Painting Workshop Painting Manual

INSTRUCTION MANUAL (oil painting) by Maestro White

First of all, remember: FAT OVER LEAN. This means you always put oilier, more flexible layers of paint over less oily, less flexible layers. Painters use linseed oil as the glue in their paint because it makes very flexible films, which is why things like LINOLEUM were made out of linseed oil (linoleum means linseed oil). Raincoats used to be made by coating canvas with linseed oil. Therefore, water-soluble glues (no oil in them) like water color, casein and egg tempera, are used UNDERNEATH oil paint, while mediums and varnishes containing oleoresins such as DAMAR, MASTIC, COPAL, VENICE TURPENTINE, etc. are generally used on top of oils like LINSEED, STAND OIL, POPPYSEED OIL, SAFFLOWER OIL, WALNUT OIL, etc. The oleoresins are more sticky and generally dry harder than the above oils. Many modern pre-mixed mediums contain alkyd resins, which are made from soy oil, because it is cheap and dries quickly, but alkyds tend to make brittle films that do not adhere as well as traditional mediums. 


The primary colors for all of painting are: YELLOW, MAGENTA AND CYAN. 

Each of these colors REFLECT two of the COLORS of LIGHT that we can see:






Mixing any two of these colors together will result in reflecting the color of light that they have in common while the other two colors will be absorbed. Thus:


Yellow + Magenta = RED

Magenta + Cyan = BLUE

Cyan + Yellow = GREEN


One of the main difficulties beginner painters experience is learning to control the Hue (tint) and the Value (lightness or darkness) of the colors at the same time. Therefore: Try just describing the value at first. This is the traditional process. Start a painting in monochrome just using Umber on white canvas or a tinted ground (a pale, warm color), using only thinner to thin your paint (this makes LEAN paint). Then try painting colors over that, this time adding a little medium to your paint as well as thinner (this makes fatter paint, remember: FAT OVER LEAN). As oil paint is a somewhat transparent medium the layer that describes value only should affect the value of the layer over it as well as acting as a reference for the value of the colors you mix. Try to describe form by describing the difference of the COLOR OF THE LIGHT SOURCES from different directions, instead of describing just the colors of the objects themselves, which tends to make very boring, flat looking paintings. You should first learn to paint with just a few pigments; this is called a LIMITED PALETTE. I would recommend the following list:


1. Zinc White;    2. Yellow Ochre Light;    3. Cadmium Yellow Medium;    4. Cadmium Red Purple (or Deep);    5. Ultramarine Blue Deep;    6. Burnt Umber


Try to remember this: SOLVENTS, such as: TURPENTINE, GAMSOL, ODORLESS PAINT THINNER, GRUMTINE, TURPENOID, NAPHTA, etc. are for THINNING the consistency of paint, making it brush out in smoother and thinner layers, more transparent (in dimension), and for cleaning oil paints off of brushes and other tools and surfaces.

MEDIUMS, on the other hand, such as: LINSEED OIL, GALKYD, STAND OIL, VENICE TURPENTINE, etc. are to change the NATURE of the paint film, making it more flexible, more adhesive, slower or faster drying, more transparent as a material, and to change the way paint handles and behaves. The Linseed oil or Safflower oil in your tube of paint is technically a medium, although you will see it listed as the VEHICLE. Most of all, increasing the amount of medium makes successive layers of paint adhere to the leaner layers of paint underneath them because the leaner layers tend to absorb oil from the fatter layers, forming a CHEMICAL BOND between layers of paint. This principal works between two layers of WET PAINT as well as when wet paint is applied over dry paint. This is what so-called "WET ON WET" techniques are based upon. Most art students struggle with these two different liquids, and use them indiscriminately without knowing what they are for. Try to remember the information above and get used to using the two different materials, separately and together, until you get a feel for what they do, but always remember: FAT OVER LEAN.


By the way, Cadmium Seleno-Sulphide (Cadmium Red, Yellow, etc.) is a            NEURO TOXIN. That means it produces brain damage and nerve damage if introduced into your system. Always make sure you scrub your hands with plain soap (Ivory Soap) and SCRUB YOUR FINGERNAILS with a FINGERNAIL BRUSH after painting if you want to live a long life as a sane and functioning human. Anything containing LEAD OXIDE (Flake White, Cremintz White, Silver White, True Naples Yellow, Red Lead) is equally dangerous, producing artists who are retarded or idiotic, of which there are way too many already. After painting, clean your brushes in turpentine or thinner and THEN ALSO WASH THEM THOROUGHLY WITH IVORY SOAP AND HOT WATER or you will quickly ruin them. Keeping your brushes in good condition is essential to good painting technique.


Try to paint the simplest possible subjects you can imagine; things like flowers, seascapes, portraits and fantasies are strictly for EXPERIENCED painters. Always describe the WHOLE COMPOSITION FIRST and then the FIGURE GROUND RELATIONSHIP before describing any detail or features of your subject. The first objective should always be: UNITY. I would recommend always painting the background first, and then the subject, if you want to learn technique and process. The essence of oil painting technique is learning to LAYER paint, and to paint one area of color INTO another, and not put them NEXT to each other. Also, SPEED of execution is a tremendous asset in oil painting as oil has a limited OPEN TIME during which it is pliable and will have a surface that looks fresh. Remember, oil paint is very sensitive: it will transmit indecision and lack of self-confidence through your hand by its very nature.


Paint pigments have two different color characteristics. They are referred to as: MASS TONE or TOP TONE and: the UNDERTONE or TINT . The MASS tone is the color that the pigment REFLECTS, and the UNDERTONE is the color that the pigment TRANSMITS AS A FILTER. These two chracteristics are not necessarily the same color. Some pigments are mostly transparent. We call them: GLAZES. Others are mostly opaque. We call those pigments: IMPASTOS, meaning they can be used effectively as a paste. Try to become familiar with the different qualities of the different pigments that you use. Beware: any paint that has the word TINT or HUE or IMIT. after the color on the tube is not actually the pigment that it says it is, and will not behave like the real pigment. For that reason I do not recommend buying student grade colors to learn to paint, because you will not be learning the properties of specific pigments. Better to save money by buying pigments that are cheaper anyway, like earth colors, black and white. That strategy produced cubism, Picasso's BLUE period and most of Abstract Expressionism, so how much of a handicap could it be? 


Coraggio and good luck! ....Professor White