Make your own free website on Tripod.com



Link to the Art Q&A Pages Index

Question & answer resource for artists.
Answers are from the site author unless otherwise noted.

   DRAWING       PRINTMAKING      PAINTING         PAINT     
    COLOR        MISCELLANY      MAIL BOX         LINKS     



Painting Page
Oil, watercolor, etc.

Starting a Painting
Testing out Color
Best Lighting
Homemade Gesso
Oil Painting on Paper
Enlarging Drawing
Can not Draw
Illusion of Depth
Odor of Turpentine
Photography and Painting
Painting on Masonite Board
Watercolor Paper Buckles
From Sketch to Painting
Hanging work on Paper
Overworked Watercolors
Reproducing Paintings
Large Easle Too Expensive



How can I hang a large work on Paper?

If float mounting in a frame is too expensive you should start by reinforcing the upper edge with a thickness or two of linen sown carefully to the back of the sheet. From there you can attach the sheet to the wall or a black back board with small wire brads, or for a high tech look install gromettes to hang from or run screws with washers through the work into the wall. For light works on paper I have simply nailed ranch molding to the wall overlapping the paper at top and bottom. I was discussing this matter with Jennifer Young and she opted to sew fabric loops to the sheet top and bottom and pass a hanging rod through these for a kind of Chinese scroll effect. If your are an ambitious sewer you could try to imitate the cloth mount used for Chinese hanging scrolls on silk.


                    back to top



go to index page            


How should I start my paintings?

-- There is a tradition called indirect painting where preparatory sketches are made and transferred by gridding (see below) or some other method to the canvas which is then painted, sometimes in ink, as a monochrome tonal griesselle. This monochrome underpainting is executed to the finest detail before being colored over with transparent and translucent washes.
-- For direct painting, so-called al prima lock in your picture with large areas of color, so called "dead color" into which details can then be selectively introduced. This gives you an opportunity to work out the proportions and color before investing too much energy into capturing the details:

  1. When working detail out, the overall proportions and placements can drift where as working detail into broad blocks that are suitably proportioned helps in the development of proportions within those forms and also encourages selective detail... painting which has variety because detail is suppressed as unnecessary in some passages.
  2. I tell my students that if the fire alarm went off ten minutes into class I'd want to see them all standing around the parking lot holding canvasses that have an all over finish if not a lot of detail.
  3. Also, people under-estimate the degree to which colors interact... I have a simple chart demonstrating color interaction that often surprises students.


                    back to top



go to index page            


Is there a painless way to test out color schemes without ruining a canvas?
Make a drawing or tracing of the composition, get it photocopied onto the nicest paper available and do color variations with watercolor or even oil if you coat the paper with unflavored gelatin or matte acrylic medium.


                    back to top



go to index page            


What is the best lighting to paint by?

Well, diffused North light really is the best but when it comes to artificial lighting regular incandescent is very yellow and florescent is very green compared to natural light. For a time I used blue photo-flood bulbs but they don't last long and are not cheap. Then I switched to a quartz-halogen rig sold at hardware stores for working in the garage... a lot of light but they put off a lot of heat. They now sell 150 watt halogen bulbs at the supermarket that screw in to standard sockets and I use those most of the time mounted in porcelain socket clip lamps. I think most other artist's use so-called 40-60 lights, a lamp that is sold at art stores that mixes 40% florescent with 60% incandescent by having a standard socket set into a circular florescent.


                    back to top



go to index page            


I'm having a lot of trouble making the transition from drawing (which I love!) to painting. I just can't "draw" in color yet. I've tried colored pencils, pastels and watercolor. The results have been disappointingly childish looking. While my drawing looks realistic and decent. Any advice?

I would go with the watercolors... there are a number of things to try but the key is not to draw in color but to color your drawings.

  • It is often easier to start painting on cream, tan, brown, or gray surfaces than on stark white.
  • Practice, practice, practice...


  •                     back to top



    go to index page            


    How do I make old-fashioned traditional gesso?

    Buy rabbit skin or dry hide glue. Mix according to instructions (usually 1 part glue to ten or twelve parts water) but rather than carefully cooking over a double boiler as suggested, just bring water to boil, remove from heat, and sprinkle in glue while stirring. Immediately add whiting until a gravy-like consistency is attained. Apply before cooling gels the mixture. It may be re-heated but never boiled. If fine whiting (powdered chalk) can not be found "athletic field marker chalk" or slacked plaster may be used. Slacked plaster is plaster that has been purposefully over stirred in the mixing so that it losses it's ability to ever set properly.


                        back to top



    go to index page            


    Can I use oils on paper?
    Paper may be primed with gesso, unflavored gelatin, or matte acrylic medium so that you do not get oil stains and the paper is not eaten away by the paint over time. Paper has been a popular support for sketches in oil paint but museums are also full of works in oil on paper glued to board or canvas with rabbit skin glue.


                        back to top



    go to index page            


    How do I enlarge a preliminary drawing up on to the canvas? Traditionally the grid is used. Regular squares are drawn lightly over the study. An equal number of larger squares are drawn up on the canvas. The study is then copied square by square from the drawing onto the canvas with attention to how the shapes are arranged in each square (e.g. the curve of the cheek goes from one third into the square at the bottom to three quarters in at the top). Great fidelity can be achieved by closely copying the shapes as they appear in each square of the grid. You can also project slides of your drawing on the canvas or get your drawings photocopied onto overhead transparency film if you have access to a projector. Decent opaque projectors are extremely expensive although I've made do with the cheap children's versions which only take six by six inch original and have pretty soft focus lens and dim projection lights.


                        back to top



    go to index page            


    I want to do water colors but I can't draw...What do I do?

    Get good 8x10 made of some of your photos, trace them and have the tracings (with a white backing paper) photocopied up onto the nicest paper possible. If the photocopies are reductions it can even make the tracings look tighter... good tracing is a skill that has to be learned and practiced just like regular drawing so practice as much as possible. The traditional way to transfer a tracing onto watercolor paper is to rub the back of the sheet with graphite or charcoal and then retrace the image with the sheet in contact with the watercolor paper... if the tracing is in pencil and you don't mind the image reversal, you can just drop it face down on the watercolor paper and retrace through the back.


                        back to top



    go to index page            


    How can improve the illusion of depth in my paintings?

    1. Overlap - it seems obvious but overlap your far objects with your near objects.
    2. Scale - make sure to scale properly by measuring far objects accurately against near objects.
    3. Temperature - the color of things tend to cool as they recede in space because of the humidity of the intervening air.
    4. Value - outside things become paler as they recede because of the veil of moisture in the intervening atmosphere, however, indoors far things tend to be relatively darker than near things because unless the foreground is back-lit it most likely captures more of the light from whatever is the light-source.
    5. Shadow - shadow can be used to break things off from their background in depictions of shallow space or can be used to articulate perspectival recession in deep spaces (i.e. the "train-track" effect).


                        back to top



    go to index page            


    How can I avoid the fumes of turpentine in my small studio space?

    Clean up with salad oil. The thinner salad oil brakes down the more viscous oils in the paints and permits you to clean them up with soapy water. Use only a drying oil like sunflower or safflower so that any residue will not gum up the brushes or paints. However, since you must paint "fat over lean" you can't use oil to dilute paint for the under-painting as you would when using turpentine as your solvent, instead the under-painting can be made with an egg/oil emulsion made by thoroughly mixing a more than equal volume of egg yolk into the oil paint so that it will dry quickly and can also be thinned with water.


                        back to top



    go to index page            


    How can I integrate photos into my paintings?
    Get the best photocopies you can and apply them face down to the surface of the canvas with washable fabric glue from the local craft store. Allow the glue to dry and then wet the back of the photocopy down with water...abrade the wet paper away from the canvas with your finger tips... the image will be set into the glue which remains adhered to the canvas. I've found that "paintable" siliconized white glue sold in hardware stores for caulking showers will also work well. If you do not want the image reversed it must first be copied onto transparency film which can then in turn be copied with the image reversed.


                        back to top



    go to index page            


    About painting on masonite-does it have to be untempered masonite and is there a visual way to tell the difference between tempered and untempered? I have read various recommendations for priming it from acrylic gesso to white latex house paint primer. What is your opinion?

    Tempered masonite has size and other additives in it which are said to impair the adhesion of paint or gesso to the board surface... tempered masonite is harder to flex and is more rigid than untempered but it isn't always easy tell. Latex house paint isn't made to last forever so acrylic gesso is a better choice. personally I can't stand painting on acrylic so I size the board with hide glue and prime with a chalk/glue gesso sanded lightly after each coat. In any case, the board should be coated with what ever primer on the back as well as front to reduce warpage due to uneven stresses.


                        back to top



    go to index page            


    What do I do about my watercolor paper buckling as I paint?

    You have a number of options:


                        back to top



    go to index page            


    What can I do about my watercolors looking overworked and overly brushy? I want a more effortless look.


                        back to top



    go to index page            


    How can I share my paintings without giving up my originals?


                        back to top



    go to index page            


    I can't hang the large canvasses I'm painting on the brick or cavity walls in my studio but heavy duty easels are far too expensive...what is the alternative?

    1. Pound two floor to ceiling "two-by-fours" into the masonry or studs at the top and bottom of the wall with four inch hardened fluted masonry nails... the canvasses can now be hung on three-penny nails set into the two-by-fours.
    2. You can make an adjustable wall easel with "one-by-threes" set flat on to the wall with a quarter inch gap between them and spaced off the wall with a short horizontal rail at top and bottom... traveling top and bottom supports for the canvas maybe held to the rail by carriage bolts passing through them and the quarter inch track between the vertical rails to a fender washer and wing nut that can be tightened by reaching behind the assembly.
    3. A free-standing easel can be made by cheaply by taking a six or eight foot wooden ladder (much cheaper than an artist's easel), duct taping a cinder block to the first rung and hanging your canvas from nails pounded into the wood of the other side of the ladder that runs straight up and down and is without rungs.


                        back to top



    go to index page            




    ©Daniel Wasserman



    L.C.D. (Least Common Denominator)
    "Make it simple and push the content..."