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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jul 2009
    Charm City: Baltimore, MD
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    [BASIC]: Materials; Brushes & Mediums...

    Hello All!

    This is going to be the last major materials post (until I think of more stuff!) before we get into painting.

    I'm going to keep this short.


    Experiment and use what works. No, I'm not being's just that whether you use a filbert or a flat (at this point) isn't going to make an immense difference. Here are a few brush thing to keep in mind:

    1. Have a decent range of sizes. For our work, you can get away with (at minimum) 3 to 5 brushes. I have no idea what brush sizes mean (can't remember, actually), but have at least a small/med/large set. Small is, say, a round, flat, or filbert about 1/4" wide. Med: flat or filbert 1/2 to 3/4". Large: flat or filbert 3/4 to 1".

    2. You don't hafta spend a fortune on brushes. As a matter of fact, many of my brushes are just amateur-grade cheapies like $5/pack Loew Cornell assortments in the card pack. I am a big scumbler/scrubber/washer, so I'm *really* hard on my brushes. Cheap brushes keep you free to experiment. I keep a couple of nice sables around for glazing, or if I'm feeling expensive(!).

    Hog's hair can be very useful and durable, and I have a bunch of those. They're also scratchy and pretty inflexible. Also, the very small ones just seem weird to me. Synthetics are just fine.

    3. Save all of your old brushes. Even the fucked up, comma-shaped ones you left standing on their bristles and never cleaned. You never know when they can come in handy.


    Often, you'll want to add something to your paint to make it flow-ier or faster drying. Or you want to glaze. Sometimes it's useful to use medium as a retouch-varnishy thing: afer a week or two of drying (on thinnish paint layers) a little medium applied to the surface (and allowed to get tacky for 20 min to an hour) is nice to paint into. It's sticky, and blending/feathering is aided by that slowness/tackiness of surface.

    My short list:

    1. Turp, obviously. Odorless Turpenoid is expensive, but it beats breathing Gum Turp vapors. But, yeah...I'm a total, full-experience, old school, 5-senses Painter, so I keep a couple of ounces of gum turp in a bottle so everything smells good without choking me. That's what cigs are for.

    2. Liquin (Winsor & Newton): My favorite & go-to Medium. Good for everything, thinning, flowing, glazing, and faster-drying. Smells dynamite; great for huffing.

    3. Sun-thickened Stand Oil. Basically gooey linseed oil. Can be used alone or with some turp added to loosen it up to taste.

    4. Dorland's Wax Medium. Waxy, like it says. About the consistency of butter. Useful for impasto painting. In reasonable amounts, it extends the paint and makes it buttery-feeling and good for impasto. Slightly matte and it (naturally) dilutes the pigment depending on how much you add.

    5. Salamander, other drying agents. I'd avoid these unless you're willing to experiment and find your own, rare, specialized uses. Yep--they dry paint super-fast, but they really degrade the paint integrity.

    6. A note on "miracle" mediums. Anyone acting superior and self-consciously Old Skool and claiming to have the Secret Recipe that the Old Masters used has misplaced their priorities. If you dig Maroger medium, and it works for you...great. That's the reward. (I've seen more Maroger Snobs do more shite paintings. File with: "I grind my own paint" snobs. Results are impressive, not materials.)

    And that wraps up materials for now.

    Painting and Seeing next!

    Last edited by rusko-berger; December 5th, 2009 at 04:43 PM.

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  4. #2
    Join Date
    Apr 2008
    Southern California
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    Hello Nick!

    Thanks for your awesome guides. I have a question about Mediums, though it may sound silly.. Do you use a lot of mediums in your paintings? Do you recommend using them a lot or a little? Have you painted a painting without mixing any medium into your paint? Thanks!

  5. #3
    Join Date
    Jul 2009
    Charm City: Baltimore, MD
    Thanked 108 Times in 43 Posts
    Hello, faedri--

    Not a silly question at all!

    If you count turp as a medium then, no, I doubt I've ever done a painting without medium. If you count Liquin or (some version of Linseed Oil/Stand Oil/Dorland's Wax Medium), I think I'd still be at 100% since 1987.

    Now, I should mention this: the RULE is to paint "fat-over-lean". This simply means that, technically, (if you're doing multiple, sorta-dry-in-between sessions) you're supposed to start out with little or no medium, progress to some medium, then (if you're going that route), end up with a very thin and medium-y glaze. (Though for all intents and purposes, this doesn't include a reasonably dried turp-washed underpainting--it's more about "real" mediums".)

    The idea is that this will give you the most archivally, centuries-lasting painting. In general, I suppose that a fair amount of paintings progress this way. Do I care about this, really? No. If I thought about this, to the point of neurosis, I'd never get anything done. When I'm doing paintings that last anything more than a sitting or two, I'm constantly painting, wiping, adding, subtracting...and generally going where the painting tells me to go. If I adhered to the (proper) Painting Orthodoxy, I'd never get any paintings done. If you can adhere better (along with yer paint!), then great.

    Zillions of Modern (post Neo-Classical "atelier") paintings--that you've seen in museums or reproduced--took no second look at the "correct" way. Maybe they'll last for a couple hundred years, and maybe not.

    I work on the premise that you do what works to make your painting work. What's the other option?


    p.s. For a funny look-up: Check out Kurt Vonnegut's novel, Bluebeard. In it the artist, Rabo Karabekian, uses some crazy kind of newfangled acrylics...and once he gets pretty famous his paintings all completely disintegrate. Rock & roll!

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