Varnishing Oil Paintings

Varnishing Oil Paintings

Anyone who's done any research quickly learns that there are some structural problems that can happen when oil paintings are varnished before the three to six month drying time.

Of course, as artists that sell work, this is somewhat problematic. We don't necessarily like storing pieces for that long. Fortunately, times change. New studies and experiments happen. While I'm not a chemist or materials expert, I am a researcher-type and I'll share some art "street talk" about it here.

Canvas or Panel?

Canvas or Panel?

Looking for quick advice on how to choose a panel or canvas for oil painters? Read the post and click the blog post title to get to the video link.

Using Lead White in Oil Painting with Cadmium Colors

Using Lead White in Oil Painting with Cadmium Colors

Old masters' oil painting techniques fawn over the creamy, textural properties of white paint that contains lead. It dries quickly, has dreamy body (yes, still talking about oil paint), and has a certain warm silver cast to the color that adds an old master's look to your work. I was taught to be afraid of the paint interacting with other, synthetic paints, like cadmiums, but...

Dreaming in Lead White

I'm sure a measure of you can sympathize with lead white addiction in painting (no, not eating).  When I discovered it years ago, I was able to walk around with a knowing expression...I'd found one of the secrets of the Old Masters.

However, as I ran out of tubes of my lead white, I found myself a little nervous about ordering more.  Some may argue that it's fine.  It's a heavy pigment and isn't floating around trying to poison me.  But, I work at home a fair amount.  I work in my kitchen fairly often.  I have children and a lap dog.  I just would rather avoid it for a while.

SO! I was excited to find this blog post.  I'm going to experiment a bit and see if I like the home brew lead white substitute as described.

I'm really liking Oleogel and more recently Wilson's Medium from Natural Pigments.  Wilson't Medium gets sticky and rich quite quickly that can add some texture within one session.  Perhaps this lead white sub and Wilson's can get together and make something lovely!

Portrait of Grand Rapids Bishop

Bishop of Grand Rapids Commission

Below is the finished portrait of Bishop Hurley of Grand Rapids, Michigan.  He was an excellent sitter and was very gracious to come for 4 sittings so that I could paint the gesture and his face from life, and get good color notes on his clothes.

I kind of like this photo because it shows the amount of warmth and color in the middle values of the painting a little better than the more formal photo of it.  I'll try to get another image once it's in it's beautiful frame in a few weeks.

Finished painting of Bishop Hurley- right before delivery

Bishop Hurley finished with a portrait sitting

This second image shows the fourth sitting.  I asked to photograph the bishop full length because I was missing a reference for the bottom hem of his white vestment.  At this point I had added in a drapery in the background looking for a "naturalistic" way to work in the family crest in the upper left corner of the painting.  In the end it seemed too distracting and looked like Bishop was leaning away from the cloth so I took it out and the painting came together beautifully.

An image I looked at for ideas on portraits of bishops with family crests

Close-up of Bishop's face. The light didn't go into the eyes until the very end.  I had a hard time breaking eye contact with "him" after I knew that I had gotten it right!

Close-up of the sleeve and cross.  I'm using calcium carbonate to build up sleeve texture.

Close-up of lap and hand.  This pic is missing a bit of warmth in the fleshtones, oh well.

Thank you, Bishop Hurley and the Catholic Diocese of Grand Rapids, for permission to share these images of our portrait project.