Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Some of My Favorite Oil Supplies

I often get asked what paints, brushes & supplies I use so I thought I would create a post with images for all us visual learners to make sharing the info easier.

These are the supplies that I use when I teach my workshops and art classes.  My next class starts in March, please visit if you would like more information.


 Silver Bristalon Synthetic Rounds - Absolutely LOVE these brushes! They allow you to scrub to your hearts content yet the bristles stay together nicely and do not splay.  They may break down over time, but they always retain their shape and you don't get that annoying odd stray hair sticking out the side as you usually do with scrubbing brushes.
 Silver Ruby Satin Synthetic - Again love this brush.  Excellent snap, soft yet able to achieve fine control.  Very resilient brush.

Rosemary & Co Ivory Long Flat - Love, love these brushes for alla prima and plein air painting.  They hold a lot of paint and keep a clean edge no matter how many times I have used them (assuming you are caring for them properly).

Winsor & Newton Oil Brushes  - These are great brushes for plein air and alla prima as well and are easily found in Canada, sadly the others need to be shipped from the UK and the USA.  They are great for alla prima as well but stiffer so they do not wear as well as the Ivory brushes and require a much softer touch to get soft edges as the bristles are quite stiff but still a great all round brush.

You get what you pay for with art supplies and student grade paints cost less for a reason.  They are full of fillers rather than paint pigment so buy less and buy quality.  I like Gamblin, Holbein, Old Holland and Winsor Newton Artist Oil Paints (not Winton).

Gamblin Flake White Replacement -  lead-free and offers a beautiful opalescence, a long and ropey stroke, warm colors, translucency, and a short, sharp brush mark.
Gamblin Van Dyke Brown - I use with my flake white to mix my neutral grays but it is also great for glazing as is a warm, transparent permanent black.


Painting Medium - I make my own painting medium with a mixture of refined linseed oil and Gamsol Odorless mineral spirits.  I adjust the amounts in each layer to ensure I am painting fat over lean.

Oleogel is a non-toxic medium made of linseed oil and pyrogenic silica.

Oleogel contains no driers and a little goes a long way. As with any medium, use sparingly to ensure the fat over lean rules are followed.

Gamblin also makes a solvent free painting gel now which is quite nice and easily available in Canada.

 Gamsol  -  I don't use in my workshops but I do use at home.  It is a bit more expensive than many other solvents but the evaporation rate is much lower so to me worth every penny.  I only use it very sparingly in the first layer of my paintings and then if I am not using Oleogel, mixed with oil for successive layers decreasing the amount of solvent added as the layers progress.

The amount I use is so minimal in a small dipper cup that I am sure I am exposed to much more toxicity styling my hair ;)


I have several palettes, wooden, paper and glass but prefer glass.  This is a glass palette that I made by taping a piece of grey disposable palette paper to a sheet of glass and then taped the edges with sturdy black masking tape to avoid cuts.  I have several palettes like this in various sizes.  The glass can be picked up at a glass store or automotive and the edges can be rounded and tempered.  For a quick cheap glass palette, go to the dollar store and pick up a 8x10" or 11x14" frame that you can either slide a piece of the grey palette paper under or even just leave with the brown cardstock.  Depending on the frame you could just leave the frame as is or through out the frame and tape the edges of the glass.  If the glass is thin as most are, use mdf or heavy cardboard for support and tape the edges well to avoid cuts.

 Empty Aluminiumm 15ml Tubes  - I like to premix colors I use frequently so these tubes are great for storing the paint so it is fresh every time I paint.

Subtrates (Supports)

I like a variety of substrates depending on my subject and the mood I am trying to capture in a painting. 

My absolute favorite substrate is Centurion Linen.  These are great for alla prima and indirect paintings alike and are great for portraiture. 

Centurian Linen Oil primed linen at a reasonable price that is great quality.  Available in pads, panels or stretched canvases.  I recently discovered this linen and love it for finished paintings, studies and plein air.   

Opus ArtBoard - I like these for plein air painting and smaller paintings and often tone them prior to using with either a neutral grey or burnt sienna.

Opus Pre-Cut Birch Plywood -  For larger paintings as well as smaller sizes.  These are also great for studies and plein air painting as they are really light yet still rigid.

Opus Exhibition Canvas -  For larger paintings when I want a surface with more tooth.
For studies or plein air paintings, I also like the substrates below.

  Canson Vidalon Vellum - can also be called Mylar but get this brand.  I tried others and not the same.  You can buy it by the sheet or in pads.  Great for doing oil exercises on and studies as you don't need to prep at all.  Just cut and use.

Canson Canva-Paper - a great canvas paper with a look similar to linen that you can do alla prima, plein air and studies on without having to prep.  

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

How Many Straight Lines Does It Take To Draw A Sphere....

Graphite Pencil Sphere on Paper
not as many as you would think! I have never really drawn a sphere without some sort of crutch, ie grid lines, compass or masking tape roll.  I honestly did not think would be so easy to get a relatively perfect sphere, ok so it is not perfectly round, but I think it is pretty close. 

Basically I used four straight lines to form a box  around the sphere and then filled in the spaces between the lines to form a circle, using smaller and smaller straight lines.  It took shape much more quickly (well, that term is relative I guess) than I had expected. 

The shading, using only a 2H and H pencil on the other hand, took much longer than I had expected.   The pencil leads were sharpened with sandpaper to a lethally sharp point and the values were built up very slowly and methodically working from the terminator (point where the light no longer reaches) to the highlight.  The idea is to work only in one area at a time, not jumping from one area to the next.  The focus of the exercise is on feeling or conceptualizing the form of the sphere rather than thinking of values and just copying values.  Once you get into it, it is a super relaxing exercise!

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Shell, Leaf & Pitcher Grisaille

Grisaille - Oil on Panel - 8x10"
 This is the first oil pass of the grisaille for a piece I am working on.  The original drawing can be viewed at   For this painting I transferred the drawing onto the panel using an oil transfer (I will blog about how to do this in the near future).

Once the transfer was dry, I did a light burnt umber layer to workout the main values, unfortunately I forgot to take a photo of this step. Next time ;)

When the burnt umber layer was completely dry, I used my pre-mixed oil paints from a value of 2 to 9 (2 darkest value, 9 near white value)  At this stage I focused on trying to really correctly record the tilts and angles of my subjects from my still life set up.  Working from life is more challenging than working from a photo but so much more fulfilling as there is just so much more information about the form to work from.

The paint is applied very thinly with little to no medium.  When I do use the medium (Lean Medium - 1 part Odorless Mineral Spirits mixed with 2 parts Refined Linseed Oil) I just dip the tip of  my brush in the medium and wipe off the excess on a rag.  The medium is not necessary at this stage, you could just use straight paint very thinly or if you don't like solvents yet want a bit more buttery paint, a non-toxic medium like Gamblin Solvent-Free Gel medium can be used very thinly with the paint.

Although it is not necessary, I will likely do a second pass using only the gray values to further refine the form before moving onto the first color pass.  I find the more "correct" I can get each pass, the easier the next pass is and if I can get the painting fairly resolved before adding color, the more I can really focus on color and all it's challenges.

If you are interested in learning this technique I am offering a class starting Jan 19, 2015.  For more information and to register visit

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Monochromatic Oil Sketches

Quick Oil Sketches on Paper
For these sketches I was experimenting with different surfaces to paint on for my practice sketches & color studies.  The painting on the far left was done drawn first with charcoal and then painted using a monochromatic values on Arches Oil Paper, the painting in the middle was done with a quick burnt umber sketch with the brush directly on the paper and then overpainted with the monochromatic values (a copy of a painting by John Singer Sargent that does not really look like the original but I loved her look so kept her as is :)) done on gessoed Arches watercolor paper and the painting on the right was painted in the same manner as the Sargent copy but on canvas paper. 

My favorite surface by far was the gessoed Arches watercolor paper, although the Arches Oil paper was a close second and I think with a coat of gesso it would be my fav...other than price.  The canvas paper was my least favorite as it is very slipper. I think it would be great for plein air painting or with thicker paint applications though.