After 40 years of teaching I have seen thousands of good paintings that could have been great paintings but for poor paint application. Here are my thoughts on the 3 media I use when painting.
Watercolor – Instead of flooding pigments with so much water that it looks like colored water, try bringing pigments to the mixing area of your palette with very little water. The consistency of the pigments should be creamy not runny. Using the TIP of a brush carry small amount of water to the pigment continuing to add more water until the desired value and consistency is just right (only you can decide what “just right”looks and feels like). With practice you will be able to draw a line of yellow paint through a wet shape of violet with without bleed. Oh, and the yellow will remain clear and intense.
Acrylic – I don’t like the shinny leathery surface the I get when acrylic pigments get thick. I have found a simple solution to this problem. I mix a small amount of either white or black gesso with every color I mix. It does not take much gesso to achieve the desired results. My acrylics surfaces through out the entire process have a matt finish .
Oils – The standard advice for painting with oil pigments is to work from “thin to thick” , dark to light, and avoid opaque colors for as long as possible. All these offerings are good advice. The one piece of advice that needs some clarification is the thick to thin part. Thin can be interpreted as thinning the pigments with turpentine and using them like watercolor washes. There is nothing wrong with this approach and many great painters have done exactly that. I prefer to keep the paint thin by spreading the pigments over a large area with brush, rag, or putty knife without the use of thinners. I sometimes cover an entire panel with paint and scrape the excess pigments off with a 12″ trowel. This procedure builds a rich variety of marks, colors, and texture that reveal themselves as under-paintings. Subsequent applications are also applied in a similar way. It is only at the end that I will apply some thick marks of paint.
These are truly “Studio Thoughts” also know as “Mind Ramblings” that may be of help to a few of you.