the answer is that those two products have very little in common, and that traditional, homemade gesso is actually far easier to manipulate).  The other issue is that even at schools like the Florence Academy, where the founder (Daniel Graves) is implicit in the importance of learning to exert control over your materials during his technical lectures, time is limited.  People feel there just isn’t enough time to make paint yourself.

    Much like how in learning to cook, your perspective about making materials changes with some practical experience.  Making your own food seems like a positively Sisyphean task until you’ve learned how to properly chop vegetables, organize your workspace and clean up as you go.  This is no different.

    The truth is though, I’ve found that running this as a hands-on workshop to be the most effective way for the students to internalize the information, retaining it far better than lecturing and taking notes alone.  Also, as a perk, the students all get to go home with panels or canvases, handmade paints, and carefully cleaned linseed oil.  Everyone likes that part.

    Below, I attach a rough outline of the material we covered over the course of the workshop.  Should give an idea of what one of my classes is like-  It was an huge amount of information-  the materials the students made in three days I made over the better part of a year when I was learning this stuff.

     

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    Day 1

    I start with a long talk about why hand-made materials are relevant in our modern time.    We talk through the differences between the vegetable oils that are used by the oil painter, the way they behave differently based on their distinct characteristics.  Some discussion on pigment history and basic discussion of the desirable archival qualities of an oil painting.  Lecture is ~2 hours.

    •I mull a small amount of yellow ocher and ultramarine blue to show the individual rheological characteristics of each pigment in oil

    •We begin the process of ‘cleaning’ 2.5 liters Cold-Pressed Linseed oil

    •Demonstration of how to make paint ‘feel different’- we make paint longer, shorter.  Discussion on ‘branding’ and common fillers used by modern paintmakers.

    •Together, we began making Titanium White and Ultramarine Blue.  More talk on paint behavior, and how to stabilize pigments in oil so they don’t separate in the tube for storage.

    •Demonstration of how to properly tube oil paints for storage

     

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    Here are students and faculty discussing the washing of the linseed oil

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    Above is one of our batches of Ultramarine Blue (commonly thought of as one of the trickier pigments to ‘grind’ by hand)

     

    Day 2

    This day’s morning discussion is focused on Supports- advantages of rigid vs. flexible supports whether linen/cotton/polyester/jute or panel.  Preparing paper for painting or drawing.  Discussion of metal supports, mounting canvas to board.  How to properly cook and test strength of rabbit skin glue.  Some discussion on mediums and varnishes.

    •Continued group ‘cleaning’ of 2.5 liters Linseed Oil

    •Cooking animal hide glue.  Discussion on the differences between natural hide glues and modern replacements

    •Discussion of differences between different types of canvas/panel, when to use either type

    •Demonstration of sizing Linen stretched on stretchers, sizing paper with glue or varnishes, and sizing wood panels

    •Demonstration of mounting unprimed Linen to panel with size

    •As a group, we begin cooking a batch of traditional gesso – discussion on the difference between traditional gesso and the acrylic stuff that is commonly called ‘gesso’ these days

    •After demonstrating technique, the students begin applying their first coats of gesso to their panels

    •Throughout the day, continued mulling of large batches of Titanium White and Ultramarine Blue, ~1kg each

     

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    our animal hide glue

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    Here I’m demonstrating mounting raw linen on stretcher bars

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    Mounting raw linen to panel

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     Dry-mounting pre-primed (or painted) canvas to panel

     

    Day 3

    Shorter morning discussion on finishing our gesso panels and paint.  Some discussion on varnishes and mediums.  The students and I come up with a plan for their finished batch of

    •Finishing ‘cleaning’ our batch of Linseed Oil

    •The students do the final coats of gesso on their panels

    •Demonstration of application of gesso ground on our mounted linen panel

    •Making Oil Grounds – Application on our stretched canvas

    •The students finish mulling our large batches of oil paint

    •Demonstration of dry mounting primed linen to panel, mounting unstretched paintings to board

    •Together we use the leftover gesso ground to make a gesso-oil-emulsion ground by emulsifying bodied linseed oil into our ground.  Demonstration of application of this semi-flexible ground on stretched canvas

     

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    Here’s a shot of us making our oil-emulsion gesso ground: emulsifying sun-thickened linseed oil into a half-congealed gesso ground

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    We made nearly 50 panels and canvases, around 15 tubes of ultramarine blue and the same of titanium white, 2.5 liters of carefully washed linseed oil, and plenty of leftover grounds and canvas.

    If you’d be interested in having me come to teach a hands-on materials workshop at your school feel free to contact me using the form above.

     

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