For over a hundred years, most causes of paint failures have been studied: humidity, temperature and paint embrittlement. The symptoms were obvious—cracking, delaminating and paint loss—but the causes were not. Conservation workers gradually formed concepts as to the causes of cracking and paint loss of old paintings. Concurrently, the coatings industry studied failures in all types of paint films. Artists developed their own ideas, but remained largely unaware of findings from both the conservation community and the coatings industry.
Natural Pigments spent years developing a technical workshop to teach skills that are not taught in art school and universities—a thorough understanding of artist’s materials and tools, what they are designed to do, when to chose them and how to provide considerable longevity to your finished work. This workshop covers the most important aspects of painting that have proven to be the best practices over the centuries.
The information-packed workshop includes all aspects of constructing a painting from the support and ground to the final layers. Practical procedures will be clearly explained and demonstrated on how to build your oil paintings based on conservation research during the past century. This workshop is designed for painters of all mediums, but special emphasis is given to oil painting.
The workshop begins with a review of the leading causes of cracking and paint loss in paintings. In light of the research, we review different types of painting supports to help you choose the best one for your painting technique. We review the most suitable grounds for each type of popular support and painting and review factors influencing the embrittlement of the paint film and what artists can do to prolong its life. Throughout the workshop we provide recommendations involving different supports, grounds and painting techniques that will help you make technically-sound paintings.
The foundation of all painting are supports. Substrates of fabric, wood, plaster, metal, glass and plastic have all been used at one time or another as supports for paintings. We examine the most popular supports today and the advantages and disadvantages of each type.
We review how wood panels were made historically and the methods employed to prevent warping. We next examine manmade wood panels, such as fiberboard and plywood, and separate the myth from the reality. You will be taught the proper method of preparing wood panels and learn the most effective braces and why common methods do more harm than good.
In recent years, interest in copper as a painting support has rekindled among artists. You will be introduced to its advantages and learn how to properly prepare copper panels for painting. You will also learn about aluminum composite materials (ACM), such as Dibond, where to obtain them, and how to prepare them for painting directly on them and how to adhere canvas.
Since the sixteenth century, stretched canvas supports have enjoyed immense popularity. They are also a major cause of cracking in paintings. You will learn the advantages and disadvantages of the various stretched fabrics—linen, cotton, and polyester canvas. We will examine the auxiliary supports of stretched canvas—strainers and stretchers—constructed of wood, metal or plastic. You may be surprised to learn how keys—small wooden wedges inserted into the corners of the stretchers for expansion—do more harm than good.You will learn of sources for high quality stretchers. We will teach you how to produce perfectly aligned canvases, no matter the size. We will show the benefits of pre-stretching your canvas before attaching it to your support, allowing it to reach an equilibrium as well as lock the fibers. We will also demonstrate a technique for stretching the perfect canvas, creating an even tension across the entire surface and avoiding the distracting undulations in the fabric weave as well as pulling the stretchers out of alignment. We will examine the advantages and disadvantages of staples versus tacks, and which types to use and to avoid.
Finally, we will show you a very practical approach to backing your stretched canvas to protect the back of the fabric from substantial changes in humidity, dirt, pests and the damage often caused during transport and hanging.
Sizes and Grounds
Next you will learn to size your canvas and prime your panel. We’ll show how to make and apply animal glue size, avoiding excessive amounts and discuss the advantages of modern alternatives, such as PVA and acrylic dispersions.
After careful preparation of the support, we are ready to apply the ground. Whether it’s traditional gesso, acrylic primer, oil grounds, emulsion grounds and double grounds, you will learn how to apply a ground that provides a solid and lasting foundation for your painting. We examine the different grounds and how they effect the longevity of your finished painting.
Paints and Mediums
We focus on the basics of paints and mediums. We examine in detail the mechanism of oil drying, the characteristics of various drying oils, such as linseed, walnut, poppy and safflower oil, and how their properties affect the behavior of paint. We next demonstrate how to make your own paint using oil, pigment and additives that can aid in handling. You will prepare your own paint and put it up into a tube. This is a skill that every artist should master. We will also discuss the properties of synthetic and natural resins used in commercial oil painting mediums, and their advantages and disadvantages. In addition to making oil paint, we will also make tempered paints, such as egg tempera, egg/oil emulsion, distemper (glue tempera), and casein.
We correct a great deal of misinformation surrounding solvents and the confusion created by the bewildering trade names, such as Turpenoid. We will have a discussion of the various common diluents, such as gum turpentine (and the terms “triple distilled”, “rectified,” etc.), mineral spirits and spike oil. All have their uses and this is the time when you will learn what those uses are and when to take advantage of them.
We also discuss various additives that slow or speed up drying, such metal driers (cobalt, lead, zirconium and calcium). You will learn what the oft-misused principle of “fat-over-lean” really means, how it is more flexible in use than most would suppose and how they relate to painting mediums. You will understand them well enough to know when to use them in your painting. We solve the puzzle about the use of varnishes and mediums prepared with natural resins, such as dammar, mastic, copal, Venice turpentine, and Canada balsam, present in oil painting, how they are used to produce special effects in paint, and their disadvantages.
We will demonstrate the proper technique of “oiling out” and painting into a “wet cushion,” as an aid to unifying color between paint layers and providing a non-slip surface for subsequent paint layers.
A varnish can serve several functions, technical as well as purely visual. The decision to apply varnish to a picture is made after careful consideration of many factors and cannot be reduced to a formulaic approach. If a varnish is to be applied, many decisions such as type, method of application, and desired final appearance must be considered. We will demonstrate how to properly apply a varnish and avoid defects commonly found in its appearance.
These three days will provide more information on the craft of painting than most art students learn in four years of art school.
The limited class size allows each attendee to receive personal attention and have questions answered specific to their needs. Due to the limited class size, we ask that you register early and pay for the workshop upon registration. All workshop materials are included in the tuition.
Note: Please note that the workshop tuition is not refundable. In the event that you cannot attend, you will be given a rain check to attend a workshop at a different location in the future.