Starting oil painting, have a few questions.
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  1. #1
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    Question Starting oil painting, have a few questions.

    Greetings!

    My name is Michael, I've been lurking throughout the forums for quite some time now, learning steadily and reading interesting topics... I've decided however that I'm going to force myself to take the jump and make some posts, join some discussions and try and find out all the possibilities here .

    I've recently taken the interest of starting to paint with oil paints and while going through the process of research (I've actually read so much that it has started to confuse me ) and shopping there have been some issues that popped to mind on which I could use some experienced people's opinion on.

    My goal for oil painting would be to be able to realistically portray things such as portraits and landscapes, while also being able to go and paint other subjects I find throughout my research and experiences. One of my requests would be if you guys could give any advice for products I should acquire. (Duo to inexperience I would bet I'm missing something important!)
    I would also request some advice regarding the possible lifespan of my projects, and the tips you would have for me regarding that. (I've read about the disasters that could strike your paintings if you misuse certain products, and I want to be as prepared as I can be)

    To give a bit more of an understanding on what I have available I've made some photo's on which you can see my supplies:


    Some of these products are Bob Ross experiments from the past , always loved his episodes .


    Guess it's time to throw out some questions now...

    1. I am trying to decide on which type of support I want to paint... The obvious choice (in my eyes) would be linen, but the guy at the art supply store told me that cotten would be just fine in turns of strength and durability. I've read, however, that cotten changes in different types of humidities. I've also heard and read that there's some kind of board around which is specially made for people who are going to work into fine details, though I cannot remember what it was... What advice could you guys give for support?

    2. I've read that some artists prefer to prime their own canvasses instead of buying a pre-primed canvas, is this because pre-primed canvasses cost more? Or do you get a better quality if you do it yourself?
    Also, if one does decide to prime his\her own canvas what kind of Gesso would you need to use? (I've read something about when using the wrong type of Gesso that it could seriously reduce the lifespan of your painting)
    I've also read something about using rabbit glue or something? that one really confused me... Any tips or experiences regarding this would be appriciated !

    3. I've been given the advice (by some internet articles) to make a sketch before painting almost anything... and charcoal was the way to do it. After making a sketch with charcoal though, I couldn't help but wonder if it would blend with the paint I would apply on it, resulting into a muddy blackened mess. Do you have to spray hairspray on it or something? (I remember that it makes sure it cannot be smudged, but I don't know if you can paint over a layer of hairspray...) Again, any tips or experiences would be much much appriciated !

    4. I've read that some artists choose to project relatively small drawings onto their canvas, and I'm interested in doing this myself. (I hate having to redraw a sketch, especially on really large surfaces, duo to the fact that I always somehow fail to copy that critical point in the drawing.)
    The other reason is that having to redraw (especially complex) drawings is really unmotivating since it makes you feel like a copy machine... (A copy machine that does a bad job xD!)
    Another positive thing about using projection would be that I could immediatly lay in paint without having to worry about covering up my pencil\charcoal drawings.
    Now what I've been wondering about this is what type of hardware I should buy for this. Could I use a simple overhead projector (50$\) or do I have to buy an advanced beamer (400+$\)? What do you guys use? And why?

    5. Concerning brushes I've read quite a bit, one of the more confusing parts were the choice between synthetic or animal hair brushes, and what impact they have on painting. I've read for example in one article that I shouldn't use synthetic brushes because animal haired ones are much nicer, though in a tutorial I've read it shows alot of synthetic brushes in the required brushes list! Matter of opinion? Matter of cost? Matter of prestige?
    Just something I'm curious about...

    6. Tuesday I went to the art supply store and bought myself a massive amount of colours from the "Rembrandt" brand (After much consideration and research it seemed like a good choice... And I like their package design :p). I've also bought 2 tubes of Winter & Newton's Winston 200ml Titanium White (Student grade), which leads me to my question:
    Is there a big deal in the difference of student grade or artist's grade paint when it comes to Titanium White and Ivory Black? I've read, heard, and experienced that I would use those two ALOT for my paintings and I've also read about some painters who use those colours in student's grade, and simply put, I just want another opinion on this matter.

    7. Thinners, Mediums and other things...
    THESE THINGS ARE SO CONFUSING! Sorry for my outburst there but if there's one thing that REALLY started confusing me it's these things. As you can see in photo #3 I've acquired some of these but about 50% was bought after uncertainties of the other 50%.
    I've read SO much about these things but still can't figure out what is to be used for what. I'm just going to start and lay out some examples and hopefully you guys can help me out !
    • ODOURLESS WHITE SPIRIT (ARTIST'S GRADE)
      When I bought this it seemed to be the thing I had to use to thin my paint and wash my brushes with (Together with the Bob Ross Odourless Thinner on photo #4).
      However after reading things like
      White spirit A cheaper version of low odor thinners and turps. Ok for thinning paints for underpainting, but probably not for quality work. Fine for cleaning brushes.
      I've come to the conclusion that I don't know anymore.
    • LINSEED OIL (BLEACHED)
      Originally bought to make my own medium (1\3 Linseed and 2\3 white spirit), Now I've found out that it will make my painting more yellow if used :<
    • TURPENTINE RECTIFIED
      Bought this after reading it's one of the most used and best thinner and cleaner for oil paints and brushes. After I went home I started finding articles though talking about how to NEVER use this for paintings and that it smells >.<
    • PAINTING MEDIUM
      Bought this after I found out it takes 5-7 days to make your own medium (let alone be succesful at it )
    • STAND OIL
      Bought this after carefully re-reading the article on making your own mediums, finding out it said "Stand oil" instead of "Linseed oil". I've also discovered it can be applied directly to paint to reduce consistency of paint and brush marks.

    I just don't know what to use for what anymore, and I'm concerned that my choices concerning usage of these things might affect the quality and\or lifespan of my work. This also relates to question 8...

    8. Fat over lean, Thick over thin and all of those other names for this principle.
    Basically from what I understand about it is that you have to use thinners with paint in the background (can't use mediums because it slows drying), use paint normally with WAY less thinner or A TAD MORE medium in the middleground and use medium with paint in the foreground.
    Am I correct? This is one of the things I truly worry about duo to possible ripples and cracks.

    9. Varnish
    I've read a bit about varnishing but I want to know if I got the basics right...
    Varnishing means applying a thin coat of varnish to the painting after about 9-12 months right? (making it dust\dirt\greasefree before you do that)
    And one does this to retrieve original colors, making it dustfree for the rest of its lifetime and perhaps giving it a gloss or not.
    Also, what if you don't varnish a painting? is it a big deal?
    Also, would it be wise to let a professional do it instead?


    That's about it for now... Made quite a post here I think ...
    My most sincere of apologies for the massive overdose on questions from my part and a HUUUUUUUUUUUUGE
    thank you!

    for reading all the way through !

    Thanks in advanced for your replies and hopefully after reading some of your tips and awnsers I'll be able to learn a bit more about these things !
    I will be certain to come back to this thread whenever another problem hits me !

    Yours sincerely,
    Michael

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    have you actually tried things out yet? having this "getting off on the right foot" mentality can actually hinder your learning process. you can learn so many thing through trial and error.

    Last edited by vicsio; January 27th, 2011 at 04:44 PM.
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    Get the Ralph Mayer book "the artists handbook of materials and techniques"It will answer every question, act as a great paper weight and helps to put you to sleep at night reading it.
    You will get a different answer for every artist you ask. Here's my take.

    Keep things simple and try not to use too many chemical driers and mediums with your paints.

    Observe the fat over lean rule when painting. Later layers should have more oil in them.

    Use artists grade pigments and solvents. I recommend Gamsol but there are other good products on the market.

    You don't have to use charcoal (you can) to draw with, you can use a thin wash of paint called an imprimatura, this will establish a monochromatic drawing and will dry very fast. If you do use charcoal you can seal it with a retouch varnish spray.

    Surface is up to you but if you are worried about cracking, hard supports are better than stretched supports, all stretched supports crack eventually. Hard supports should be chemically independent from the painting surface and should be archival so no boards with Formaldehyde and toluene diisocyanate in them, cheaper particle boards, plywood and masontie have these chemicals.


    Linen versus cotton. I use linen but cotton is fine; it has a shorter shelf life though 100 years for cotton 150 for linen. You'll be dead so who cares? If your paintings are worth saving some conservator will save them, if you didn't go crazy with mediums and breakingthe fat over lean rule. Most people painting will never make it into a musuem, deal with it.

    I've been painting since I was 15 so 40 years and I haven't had any problems with paintings cracking or falling apart yet.

    Varnishing is to protect the painting and even out any dissimilar drying shine between pigments. Varnish right away when the work is dry to the touch or wait a years for it to really be dry.

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    Quote Originally Posted by vicsio View Post
    have you actually tried things out yet? having this "getting off on the right foot" mentality can actually hinder your learning process. you can learn so many thing through trial and error.
    I agree with you, I think I was just a little bit too worried when it came to preserving my paintings and added all the other questions I had while I was at it...
    I will take your advice at heart and start fiddling immediatly, needed a kick here :p.. Thank you.

    Quote Originally Posted by dpaint View Post
    Get the Ralph Mayer book "the artists handbook of materials and techniques"It will answer every question, act as a great paper weight and helps to put you to sleep at night reading it.
    Thank you for the book advice, I will look into it.

    Quote Originally Posted by dpaint View Post
    You will get a different answer for every artist you ask. Here's my take.

    Keep things simple and try not to use too many chemical driers and mediums with your paints.

    Observe the fat over lean rule when painting. Later layers should have more oil in them.
    So when using a thinner you use less paint thus less oil, and when you use a medium you add oil right?

    Quote Originally Posted by dpaint View Post
    Use artists grade pigments and solvents. I recommend Gamsol but there are other good products on the market.

    You don't have to use charcoal (you can) to draw with, you can use a thin wash of paint called an imprimatura, this will establish a monochromatic drawing and will dry very fast. If you do use charcoal you can seal it with a retouch varnish spray.
    I've also seen this in another article and in a tutorial here on CA, will look more into it.

    Quote Originally Posted by dpaint View Post
    Surface is up to you but if you are worried about cracking, hard supports are better than stretched supports, all stretched supports crack eventually. Hard supports should be chemically independent from the painting surface and should be archival so no boards with Formaldehyde and toluene diisocyanate in them, cheaper particle boards, plywood and masontie have these chemicals.


    Linen versus cotton. I use linen but cotton is fine; it has a shorter shelf life though 100 years for cotton 150 for linen. You'll be dead so who cares? If your paintings are worth saving some conservator will save them, if you didn't go crazy with mediums and breakingthe fat over lean rule. Most people painting will never make it into a musuem, deal with it.

    I've been painting since I was 15 so 40 years and I haven't had any problems with paintings cracking or falling apart yet.

    Varnishing is to protect the painting and even out any dissimilar drying shine between pigments. Varnish right away when the work is dry to the touch or wait a years for it to really be dry.
    Thank you for sharing your experiences and your time, it has been most helpful.

    Last edited by Luexo; January 27th, 2011 at 05:30 PM.
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    I always kinda wondered if there was a cheaper way of making a canvas rather than spending 10$ per thing to paint on. Most tutorials on the subject are a bit confusing and do you really have to buy wood and all that other stuff just to make some stuff to practice on?! I just want some damn cheap stuff to play around on.

    BLAHBLAHBLAH
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    Quote Originally Posted by Deadlyhazard View Post
    I always kinda wondered if there was a cheaper way of making a canvas rather than spending 10$ per thing to paint on. Most tutorials on the subject are a bit confusing and do you really have to buy wood and all that other stuff just to make some stuff to practice on?! I just want some damn cheap stuff to play around on.
    I keep a bunch of those dick blick canvas panels they're cheap and work fine for practice. I use them for life classes and experiments. They are not archival but won't fall apart right away either I've had some I've painted on for over ten years and no problems

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    Quote Originally Posted by dpaint View Post
    I keep a bunch of those dick blick canvas panels they're cheap and work fine for practice. I use them for life classes and experiments. They are not archival but won't fall apart right away either I've had some I've painted on for over ten years and no problems
    Holy crap. Thanks. (do you have to stretch these or whatever the process is called? I'm having trouble with some of the ones I'm buying because they warp...)

    BLAHBLAHBLAH
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    No stretching, they are panels. They might warp on the bigger sizes but what do you want for 5 bucks for a 24x30 panel?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Deadlyhazard View Post
    I always kinda wondered if there was a cheaper way of making a canvas rather than spending 10$ per thing to paint on. Most tutorials on the subject are a bit confusing and do you really have to buy wood and all that other stuff just to make some stuff to practice on?! I just want some damn cheap stuff to play around on.
    You can get pre-stretched pre-primed canvas, or pre-primed boards, ranging from cheap student grades (these may warp eventually, and may not be very archival,) to more expensive professional grades (heavy duty stretchers, usually archival, and some have nice-looking wrapped edges.)

    I've been using pre-stretched cotton canvas from Utrecht for ages - some of the cheap student-grade ones did warp after a few years, but the better grades have held up fine so far, give or take a decade or so. (If they fall apart in another few decades they'll be too old to matter, anyway.)

    Utrecht, Dick Blick and Pearl Paint all have decent deals on pre-stretched canvas and boards, usually I compare between them and go with whoever is having a sale at the moment. (Sales are a great time to stock up.)

    If you want to practice on small pieces, 2-ply Bristol Board works too, and is comparatively cheap. Get a big sheet, cut some pieces to size and gesso them, and you're good to go. (This only works for small pieces, though - large sheets of Bristol Board will warp like crazy.)

    One of my teachers had us buy large sheets of heavy-duty paper and gesso it for practice pieces - very cheap and disposable, if you're doing a bunch of practice studies that you'll probably end up throwing away, that could be a good way to go.

    Masonite works well for practice, too, and can be pretty cheap.

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    Yeah I've heard about gesso. I don't need those for panels right? I don't care about warping right now after I've done whatever I'm working on, I'm just concerned if it happens while I'm painting. Thanks for the answers.

    BLAHBLAHBLAH
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    Don't sweat whether your early work is archival - you won't want it to be, trust me. I was much like you many years ago - overwhelmed with what seemed to be so many formulas and materials. Jim Gurney was the one who finally got me to start - he said "Keep it simple" (he didn't say "stupid" because he's Jim - nicest man in the solar system).

    dpaint is right - everyone will have their own take on things - do your research and find people whose work/process you admire and try to find out as much as you can about their materials and approach.

    I'm pretty particular about materials and equipment myself, here's what I use:

    Brushes: Robert Simmons "Signet" series flats - even sizes from 4-10 with an occasional 2. Your brush selection looks like it has too many varieties and too small sizes. Oils are best handled with hog-hair brushes rather than synthetic - they are very inexpensive relatively speaking.

    Support: I prefer painting on panels covered with oil primed linen - I make my own panels and use oil primed Utrecht linen. You can also buy basically the same thing from an outfit called "Sourcetek" (canvaspanels.com). I also use the ones dpaint mentions from Dick Blick for emergencies.

    Turp: Gamsol - the only choice imo.

    Turp container: Medium sized on from Holbein - make sure it is the one that has three clips and the top comes completely off.

    Turp storage/recycling: Large jars work well to pour off your dirty turp into - seal them and let them sit for a few weeks - the solids settle out and you can reuse the turp.

    Paint: Utrecht or Gamblin - keep your palette (colors you use) as limited as you can - I use five colors and white - with an occasional "extra" thrown in for certain subjects (seascapes, water, flower garden, etc.) I generally use two warm primaries and three cool primaries and the white.

    Easel: Get yourself either a half-box French or a pochade setup (but not one of the "Guerilla Painter" poachades).

    Mediums: I prefer my own formula but Liquin is a good one - I recommend you paint for at least two years before you try any medium - again it just adds an entirely new, and difficult to control, variable into an already challenging process.

    Varnish - Kamar Varnish from Krylon - it is a spray - just make sure it is dry to the touch and warm enough with low humidity - I've never really had any problem with it.

    Rags/cloths: I like to use paper towels - the kind you can "select-a-size" so you generate the minimum waste.

    Sketching: Keep a small sketchbook handy and do quick composition thumbs in it - I use thinned paint of wash consistency to sketch directly on my panel.

    Rabbit skin glue: You can have mine.

    Books:

    "Oil Painting for the Serious Beginner" by Steve Allrich
    "Imaginitive Realism" by James Gurney
    "Drawing Scenery" by Jack Hamm
    "Carlson's Guide to Landscape Painting" John Carlson
    "Alla Prima" by Richard Schmid

    Good luck! Have fun! Keep it simple!

    Last edited by JeffX99; January 28th, 2011 at 01:23 AM. Reason: typo
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    Err color and light is another good one by gurney right? I just bought it today on Amazon.

    BLAHBLAHBLAH
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    Quote Originally Posted by Deadlyhazard View Post
    Err color and light is another good one by gurney right? I just bought it today on Amazon.
    Absolutely...I just think "Imaginitive Realism" goes into some more basic getting started kinds of things with materials and such. Really everyone should have both.

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    It definitely seems daunting at first, particularly since you have all kinds of theory in your head and little practical experience.

    The best answer any of us can give: Make a few paintings, learn from mistakes, post them up with questions about your experiences. A few failures are worth hundreds and hundreds of posts.

    Most of the 'rules' are almost impossible not to follow, and you'll notice why after a few paintings.

    Painting into half dried fat paint isn't very pleasant unless you're delibrately trying to scumble, and really fat dry paint tends to be glossier and won't let new applications of paint stick well. Plus, trying to apply paint thinned with solvent into paint with a medium in it just knocks the paint off the surface, which is quite annoying.

    Brushes are all preference. Natural hair works well for certain types of painting and synthetic works well in others. For a beginner, anything over a size 8 brush can be synthetic purely because of cost. Hog hair brushes can move more paint and typically shows brushstrokes, and sable is good for details and can hide brushstrokes more readily.

    You'll also find you don't need half the stuff you bought initially; gamsol or other odorless mineral spirits (OMS) is all you'll generally need as a solvent, a little oil/medium of some type to loosen the paint up on your palette (I use galkyd slow dry, but it's just preference), a handful of brushes, and 2 knives.

    Student grade paint is a decent place to start for a simple reason: It sucks. It has extenders, more oil, substitute pigments, mixed colors and all kinds of other issues. But, using it for a dozen paintings then moving on to professional grade color is like driving a Barbie car then getting into a Porshe, you'll have the experience to appreciate the quality after you've suffered through with terrible materials.

    If you have access to a woodshop and know how to safely use it, building your own supports can be VERY cheap, if you know how. Otherwise, it's just easier, quicker, less dangerous and cheaper to just buy the things from an art store. It can be way more work than it's worth to build, stretch and prime a surface, particularly if you're only making one at a time, or just standard sizes.

    As a paper tiger, this is just me. There are many members with more experience and more patience. But I hope this helps.


    Edit: Plus, I definitely just repeated Jeff's advice.

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    ^
    DeadlyHazard "Colour and Light" is great. You won't regret buying it.

    OP, you've got loads of stuff, just keep it simplistic, play around, see what works for you. None of this will make much sense until you pick up a brush, try it and go "ah... I see..." Just get stuck in.
    Oil paint is massively versatile and there are so many ways to go about it that it's very easy to get "information overload"

    Questions..

    1) Support- for me, unstretched canvas usually just for ease of storage and I can tape them to the wall to dry. Sometimes gessoed bristol or board.
    If a smooth surface lending itself to detail is important for you, some kind of board or panel definitely.

    2) Priming, not that important for me personally. What you may want to consider is learning how stretching your own canvas works.
    If you work in non standard sizes being able to do this yourself can save you wads of cash..

    3) You can fix a charcoal sketch with fixative or acrylic medium. Paint goes on fine. I find it easier just to do the washy underpainting thing.

    4) If I wanted to enlarge a sketch or study to full size I'd just grid it up. If I was feeling really lazy, I'd blow it up on a print shop photocopier then charcoal transfer it.

    5) Brushes- I have a bucket of brushes, I just grab whatever looks right.. This is one of those trial and error / personal pref ones.

    6) Good call, you will be using a lot of white. I prefer Zinc white myself, I tend to get the artists range just because white is cheap and it was only a couple of quid difference.

    7) Mediums...ooh that's a book in itself.

    I mix up a 50/50 linseed/ turps or OMS mix that I use to thin paint for toning a canvas. From then, I use it a little to loosen paint if needed.

    I'm not a chemist so I use as little in the way of mediums as possible.

    At the end I throw on retouch varnish to even out the gloss and bring sunken in darks back up.

    Just my studenty 2p worth.

    Quote Originally Posted by JeffX99 View Post
    Don't sweat whether your early work is archival - you won't want it to be, trust me.
    So true..
    You may actually wish to construct an elaborate "Archimedes Death Ray" style device to dispose of them..
    http://gurneyjourney.blogspot.com/search?q=flambeau

    Edit: what they said ^

    Last edited by Flake; January 27th, 2011 at 10:48 PM.
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    Oh yeah! - once again Jim outdoes the lesser mortals!

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  26. #17
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    First of all many thanks to all of you for giving me your advice and sharing your experiences, it helps me both practically and motivationally, and I am truly grateful for your time and help.

    Also thank you all for the book tips, I've seen a big list of books in a sticky I've found somewhere on these forums before but wouldn't really know which ones I'd really have to get without having to spend a fortune on all of them. I've ordered some of the books you have listed on Amazon (and was happy to see that most of them were around 13 to 23 euros )

    I'm really psyched to start painting, but my eyes are closing in a rapid tempo so I'm going to bed now.

    Again thank you all for your help.
    Thank you.

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  27. #18
    OmenSpirits's Avatar
    OmenSpirits is offline Commercial-Illustrator in-training, NOT an artist. Level 13 Gladiator: Retiarius
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    All questions you've asked only need ONE answer.

    BOB. ROSS.

    You may thank me now.

    Last edited by OmenSpirits; January 28th, 2011 at 12:49 PM.
    "Everything must serve the idea. The means used to convey the idea should be the simplest and clear. Just what is required. No extra images. To me this is a universal principle of art. Saying as much as possible with a minimum of means."
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  29. #19
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    What if I told you I was Bob Ross incarnate?

    BLAHBLAHBLAH
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    I'd say your trees are not sufficiently happy yet.

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    Elwell is offline Sticks Like Grim Death Level 17 Gladiator: Spartacus' Dimachaeri
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    Allow me to introduce, the CA Big Oil Painting Thread. Go nuts.


    Tristan Elwell
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    WELL one day they will be happy. Very happy trees. And there will be happy clouds that will be friends with the happy squirrels. Somehow they're friends, I don't know how. Just make up a story as you're painting.

    Now I'm going to beat the devil out of the brush

    *Bob Ross beats the shit out of the brush*

    BLAHBLAHBLAH
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  37. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by Elwell View Post
    Allow me to introduce, the CA Big Oil Painting Thread. Go nuts.
    I will go nuts, thank you.

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    I use 3 mm mdf board and gesso it, it's very cheap and durable, I used to buy 5 mm mdf but recently found out 3 mm it's lighter and cheaper and works perfect.

    The Light and Dark Arts of Cristian Saksida
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  39. #25
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    OmenSpirits is offline Commercial-Illustrator in-training, NOT an artist. Level 13 Gladiator: Retiarius
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    Quote Originally Posted by deadlyhazard View Post
    well one day they will be happy. Very happy trees. And there will be happy clouds that will be friends with the happy squirrels. Somehow they're friends, i don't know how. Just make up a story as you're painting.

    Now i'm going to beat the devil out of the brush

    *bob ross beats the shit out of the brush*
    All yee bow to the god that is....bob!

    "Everything must serve the idea. The means used to convey the idea should be the simplest and clear. Just what is required. No extra images. To me this is a universal principle of art. Saying as much as possible with a minimum of means."
    -John Huston, Director
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