Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Misinformation and the web!

I grew up with artists and I have had various levels of "formal training" but I am primarily a self taught oil painter. I did my homework. I bought and read numerous books on the subject. I did my own tests and analyzed the information I absorbed.

In preparing my "Introduction to Oil Painting" class for CraftEdu, I hauled out some of my old, dog eared tomes of knowledge. I haven't poured over these books in a long time so it was interesting to find the notes I had scrawled into the margins and which sections I had underlined as being particularly important.

I also did some cross checking of various points of information on the web and while there is a lot of good information out there, there is also a lot of misinformation. On one site a chart declared that "all whites are opaque". Not true! Zinc white is transparent and very useful because it is transparent.

Another site, in explaining the  "fat over lean" rule stated that all oil paint that comes from the tube is "fat". Well, yes - sort of. It didn't cover the crucial information that all oil paint that comes from the tube is not "equally" fat and THAT is the important information.

Another site claimed that artist's odorless turpentine was nothing more than odorless mineral spirits, but to my knowledge, turpentine that is refined to be odorless and used by artists has more impurities removed than the odorless turpentine available at the local hardware store. That same article was going on about how none of these (turpentine or distilled mineral spirits) were useful as a medium and that water was much better. Turpentine isn't a medium, it is a solvent and it is meant to be used to clean your brushes. It can be used to thin oil paint for the first layer of a painting, but beyond that turps, in any form, aren't really part of the painting process. Water and oil paint really shouldn't become acquainted unless you've decided to use those horrible oil paints that have been modified to work with water.

Having taught myself oil painting, I really don't know what is actually taught about the science of oil painting in schools. Judging from the information I found on the web, little.

Maybe it sounds a bit strange to be talking about the "science" of oil painting given that it is an art form, but science is most definitely involved. This goes a bit beyond the skilled techniques that are used in other painting mediums. With watercolor skill is required to paint a new wash over an old (dry) wash and not pick up the previous color. That's pure technique. If you happened to pick up some of the color of the previous layer, the painting is still physically sound. Painting layers of oil paint over previous layers of oil paint requires more knowledge of the science involved as well as the qualities of the particular pigments in use.

I'm such a newbie when it comes to blogging. There is some part of me that says I should be including some interesting and wonderful photo with every entry. Am I always supposed to just write about my art work, or can I wonder off topic and blather on about something completely different? Perhaps there are no real rules for blogging and we all can just muddle along.

Latest Netflix gems: Lark Rise to Candleford - a wonderful British TV series that Jack and I have been enjoying! I love period pieces. One of the things that I really like about this series is that I really like almost every single character!

We watched Masterpiece Mystery the other night with David Suche playing Poirot. He really is such an exceptional actor!! When I paint, I listen to music. When I needle felt, I listen to movies on my small DVD player. One movie that played rather frequently over the last year was The Way We Live Now in which Suche plays the mastermind behind a huge Ponze scheme, a character so totally different from Poirot and Suche plays it to perfection!

Well, I've blathered on too long and it is now past the time I should be getting Jack up for the day! May your day, dear readers, be filled with unexpected delights!!


  1. Interesting don't have to post a pic but I find I get more hits if I do. Something about a visual attached with an article makes it more attractive to me. Also, I just love looking at other artists work.

  2. Thanks Sherry!!

    I thimk images do help! Sometimes I just don't know what images to include. ;)

  3. I think pictures are useful in effect to grab the viewer (in particular Artists). So if that is your target audience I suppose it helps. However I am a title person and this title grabbed me. Thank you so much for telling me about the Zinc white, who knew maybe that is why I never could paint white decently I always bought only Zinc White, primarily because I believed that white was white and that turned out to be a bit of misinformation also. Thanks again

  4. You aren't alone, Alma! I've known other artists who didn't know about the differences between the whites (goes for other colors too). Zinc white can be terribly frustrating if what you need is an opaque white and titanium white can be just as frustrating if you need a transparent white! ;)