Oil versus Acrylic

At one time I had several canvases on the go at once and I could choose which I wanted to work on. Now I only have one in process and it’s on my easel. With oils it was necessary to have more than one canvas in process because oils dry so slowly but with acrylics it’s the opposite. I find it easy to become blocked regardless of the medium because some small aspect of the painting starts to cause me trouble and I obsess about it, however with acrylics it’s easy to just paint over the area and start again. With acrylics I agonise over every little thing and often re-paint areas but with oils I had to put the canvas aside and wait for the paint to dry. This was somewhat of an advantage because looking at the painting again after it had sat for a couple of weeks, something that needed work would usually jump out at me. I could do the same with acrylics but every time I stand up the paint is dry and calling for work.

The two mediums sound very similar and in some ways they are, however in other ways they are very different; acrylics don’t smell. I love the way turpentine used to smell but the newer process has changed that, so now I don’t like the odour at all. If the turpentine process had not changed I would still be using oils, but having said that I’m very happy with the newer pigments so I’m happy to have changed to acrylics.



One of the huge advantages to art and painting is it allows for easy presents. It’s not that the presents are valueless; most people value them highly but they can be so easy to do, they also allow for experimentation and the opportunity to try new things. Sometimes I don’t try anything new because I’m not sure how to go about it or how it will turn out; not that I have a great deal invested in any one painting but there is still the cost of the painting panel and paint.

Presents are different. This is a 4” x 4” canvas and I bought it with the idea that I would produce less costly animal portraits using it. I’ve since decided that I won’t be doing this because the canvas is just too small. At some point I may give it another try but my painting style needs more space. It was fun regardless and family will appreciate a small gift that I can produce quickly. I worked on this for a couple of hours. I experimented a little so it was certainly worth doing.

I did this as a Valentines present for my wife along with chocolates. It has been our agreement that all of my paintings are hers and she puts up any that she likes. At one time my paintings were my mother’s and she was a little choked when I moved out. I impart very little value to my paintings; I simply enjoy painting them.

My oldest daughter paints greeting cards for friends and family and my family love them. My wife and I have the ones she has given us on top of a cabinet in our front room. She does many more small works and sells a great deal more than I do.




I don’t usually sketch, I just start painting. I think I’ve always done this but sometimes I’ve found it necessary to do a couple of preliminary sketches in pencil just to solidify the layout. I’ve done some pen and ink drawings but the necessary sketching and subsequent tracing was tedious at best. I like being able to just load my brush and start painting. Although I’ve occasionally sketched onto the canvas I don’t find that it adds anything that I can’t do with a few quick brush strokes. I’ve often found that these quick strokes need to be corrected but it’s easier with paint than pencil so I just start painting.

FREE Books

I recently finished my latest art book. I’m a graphic designer and have put together a number of books, so to keep busy while the paint is drying I have been putting together books. It’s incredibly easy on the computer since I don’t need any other equipment or space. So no mallets, book blocks, glue, saws or knives. I have put together several physical books and I enjoy doing it, I am planning to get or make a book sewing jig; but none of these tools are required to make the file that could be sent to an offset press.


These books are FREE and available in PDF. I could have put them in one of many other e-book formats but PDF seemed the most useful. I have the ability to use many different formats except some of the exclusive ones like Kindle. Even though I can’t save a book to some of the proprietary formats there are applications (usually free) that will, but the PDF standard appears to be the most universally used and can easily be viewed on your computer which allows images to be seen in colour. Sorry, those of you who like to view things on your phone might be a little out of luck.



Portraits are one of the things I wanted to do most with painting; unfortunately they were the most difficult. I discovered that doing a portrait of someone I knew was almost impossible, however if I didn’t know them it was usually relatively successful. I didn’t twig on this immediately and as a result I had my share of failures. Now after 50 years I’m trying it again and it’s going relatively well.

I’m approaching portraiture differently this time. I print out an image of the subjects face at about the correct size, then tape it to my painting surface and proceed to paint the image onto the painting using the printed image as a guide. This initially strikes me as a cheat but if that’s what it takes to get a likeness then I will do what it takes. I’m using dividers to take measurements off the printout and transferring them directly to the painting surface. Once I have a likeness, or something close, I can select other areas of the painting to work on.

Gesso So Boring

I gesso all of my painting panels for a number of reasons: It seals the panel that I’m painting on, it smooths the surface, paint applies better over gesso, and paint colours are enhanced and easer to achieve. Applying gesso is annoying. Gesso is usually thin so you can pour it over the painting surface and spread it with a large taping knife or trowel which makes the surface quite flat and smooth. This works great except that there will be drips, which can be problematic depending on the floor surface. I’ve finally ended up applying the gesso thinly by brush.

I play with the idea of adding colour to the gesso but I usually add a colour wash to the panels after I’m finished with gesso. I’m rarely sure of the colour so I usually don’t bother adding it to the gesso, instead I use a colour wash over the entire surface. Many artists apply the gesso with some surface texture. Sometimes it just looks layered but I would be afraid that would change the look of the painting. On the examples I’ve seen it adds to the painting, not detract from it. I’m thinking that I should try it; I might like it.

I don’t think I’ll add as much texture as this but it’s still interesting and it would eliminate how much time it takes to brush on a thin coat. It certainly wouldn’t be boring.

Website Update.

I promised everyone an update on the Website. There was a small up-tick in traffic immediately after the ask but it’s back to normal again. I’m not really disappointed because I didn’t think it would make a huge difference.

Sketching before Painting

I don’t usually sketch before I paint. I don’t consider sketching with a brush on the painting panel the same thing as an elaborate pencil sketch, because that is just to get the image and approximate locations onto the panel. I’m referring to a completely separate sketch with pencil to help decide exactly how the painting is going to look. I regularly paint from photographs but sometimes I just don’t have a photograph that suits me. That is what is happening with this latest painting. I have an idea and apparently it’s a pretty completely formed one because I can’t find a photograph that is close. So I’m going to start sketching.

The sketches are very rough and quick, something that I can do faster than painting and toss away afterwards. I’ve completed several of them and ‘completed’ is a misleading term. I’ve gotten just far enough on each one to answer some issue. Clearly the idea I have is not complete enough, so much so that when I went to the store to buy a new panel I selected a square rather than a rectangular format. The biggest problem I faced was placing the subject vertically in the sketch. I’m hoping that a square format will simplify this problem; some might describe it as avoidance. I will see how sketching with a brush goes on the square panel. I think the next problem will be where to put the horizon line.

If I’m standing in the public house looking down on the subject, then the horizon line should be placed lower than vertical centre. I’ve got to be careful not to place it too low because I think that will skew the perspective on the furniture and the items on the table.


Is Art An Inherited Trait?

I don’t know; however I call myself an artist, my oldest daughter is an artist, my youngest has a good eye and is very talented as is my wife. It’s interesting that my oldest daughter paints and I paint; my wife’s talent lies in crafts and my youngest daughter is a photographer. I don’t know which side my daughters get their talent from. On my wife’s side of the family there are some good dancers.

I keep hearing of others in my extended family that have also been artists although not professionally. There are quite a few of them and it makes me think that there must be something in my family’s gene pool that makes art enjoyable. Maybe if you have an uncle or aunt who call themselves artists it is more likely that your mother and father will take you seriously when you want to draw and paint.

I’m not convinced that ‘Talent’ is inherited although many would disagree. I believe that anyone can draw but many may not enjoy it; if someone enjoyed playing music then perhaps they would become a musician. It’s interesting that musicians ‘play’ but engineers ‘build’. I wonder if all languages make this distinction? I think it is the potential for enjoyment that is inherited not the capability to draw. Enjoyment is a much more subtle and perhaps powerful thing than is ‘talent’ or ‘capability’.

So I think it’s not the ability to draw that is inherited but rather the enjoyment of drawing that might be inherited. If you enjoy it you will do more of it and get better to the point that you might wow others looking at your art.


This is an excerpt from an art book I put together. You can get it FREE on my Web site or use this link. The image that you see with this post is the under-colour I’m going to use with this painting.

I’d like to inspire people to do more art. Everything that is initially created starts out
utilitarian. Why not add some artistry? A painting has very little utility except as a mural. Many things have very little artistry. It’s difficult for some people to imagine a chair having any artistry. It could be artistically embellished but can the design itself be artistic. Engineers talk about some designs being elegant. Search ‘elegant design’ in Google and what you get is 19th century floral designs. If the design is simple but does its job exceedingly well then I think it can be characterised as elegant. Given this definition then even a well-designed hammer can be elegant. I have a couple of hammers that I would describe as elegant. And I think elegant design is artistic.

I believe everyone is capable of art. It might be painting, woodwork or paper lamp
shades but it is art. Some like to differentiate between fine art, like painting, and artisan
work like building books and wooden furniture. I believe it’s all the same, however I’ll
grant you that some of it is more useful than others. Everyone needs a chair but few desire a painting. Everything can benefit from some modicum of art and design.

This book is about how I paint and what materials I use. It’s more important that you do it than what materials you do it with. There is very little that I use today that I used 50 years ago, of course things wear out and need to be replaced but I often replace them with different things. The moral of this story is to buy cheap until you know what you want. The best thing I can say about a hammer is that it takes a very long time to wear out.


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