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  • thomaswikstrom

About My Painting Technique

If I paint from a live model or out in nature, I usually measure what I see with a stick or pen and then draw with a charcoal how I want to place the object on the canvas. Now I would have to paint "plain air" or what would also be called "alla prima". However, I could always finish the painting later by taking a photo of the model or nature, or simply paint from memory with obvious alternations.

When painting from a picture

I do not start painting on a white canvas. I rather ground the canvas with a warm light ochre color before I draw up the grid. I mix a dark umber acrylic color with white gesso to get that ochre. For portraits, this is helpful as it gives a supporting undertone. For marina sea paintings, where there is also a lot of sky, I color the canvas with a turquoise color. If it is an interior painting, maybe a "still life" with a dark background, I pre-ground the canvas with a dark color. I generally then mix in blue with brown umber.

On the picture of choice, I draw up a grid with equal squares so that when I draw up the picture, I get the scale right. Generally, I draw around 10x10 cm grid with a charcoal-pen, which will be enough to follow where the lines and contours go on the picture. Of course, the size of the grid depends on the size of the canvas and how I want re-scale the picture.

I would never use a photographic method by projecting the picture or a drawing on the canvas since it inhibits the practice of skillful viewing the object for composing the art. By learning to observe, I find it much easier to mix colors and paint.

After drawing up the composition on the canvas, I will simply fill in with a grissaile first layer. However, grissaile means a grey tone whereas for the choice of color I rather follow for example Rembrandt´s color tone of umber. Sometimes, I will still add some blue (for background) and burnt sienna with white for a warmer tone in the first layer. There is no need to worry about the right color mixing and whether the composition is correct or not to your liking at this first layer. I use turpentine as medium at the first simple layer as it will dry fast so I only need to wait some few days.

Keep it simple, at ease, to maintain the fun and most needed patience. I have seen painters putting too much pressure at the very first brush draws, and a struggle has occurred between them and painting on the canvas.

On the second layer I will use linseed oil as medium to the colors. As for the palette, I use plexiglass, which I have colored on the backside with greyish white. It is easy to clean and works better for me in general.

I keep the color scheme on the palette very simple:

· white in the middle

· umber, burnt sienna, yellow ochre, yellow and cadmium red on the top of the palette

· blue (which blue(s) depend on the composition) and green (I often rather mix blue and yellow for my green of choice) on the left down corner of the palette

· Payne´s grey and black on the down right corner of the palette

Keeping the colors in the same place makes it easier for the mind when mixing the right color tone or shade for each painting. Well, towards the end of a sitting session, my palette though looks more like an experimental mess.

The last third layer will include all the detailed work - objects getting the right light, shadow and form. For me, a painting must have a thick worked surface of many layers that truly cover, therefore I would even put a complete third cover. The only different approach would be if I make a "plain air" painting, which means I will have to paint "alla prima" where I start with the background and work successively towards what is presented in the foreground.

Glazing with a very transparent (thin) color and much medium is very effective for further getting a visual reflection and depth to painted objects like eyes, hair, porcelain, glass, metals, etc. However, after glazing it will take a long time to dry. I might have to wait more than 6 months before I apply varnish. I always apply a layer (or two) of varnish not only because it protects the painted surface but also because it gives it a classic look.

For me, oil painting is intentional work and a form of meditation, not an abstract expressionistic "slash it on" of whatever colors come to mind. As fast and hurried abstract art has been done, it easily gets equally quickly boring to look at, if you know what I mean. The same goes for me with classical music; it needs to follow the nature of harmonies and not go off into 12-tone modern orchestral chaos. Of course, that is always a matter of opinion and individual taste.

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