Materials & Process
I quite often get questions about what specific materials I use to create my oil paintings so I have compiled a list with links to all of the most important things I use below ↓
This particular page is sprinkled with magical affiliate links! Clicking on these links is like adding a splash of color to my canvas because it might earn me a tiny commission. But here's the magical part – it won't cost you an extra paintbrush stroke! It's just a way to keep the art vibes alive and support the perpetual evolution of this creative space.
I prefer to paint on both Claessens 013 Linen and Frederix Knickerbocker Canvas paired with Blick Standard Stretcher Bars. I love both of these surfaces as they have a super fine texture with a nice tooth which works well with my style of painting. I like to paint on a toned surface so the natural color of the linen is perfect though the raw material does require surface preparation. To get a toned surface on the Frederix canvas also requires a bit of prep work, see more info on both of these surfaces below.
Toned Base | Frederix Knickerbocker Canvas
Surface Prep | Claessens 013 Linen
I have a deep appreciation for the exquisite texture and weave of Claessen's 013 linen. However, to ensure a stable surface, some preparation is needed. Initially, I apply two coats of Golden GAC 100, establishing a sealed surface. Following that, I add an extra two coats of clear Liquitex Gesso, providing additional protection and a delightful tooth for a bit of brush drag. This specific combination proves to be highly receptive to paint, particularly when paired with a 'couch' or layer of oil medium that you paint into. More details on that are provided below.
I like to use a white graphite CarbOthello Pencil from Stabilo to get in my sketch. I then use a natural, non-toxic fixative by SpectraFix to set my sketch. Be sure to stick to the instructions by maintaining a distance of approximately 18" while spraying, especially during the initial layer. This precaution is key to avoiding any unintended dissolving of your hard-earned sketch. But hey, after that first layer, feel free to unleash your creativity and apply subsequent layers more liberally!
Oiling Out | Creating a 'Couch'
In alla prima oil painting, a "couch" refers to a thin layer of oil medium applied to the canvas before the actual painting begins. This preparatory step, sometimes called "painting into a couch" or "couche" in French, creates a receptive surface. It enhances the blending and workability of wet paint, allowing artists to seamlessly apply and blend colors in one sitting, capturing the spontaneous and immediate nature of alla prima painting. If you complete your painting in one sitting/layer you can completely forego the solvent altogether provided you have a properly PVA sized and primed canvas and you wipe away the undiluted medium thoroughly.
*However, when working in the indirect method with consecutive layers in oil painting, it is advisable to incorporate Gamsol into your process. Adding Gamsol to your medium mixture is recommended to enhance the absorption into pre-existing layers, reducing the absorbency of your surface. This not only aids in maintaining the "fat over lean" principle but also promotes proper adhesion between layers, ensuring a cohesive and durable painting outcome. The following list below has the appropriate oiling-out mixtures directly from our friends at Gamblin.
■ Galkyd/Gamsol, 1:1
■ Galkyd Lite/Gamsol, 3:2
■ Refined Linseed/Gamsol, 1:3
■ Solvent-Free Fluid/Gamsol 1:3
I love to use both Winsor & Newton Artists’ Oil Paints and Gamblin Artist's Oil Colors. I paint alla-prima; a method of painting in which pigments are laid on in a single application. I usually always have the following colors on my palette: Pthalo Blue, Permanent Green, Hansa Yellow Medium, Winsor Orange, Quinacridone Magenta, Dioxazine Purple, Burnt Umber, Yellow Ochre, Ivory Black and Titanium White.
The most important brushes that I use are the Winsor & Newton University Round Brushes and Silver Ruby Satin Round Brushes with short handles. These brushes are great for getting in those tiny details and they have the perfect snap to them. My favorite blending brush is the Princeton Velvetouch 1/4" Mop brush. For all other parts of the painting I use a smattering of random brushes.
When the oil painting is touch-dry I finish it with Gamblin Gamvar Varnish. I prefer to use a 50/50 mix of Gloss and Matte over using the Satin option. The great thing about Gamvar varnish is that you don't have to wait the standard 6 or so months for the painting to completely dry. You can simply apply this varnish when the painting is touch-dry and the oils can continue to fully oxidize beneath the protective surface.
I use both the Richeson Tabletop Easel and Meeden Versatile Studio H-Frame Easel. Both of these easels are highly customizable for the height and angle that you prefer to work at. My preferred artwork illumination is the Easel Lamp Go from The Daylight Company. This highly adjustable light attaches straight to your easel and produces impeccable color reproduction with 95+ CRI Daylight LEDs. I also enjoy using a Glass Palette vs an acrylic palette as it is so easy to clean up when you're done painting. The tempered glass is super durable and available in clear, grey and white.