Oil Painting Prep!

Becoming an Art Wizard

I’ve found that mostly everyone I meet wishes they had gotten a letter from a mysterious owl prompting an adventure to a fantastical college of wizardry and magic. As for myself and a handful of my oldest friends, we *did* in fact get our letter which frisked us off to a magical place that expanded our minds with philosophy, equipped us with a range of technical abilities, strange life skills, and encouraged us to proudly be who we were… no matter how society attempted to judge us.

Here in Nevada, we have a very unusual and amazing school known as the Las Vegas Academy of Performing and Visual Arts (or LVA). It’s classified as one of several magnet schools in the valley. Magnet schools are designed to provide education around a specific area of focus; like a major. Though the school still exists today, no time was as awesome as the period when we attended. It was literally, a “golden era” – or perfect storm which resulted in LVA receiving Blue Ribbon status due to how much it redefined the academic experience for students (and faculty).

My classical training as a painter and philosopher took place in LVA’s highly liberal environment and was fueled by eccentrically brilliant professors who were passionate about teaching us what they knew. During our years there, we were given free rein to choose our adventure and grow into whatever we wanted. And believe it or not, that formula worked! I was lucky enough to receive influence from many brilliant minds within a sweet spot in LVA’s history, all during a critical developmental point in my own life. 

When I say I went to a school the likes of Hogwarts, what I really mean is- LVA was better than Hogwarts.

I’ve since grown up and lived a decade or so of my adult life. Though I’m still an artist in the professional capacity, the nature of my work has changed. I spend most of my time engineering and writing. Though I do still draw quite a lot, I haven’t picked up a paintbrush in a long time; something I did daily back when I was a student.

I’ve defined that 2020 is to be an era of healing. There is a lot involved with that, and part of the plan involves getting back in touch with things from my past that gave me a sense of fulfillment. Painting is on the shortlist– and I plan to teach what I know while I get my toes wet again.

Grab a latte and let the streaming commence! We’re going oil painting. I will pass on the wisdom of my mentors and masters: Carol Treat, Kelly Mabel, and Wayne Littlejohn; the secrets and skills required to create interesting rectangles covered with linseed oil and pigment.

Materials List

We always ran to Dick Blick or Blick Art Supplies to get everything we needed. By all means though, support your local art stores if you have the extra $$ to do so!

Canvas: this can literally be anything you want it to be. I will suggest however that you use a piece of pressboard, wood, or masonite.

Starving Artist Tip!: a century ago, amazing oil painters like Telus Lautrec used cardboard when they couldn’t source or afford canvas. It works great! just make sure you prime it with some acrylic paint first!

Brushes: get yourself some “flat” synthetic brushes of varying sizes… at least one of each in a 2, 4, 6, 8, and 10 size. It also helps to have a 0 and 00 round brush for nailing details.

Starving Artist Tip!: You can buy “golden taklon” brushes in a pack for cheap at most hardware stores in the house paint section! You can recognize them easily because the bristles are bright golden yellow.

Paints:  We always used “Winton” brand oil paints, which are student grade. By all means, if you feel swanky and have the cash, grab something better… like the professional grade Winsor Newton or what-have-you.

Starving Artist Tip!: Paints are by far the biggest money drop in this hobby. The quality of paint does result in more vibrant colors, but in the beginning it’s not equal to the difference between 3-4 bucks on a tube of student grade paint, vs a 10-12 dollar tube of professional stuff.

Colors: I would suggest at minimum, the following hues:

  • Titanium white
  • Prussian blue 
  • pthalo blue
  • Diozanine purple
  • Alizarin crimson
  • Yellow ochre
  • burnt siena
  • Burnt umber
  • Cadmium yellow
  • Cadmium red
  • Naples yellow

Starving Artist Tip!: don’t bother buying black. you should in good practice, mix your own using Prussian blue and alizarin crimson.

Pallet: you can buy disposable pallets at the art store (or real ones if you feel like cleaning and reusing them).

Starving Artist Tip!: I just wrap a piece or two of wax paper around a hardcover book and use that! It works just fine, although your paints might dry out slightly faster than if you use a plastic surface.

Primer: I HIGHLY suggest picking up some transparent gesso if you can find it. This allows you to prime any surface for painting on. Primer is important because it gives the surface some tooth for your paint to stick to, and also prevents the oil in the paint from absorbing too quickly into the surface you’re panting on, which might dry your paint up quicker than you’d like, and even eventually cause the surface (especially if its wood or cardboard) to rot.

Starving Artist Tip!: If you have acrylic paint on hand, mix in some baby powder (talcum powder) until it has brownie batter consistency. The Talc will give you the tooth- the acrylic will help seal the surface.

Peripherals: Grab some odorless terpenoid as a brush cleaner, a glass bottle to put the stuff in, some rags you don’t mind destroying.

Starving Artist Tip!: I use a frappachino bottle with a twisty lid to store my terpenoid in so that I can use it throughout the duration of a project.

Support Structure: Usually one would use either an easel or a drawing horse to prop their canvas upon while painting. (I’m personally a horse girl)

Starving Artist Tip!: If you don’t have either… attaching your canvas to an art board, and then leaning it against the edge of a table works just fine. Art boards are a lot less expensive than an easel or horse, and are portable!

Don’t wear anything you love (unless you want paint on it)

Disclaimer: Oil paint takes FOREVER to dry. That is one of its charms. You can rework a piece while it’s wet for up to a week sometimes, even longer if you’re in a moist climate (unlike me!).

HOWEVER, because of this fact… you WILL mysteriously get paint all over your house in unexpected places. There is nothing you can do about it, so have cleaner on hand for when you see some pthalo blue smeared along the edge of your kitchen counter.

I’ll be broadcasting this endeavor over at ROBOHEMIAN! See you soon…

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