Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Adventures with misbehaving paint

Lime Solo
4x6 inches
oil on canvas paper

I've mentioned previously that I've been experiencing problems with my oils, in that no matter what techniques, brushes, mediums or surfaces I use, I continue to have issues with them as far as acting like tar and becoming sticky or gummy on my painting palette shortly after I start painting.  The smooth, buttery quality that allows them to be laid down with ease and blended (or not) - that never happens with me on a regular basis.  Interestingly, I never had these issues when I worked in thin layers and glazes - just alla prima painting.

Maybe it is the palette I use for my paints - it's well-seasoned now, and I clean it with walnut oil after scraping off the paint.  Is it somehow affecting the paint texture?  Let's try a piece of clear acrylic instead.

Due to the problems I had with the last two paintings I did, yesterday I decided to just do some quick studies on canvas paper, which I've definitely had problems with in the past.  But, I wanted to use a surface I would be fine tossing out.

The problems started right away.  The oils tacked up almost immediately after application, and additional paint just caused the brush to drag across the applied paint.  The painted area almost felt dry to the touch within minutes, and minimal paint  came off on my finger.  It was a tedious fight to do this small painting.  I'd add a few drops of walnut oil, or Turpenoid, or both and was lucky if I could get a couple of brushstrokes out of a pretty loaded brush before it just didn't work.  The brushes got stiff and useless.  

If I wanted paint to act like this, I'd use acrylics.   But, there's a reason I don't paint in acrylics, and it's because I really dislike the way they handle.

Seriously, I have no idea what the problem is, but it is driving me nuts.  The paints are not old - the new white I bought is doing the same thing.  

After trying to paint a head of garlic on the canvas paper after this lime, and having the process be an even bigger chore, I got fed up, and really annoyed.

Is it because I'm not using enough paint?  Possibly.   

Large squeezes of the new tubes of burnt sienna, ultramarine blue and the white, along with some Utrect chromium green barely used, went onto the palette.  I grabbed a large hog bristle filbert rather than the softer synthetic flats and washes I've been using:

oil on 1/4" wood panel

I show this somewhat as a joke.  Not to mock abstract works at all, because I am a fan of them.  It was literally done out of frustration and irritation, and not with the intent to produce a painting, but to pile on paint with no medium and see what happened.  It was actually cathartic to paint and I rather like the colors together.  It's not signed, as I don't intend to keep it or sell it [although there are probably some who would say it's better than anything else I've done...not sure if I would laugh or cry over that assessment].

But, I thought it might be fun to share it here, as a toast to the moments and periods of frustration that I'm sure hit us all at some point in our studios.  One thing I did discover is that these colors are almost a perfect palette match for this fabulous little glazed vessel I bought from the DAC gallery shop a few weeks ago.  Maybe a successful painting will be hatched as a result of this one.

I'm going to make a trip to our local art store and pick up some refined linseed oil and give that a try.  It's all artist Karin Jurick uses, and her paint behaves wonderfully for her.  

Anyone else have any similarly frustrating experiences with materials or anything else?  Feel free to share.


  1. No ideas, unless your lack of humidity is unbelievable? But moving from pastel to oil always reminds me why I love pastel. My oils were doing this yesterday and I think I was trying to work too small? good luck...share the answer pleese...

  2. Hi Cindy - I have wondered about the humidity being an issue (we have wonderfully dry air here!), but then since they are oils, would that matter?
    I have no idea!

    I know that the canvas paper is definitely an issue - won't use that anymore. I'm going to give the linseed oil a try, and I'll report how that works.

    And, I totally agree with you about pastel; as much as I do like some of the qualities of oils, pastel will always be my first love!

  3. What brands of paint are you using? (email me back)

  4. Gamblin, Grumbacher, W&N mostly, not including the Artisan (water-miscible) oils. All artist-grade paints.


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