Each original oil paintings is a unique, high quality, one of a kind treasure. Often one only sees the finished painting and does not see the time and effort that goes into creating each painting. Each work of art is hand crafted from start to finish. I use methods and techniques that have been used for centuries and are proven to create high quality, long lasting paintings. Commercial and mass produced products, such as oil and canvases sold at large stores, use methods to save time and ensure the cheapest product. Below I go over the basic steps and processes that I use to create my high quality original artworks.
Raw linseed oil
Processing and refining the linseed oil
Processed and refined oil beginning the aging process.
Oil painting starts with the oil. I process and refine the raw linseed oil using a multi-step process that cleans and purifies the oil. I don't use chemicals or harsh solvents. I have used several different methods that can take anywhere from 1-4 weeks to to get the oil prepared for use in painting. Some steps may take several months such as sun thickening the oil. Hand refining the oil ensures that the oil has no chemical additives and is not over heated. This creates the highest quality oil for painting. Commercial linseed oil uses chemicals or other means to process the oil which can cause discoloration or darkening of the final painting.
raw linen canvas
I paint on linen canvas or wood panels for some smaller paintings. I occassionally use pre-primed linen but I usually prepare and prime my own linen or panels. Small works can be done on wooden panels however they are too heavy for larger works. I use a medium weight linen. Linen canvas is a proven support for painting and has more character that machine made cotton canvas.
Canvas on panel (back)
I have also recently experimented with linen canvas mounted on panel. The panel supports the linen and prevents the canvas from moving which creates a more stable surface which helps ensure the longevity of the surface. The panel is braced on the back to prevent warping.
Canvas stretcher bars
Stretcher bars ready for canvas
Canvas ready for stretching
The raw linen is attached to a wooden frame. The wooden frame can be made from the pre-sized stretcher bars shown here. The support frame can also be made from wood and constructed to the appropriate size. The raw canvas is stretched over the wooded frame to create a tight flat surface to paint on. The painting can be made any size (by using the pre-made stretcher bars that come in standard sizes or by making custom sized wooded frames for each painting).
Sizing and Priming the Canvas
Canvas sizing and priming
After the canvas is stretched (or the panel cut and made) it needs to be sized and primed. The sizing and priming protects the canvas from the oil and ensures a high quality surface that the oil can bond to. I use rabbit skin glue to size the canvas. The glue comes in small pellets which is warmed/heated in water and then painted onto the canvas. Several coats are applied and allowed to dry. After the canvas is sized it needs to be primed with a gesso or oil ground in order to create a suitable surface to paint on. Several coats are used and this can take weeks to cure properly.
The ground applied during the priming can be toned to create a neutral color so that the painting surface is not stark white. I prefer to paint on a toned canvas and will either apply a toned ground during priming or apply an "imprimatura" layer after the primed canvas is dry.
For hundreds of years artists prepared their own paint by grinding different colored powdered pigments with the hand refined oil that they had made. With the invention of tubed oiled paints many artist stopped creating their own paints. The problem with some tubed oil paints is that over time there is some separation of the oil and pigment and so additives and chemicals were added to increase the life span and flow of the tubed oil paint. These additives can be detrimental to the longevity and quality of the painting. I use high quality oil paints that don't include additives and are just linseed oil and paint or I prepare my own paints with powdered pigments and the high quality hand processed linseed oil that I made.
Artists use mediums that they mix with their paint in order to change the flow or qualities of the paint. Some mediums are newly formulated mixtures and chemicals that have not been proven by time and some use exotic ingredients that may also not stand up to time. I use hand refined linseed oil as a medium which is a proven ingredient and is found in paint samples from paintings that are hundreds of years old.
Starting the Painting
"Final" idea sketch
I do small "thumbnail" sketches to get my idea translated from my mind to paper. When I am creating my own paintings these are fairly basic and simple as I have most of it in my mind and I just need to work out the pose or the composition and make sure it translates to a painting. If I am doing a custom piece I will do much more detailed drawings and work closely with the client. I will go over the sketches with them to ensure that I have created exactly what they want and that they approve of the composition/image before I start to paint.
Drawing on canvas
After the thumbnail sketches are done and the idea has been worked out (or the client is satisfied with the composition and approved the drawings) it is time to start the painting. I start with a basic charcoal drawing on the canvas to get the image placed on the canvas and get everything the right size. After the initial rough drawing I redraw with paint. I paint in layers and usually (but not always) start with a monochrome or very limited color underpainting. After that I continue adding paint and increasing the color, detail, and refinement, building up the layers of paint until it is finished. After the painting is dry I varnish it with a conservation quality varnish. The painting process can take weeks to months depending on the size and complexity of the painting.
The Finished Painting; A Unique, One of Kind Treasure.
As you can see there is a lot hours and work that goes into a painting. People often wonder why paintings are priced the way they are. Each painting I make is a hand crafted work of original art from start to finish. I use the same methods and materials that artist have used for hundreds of years. These methods and materials are proven and have resulted in paintings that are hundreds of years old and still look the same as the day they were painted. I avoid commercial or mass produced products that contain fillers, additives, or chemicals that can discolor, degrade or will not stand the test of time.