A Few Tips, Three Media,

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.



  • Ruth

    May 19, 2012 at 5:45 pm Reply

    Thanks for all the tips on the various media! I am especially interested in your tips on oil painting. I will give this a try.

  • Deannie Meyer

    May 19, 2012 at 9:24 pm Reply

    Hi Skip. I just checked out your web site and am so impressed with your abstractions. I went back to college in my 50s at College of Arts & Crafts in Oakland, CA and fell in love with Diebenkorn and Motherwell. I got my BFA when I was almost 60. I am 73 now and haven’t stopped painting. My favorite medium is watercolor, and while I am a realist, I am so drawn to abstraction. You may have inspired me to give it a whirl!

  • Lorena Long

    May 30, 2012 at 6:49 pm Reply

    Hello Skip! I was in your class in April. Loved every minute! Am now enjoying your blog and saving up for next year!

  • valerie Payne

    Jun 14, 2012 at 10:21 pm Reply

    Skip: I was at the intetnsive art workshkop in Taos a few years ago. I love our new non objective work and treasdure my pallette magazine. Do you ever have any workshops on the west coast? Would love to attend one. Thanks for being such an inspiring teacher.

  • valerie Payne

    Jun 14, 2012 at 10:22 pm Reply

    Skip: I was at the intensive art workshop in Taos a few years ago. I love your new non objective work and treasure my pallett magazine. Do you ever have any workshops on the west coast? Would love to attend one. Thanks for being such an inspiring teacher.

  • Pauline Bean

    Jun 22, 2012 at 5:24 pm Reply

    I delight in your vibrant colour theory Skip – I have recently done a river landscape in oil and am now going to attempt the same scene in acrylic using your theory and as an abstract.

    Haven’t quite found my artistic identity, perhaps I never will LOL, but the thrill of painting will never fade.

    I just love your work

    Thank you:)

  • Janice Sean

    Nov 16, 2012 at 7:13 am Reply

    Hi Skip, I am thrilled with your paintings in The Palette. I was looking forward to being in your workshop in March, 2013 at SpringMaid in Myrtle Beach. But I don’t see you listed in the brochure! Are you NOT to be there?

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