Thursday, May 12, 2016

Paintings on paper

A little something about the oil on paper paintings.

I have a couple good habits in my studio, lots of bad ones, but a couple good ones.

One is I never save palettes. I use the disposable wax paper ones for most things, and a larger glass one otherwise, when really big things need it. I mix fresh and new every day, and over the years my tubes have reduced to only a handful that I can make anything from. As a practice, it trains my brain to know color. I mix new each day whatever I used the day before by eye.

Another is the color sketch. Way back I purchased a pile of 140 pound 6x6 watercolor blocks, and began doing my color sketches on them. They are sort of explorations, and an exercise in painting in a different way. They are all square, so I let a subject settle into that shape as a rule. They are also painted wet in wet, and for the most part done in one sitting (or standing in my case) and there is no ground on the raw paper. I use alkyd paint on them, as it dries fast and this stops any oil ‘bloom’ that conventional paint with linseed oil will do. I will also talk about using alkyd paints a little later. 

It is amazing how one of these exercises familiarizes me with the subject when going larger. One can see what problems may come up fairly quickly and easily.

A large number of paintings that I have done have one of these accompanying sketches somewhere. I have piles of them all over the studio, and have been framing them. Not every one leads to a larger one, so many are unique paintings on their own.

My regular paintings are done in a completely different way, and can be glazed in many layers, and I will talk a bit about that later. The thought process in those can be multi layered as well, and the paper paintings are a respite from that. They are haiku to the larger conversation.


  1. I appreciated reading your comments on painting on paper. I have recently purchased some Arches oil paper. My goal is to use these pieces as studies. I think I'll feel free to experiment because the images are on paper. With more substantial surfaces I've felt like I have to paint a "good" painting to make it worthwhile.

    It reminds me of that story of the two groups of art students. One group was told to do their best work. The other group was told to do as much work as possible. In the end, the students that painted more pieces produced superior work. Hopefully, I'll find the same is true for me.

    Thanks for the post. Cleve

    1. i think the best way to view these is as an exercise, and have some fun with them.

    2. The ability to let go and just have some fun, be unafraid to destroy and build time after time, is, I think, essential. When something becomes precious and you become afraid to change it, a slow death is almost inevitable. Love the 6x6 block as sketch books. I've been using Arches oil paper, sometimes gessoed, sometimes with a tone underpainting to fill the pores a bit and cut the drag. Haven't played much with alkyd yet.

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