The Best Painting Support, Ever!

Its permanent, durable, versatile, and very inexpensive, and, its available at the hardware store.  Raphael would have loved it.  Its Hardboard (Masonite).

Wooden supports were favored by Tempera and Oil painters of the Middle Ages and early Renaissance because they are more stable than flexible supports like canvas.  The problem was, where do you find a piece of wood large enough to make a painting on that is straight, flat, not cracked, and does not have too many knots and resin canals; those darker stripes in the wood, or ‘wood grain’ as it is often referred to – this is where there is a higher concentration of natural glue, or sap, and so the place most likely to crack.  These early painters paid good money for a fine wooden support.  They needed to be cut from the largest trees possible, properly dried and ready to paint on.  Dealers would sometimes source them from old pieces of furniture or ships that were being dismantled and sell them the the artists.  But they did not have Hardboard.

Raphael, Madonna and Child, 1503, oil on wood, 55x44cm (22x16 in)

Raphael, Madonna and Child, 1503, oil on wood, 55x44cm (22×16 in)

That is why the paintings from this era were all pretty small.  If you wanted to do a larger painting you would do Fresco painting (paint directly on walls) or you would have to fasten together several small boards with bracing on the back and fill the seams.  These were heavy and unstable, not ideal to say the least.  This is the main reason why flexible supports made of fabrics like linen and cotton became popular for large portable paintings.  Now flexible supports like cotton canvas have become the painting surface of choice for most artists.  But we also have Hardboard.

The main reason these early oil painters did not like to use flexible supports for oil paintings is because the dried paint isn’t, flexible that is, so lots of cracking.  Moreover, oil is acidic and likes to eat fabric,  so, not so permanent.   Raphael was active during the transition period between the early and ‘high’ Renaissance when artists like him started to paint on large flexible canvas supports.  It is just not more practical to paint on fabric for large, portable paintings that could be more easily moved and shipped.  The painting on the right is one of his early ones done on a wooden panel.

Hardboard is a unique product in that it is pure cellulose fiber (wood); it has no additives, fillers, glues or resins added; it is simply compressed saw dust.  The natural glue in the wood, called lignin, is what holds it together.  This means it is dimensionally stable with no resin canals or knots.  Other wood products that some artists like to paint on, like MDF, Plywood, and Melamine, are put together using glues and resins that are not permanent for paintings that are meant to last for generations.

Hardboard is ideal for oil painting of course, but also acrylics, tempera paints, mixed media and collage.  It comes in 1/8″ and 1/4″ thickness in 4’x8′ sheets.  You can use the thin 1/8″ for sizes up to about 14×18, then the thicker 1/4″ boards for sizes up to about 20×30.  Larger supports should be cradled by attaching a wooden frame to the back to prevent warping.

june 18 002

The cradle is made by using 1×2″ strips of wood glued to the back of the hardboard. Standing on end for a wider edge, or flat to end up around the same depth as a stretched canvas.

The problem with hardboard panels in larger sizes, larger than 24×36 say, is that they become quite heavy and therefore more challenging to hang and transport.  For sizes larger than 24×36 I prefer to use canvas.  For large oil paintings, canvas can be prepared using acrylic resins to make it more permanent – Golden’s GAC 400 fabric stiffening medium on the back and GAC 100 for sizing on the front.

Some artists like the feel of the stiff board under the brush, others prefer the feel of a flexible fabric support like cotton canvas.  Don’t forget too that paintings done on a smooth surface like hardboard, will have brighter and more intense colors than the same painting done on a more textured surface like canvas.

The warm dry days of summer are ideal for setting aside some time to prepare a bunch of painting panels to last the whole year.  Get together with some artist friends, esp if one of them has a table saw, and make a day of it.  So here then is how to make your own permanent and economical painting supports using hardboard:

july 5 005


How to Make Your own Painting Supports

Supplies you will need:

Untempered hardboard cut to size, White Shellac, Methyl Hydrate, a wide brush, no. 60 or 80 sandpaper, no. 120 sandpaper, good quality Gesso.

  1. Buy Untempered Hardboard.  ‘Tempered’ hardboard has additives like oil, tar, and wax to make it waterproof for outdoor construction applications.  The gesso will not stick to it and the additives will have unpredictable and undesirable effects on your painting.  You can get smooth on one side or smooth on both sides.  Hardboard comes in two thicknesses, 1/8” and ¼”.  It comes in 4×8’ sheets and most hardware stores will cut it into whatever sizes you like for a fee.
  2. Sand the smooth surface before sizing.  No.60 or 80 sandpaper is good.
  3. Size both sides of the panel with a mixture of 3 parts Methyl Hydrate to 1 part White Shellac.  Apply the shellac in a thin layer in one stroke of the brush or roller.  If you apply too much size the surface will become too shinny and smooth and the gesso will not adhere well to it.  You can substitute the Shellac for Golden’s GAC 100 medium, diluted 2 parts GAC 100 to 1 part water.  The purpose of the size is to create a barrier between the ground (gesso) and the wood, which is naturally acidic.  Without this, the natural glue in the wood will migrate into the gesso and cause yellow or brownish discoloration.  This is referred to as SIDS (support induced discoloration).
  4. Using a light sand paper (120), sand the surface once it is dry to make it smooth again.
  5. Apply a coat of Acrylic Polymer Gesso on the back  of the panel (optional) and at least two coats on the front.  If you want a very smooth finish you can sand with fine sand paper between each coat after it has dried.  You will find the best quality gesso will have more covering power and better adhesive strength.  I typically apply 4 coats of gesso; the first two brushing in opposite directions, then two more thinner coats diluted with a bit of water for a smoother painting surface.
  6. You may also want to use a spray machine to apply the gesso.  Its faster, and gives a different finish than a brush, certainly more even.  If you do that you will  want to add some flow release medium to prevent clogging.  I use Golden’s Airbrush Medium.  Below is a picture of my painter buddy Joe using his commercial sprayer to coat some panels for me.

oct 9 004

The Process: the large triptych commission painting


I recently completed a rather ambitious project where I painted a large composition in 3 sections (triptych).  I don’t do very many commissions and there can be significant challenges with this process as artists who have done more than a couple will attest to.  I decided it would be an interesting and rewarding challenge and I liked working with the people involved.  I posted images of this on my Facebook page.  I will go into some detail here describing the process of putting it together.

wilcox painting 6 002

It started out as a casual conversation with a couple at a show I was having in Whistler.  They expressed interest in commissioning me to create a large feature painting for their living room.  I agreed to meet them at their house the next day to discuss it.  We examined the space and talked about some possibilities regarding the size and potential theme.  I left with the agreement that they would choose some of my paintings that featured the kinds of things they might like to have in the painting.  They are familiar with my work and already own a couple of my paintings.

Here are a couple of paintings they showed me that feature some of the elements that they were attracted to:

not keeping it 48x36 ac

stuck in the middle 24x36 ac











I started working on a composition that included some poplar trees in the foreground and some strong shadows that would pull the viewers attention into the painting.  Here is a photograph I took recently that I used for reference and inspiration:

april 26 019







I made several sketches and measurements to help me figure out the best scale and size for the painting.  I decided that 3 canvases were best suited for the painting in the space it would hang.  Each canvas is 66”x33”, so each individual one is twice as tall as it is wide, and overall the composition ends up being 1/3 longer than it is tall; perfect proportions.

wilcox painting 1

I first do the drawing in pencil to establish the position and proportions of the elements in the design, then I used an india ink pen to do a precise contour drawing.  This is important because I paint in layers and I need to know where the negative space is, which defines where the different layers and colors will be placed.  I use the structural lines created by the shadows to bring the viewers eye into the scene diagonally from both sides, converging on the focal point which is at the top left in between the first and second panels.  I am using the tall vertical lines created by the poplar trees to break up the strong horizontal movement formed by the landscape behind.  A winter snow scene is ideal for the chosen color palette and the strong contrast needed for the shadows.

wilcox painting 3








Burnt Orange is the first layer of color (Imprimatura).  Its purpose is to create a dramatic warm undertone.  I added a slow drying medium to the glaze and used rubber spatulas to carve out the shapes of the poplar trees and branches.  I prefer to use the white of the ground as the base white for these deciduous trees – it increases the luminous effect.  I also painted in the opaque and semi-opaque blue tints for the fir trees and the distant hills.

wilcox painting 4

Next, I applied a yellow glaze over the entire painting and then I blocked in all the mid tone colors, leaving the orange underpainting showing in the knots of the poplar trees and the dogwood bushes in the background.  The yellow glaze turned the blue fir trees green too of course.  The sun shining thru the clouds behind the top of the fir tree on the left side (focal point) creates a dominant diagonal shape bringing the viewers attention back down towards the right.  The idea was to create a scene that would also draw the viewer’s attention into the distance with the receding planes, the structural lines created by the shadows and the clouds reinforce this.

wilcox painting 5









In this stage I applied more glazes:  Yellow, blue, green and earth red, as well as more bold opaques and a warm blue veil over the poplar trees.

In the last sitting I used black contours and shadows to boost the contrast and add more detail.  I also spent time adding in more opaque colors and bright highlights (see the first image of the painting above).  Below is a picture of the triptych in the setting for which it was created.

wilcox commission - Copy







How to Ship Your Paintings

I have been asked on several occasions to write about how to ship paintings.  Every artist has their own ways of having their work transported and many prefer to leave that chore to others that specialize in shipping, or they may use companies like Art Pack that will pick up the art and deliver it, no packaging required.  Some artists even prefer to just deliver the art themselves if the distance is not too far.

I have always packaged and shipped my paintings using courier services.  I find it simple and very manageable.  I have shipped many paintings over the years and I have developed a good system by paying attention to what works well, and focusing on what is most efficient and practical.  I will give a quick tutorial here that you may find helpful for getting your art off to galleries and clients.

may 2 001

This is a picture of the things you will need, from bottom left to right:  Shrink wrap roll, packing tape and dispenser, roll of packing paper, masking tape, utility knife.  The items are all sitting on a piece of 1 inch  insulating foam that you can buy at the hardware store.  It comes in 4×8′ sheets.  It comes in blue or pink color, I like blue.  It is very light and easy to cut with the utility knife.  This is NOT styrofoam, the white stuff that crumbles into little pieces when you cut or break it.

OK, here we go:

may 2 003






1. Wrap your paintings or panels in the wraping paper.  You can buy these rolls at shipping supply stores or even some hardware stores.

may 2 004

2.  If you have more than one painting to ship, stack them together with the painted sides facing inward.

may 2 005






3.  Use the shrink wrap to bundle them together so they cannot move around.

may 2 006






4.  Cut pieces of the foam board to cover the tops and sides, creating a box around the paintings.  Use the packing tape to hold the pieces in place.

may 2 007

5.  Use the brown paper to cover it over and tape the corners and edges to help prevent tearing.

Its just that easy.

I use an online shipping broker company called Shiptime.  It is an excellent company that works with several courier companies and provides excellent discounts compared to dealing directly with the courier companies.  Once I have entered the address of the recipient and enter the dimensions and weight of the package, I can choose from a list of courier companies that shows their rates and delivery schedule.  I print off the labels and the paintings are picked up at my door.

Insurance is a concern for some artists but I have never used it.  It is difficult to get insurance because couriers have been defrauded in the past by artists making exaggerated claims on the value of their art.  To get insurance you need to have the art appraised by an independent authority.  Of the hundreds of paintings I have shipped over the years I have never had any lost and only a couple damaged, but not to the point where they could not be easily restored.



A New Easel and New Paintings

I just posted this on Facebook so I thought I would show it here as well.  I designed a stationary easel and my friend Eric built it for me. I still use a portable easel sometimes but like to have a simple and efficient wall easel that slides up and down very easily, esp for larger paintings – metal is just better than wood for that. Its the best easel I have ever used.  If anyone would like one he told me he would could make more and he would charge $400, you would also have to pay for shipping of course.  Here is a picture of the easel:

eric's easel










Also, click on the word ‘Paintings’ below and take a peek at some of my newer paintings that I just posted on my website:




Into the Light

I have been teaching and preaching about the secrets of the Old Masters for many years now and the principles of light and color that were common knowledge for centuries.  These basic concepts about how to put together a painting have been lost in the last century or more and are, in my opinion, the most valuable information I teach in my workshops.  It is simple and intuitively obvious stuff really, but most of us have been taught to paint in ways that are in total opposition to how great painters approached their compositions for centuries; from Van Eyck to Van Gogh.  We are often told to start the painting dark and add the light, mix colors, don’t use brown or black pigments, use a limited palette, paint over things instead of around them.  Rembrandt, who had less than 20 colors available to him, would have been both amazed to see what paints and mediums we have available to us now, and dazed and confused to witness the way in which many of us have been told to use them.  Where and how did it all get turned around?  Well, that is a story for another time.  For now, let me briefly walk you through the 7 principles of light and color that I discovered were common knowledge for the great painters of the past.

Before I do that I will add the caveat that of course none of this means that there is a right or wrong way to paint.  Choosing to ignore some of these principles for aesthetic reasons is more than OK, great painters do it all the time.  But that is the rub, having the knowledge to make those choices deliberately.  Galleries and art shows are full of paintings that are dark, dull and muddy looking and many artists end up frustrated with their results simply because of a lack of understanding of the effects of their choices.   The idea is that if you understand how to make your colors as vibrant and luminous as possible, choosing to ignore those guidelines for creative purposes if you need duller or darker effects is a simple matter – this also means you have greater flexibility and creative or expressive freedom.  I would never even want to call them ‘rules’, but as the expression goes:  Rules are made to be broken, its just helps to know what they are.  So…

…here they are:

  1. Paint on a bright white, smooth ground
  2. Use the best quality paints and only single pigment colors
  3. Use colors straight from the tube without mixing
  4. Keep your under paintings and glazes light
  5. Use glossy mediums instead of matte mediums or water for acrylics, and solvent for oils, to thin colors
  6. Use transparent instead of opaque pigments to make tints, glazes and veils
  7. Paint around things, not over them

If you choose to ignore these principles your paintings will be darker and duller looking, and the effects are cumulative as you overlook increasing numbers of them.

I did some simple landscape paintings to illustrate the effects of following these guidelines of light and color so you can see how they may affect your compositions.  In all the paintings I used the same amount of paint and the exact same techniques.  Note that the painting on the left in all the examples is the same one, in it, all 7 guidelines are adhered to.

These two paintings illustrate the difference between using good quality single pigment colors vs cheap paint.

These two paintings illustrate the difference between using good quality single pigment colors vs cheap (inexpensive) paint.







3.  pure color vs mixing colors

The third guideline: Single pigment colors straight from the tube vs a limited palette approach of mixing colors.

 painting around vs painting over

Number 7: painting around vs painting over top







5.  dark bumpy ground, cheap paint, mixing colors, painting over

This is the cumulative effect of disregarding all of the 7 principles of luminosity and vibrant or intense color.









In sharing the kind of things I was keen to learn as a young painter I hope to help other artists become better painters so their endeavors are more enjoyable and rewarding.

If you want more detailed information about the 7 principles of light and color you can attend one of my workshops and of course check out the other articles on my blog and in the Technical Q&A section of my website.  I am teaching one more workshop in Whiterock this spring at the end of this month for the Federation of Canadian Artists.

Is it Done Yet?

…”A common malady among artists is we sometimes don’t know when to quit. Consequently we can ruin a good painting by overworking it or by leaving it too soon. There’s a fine line there somewhere and it’s hard to know when you’ve crossed it.” Lesley White

How do you know when a painting is finished?  This is a question that gets asked a lot.  It is one of the most common questions I am asked by painters that come to my workshops.  Sometimes people who just appreciate and enjoy art are curious to know how an artist decides when they have completed the painting.   Is there a formula or process that enables you to know when it is time to put down the brush?

There is no simple, one size fits all, response or solution of course.   Obviously the better and more experienced painters have a better time of it.  Still, paintings don’t always turn out the way you might want, or expect them to.  It is an issue that many experienced artists struggle with as well; Leonardo Da Vinci and Rembrandt come to mind.

I realized some time ago that I am one of the fortunate artists that has very little trouble knowing when to sign off, pun intended, on a composition.  I think it is partly because of my personality, and also because of my painting style.  I have a clear idea of what the painting will look like when it is completed and because I paint in layers using specific techniques to create various effects, I simply put the painting together by following the sequence of layers I know will get me the result I imagine.  Sounds easy.  I also don’t have a problem with decisiveness, or self doubt, when it comes to may art and my career.  I think that helps.

When I am doing a painting demo, or when someone sees one of my paintings unfinished, they sometimes remark that they think it looks perfect the way it is, that it is done.  Mostly though, they stare at the strange looking underpainting and can’t imagine how I could manage to make a decent painting out of it.  The point here is that no one can tell you when the painting is done, its between you and the painting to sort it out.  In any case, it is rare that I get stumped and have trouble finishing a painting.  I do have a couple of those rare examples to share however.

These two paintings represent the spectacular scenery in Mt Assinboine park.  In the first one, which is an oil painting, I had completed what could have been the last sitting, except I knew it was not finished. I was just not sure what I wanted to do next so I decided to let it sit for a few weeks until the idea struck me.  That is what most often happens, I let it rest and move onto other things until one day it hits me and I know what it needs.  In this case it was a red glaze over the entire painting that I could paint into while it was wet to create more warmth, and intensity.

assiniboine in the am, with more red 24x36 op assiniboine in the morning 24x36 op

In this next acrylic painting, I thought it might be finished but I felt that there was something array.  With this one I wanted to sit and look at it for a while over a period of time until the issue revealed itself to me so I hung it in our living room so I could have regular, and extended viewing sessions.  The changes are a bit more subtle here but important nonetheless.  I cooled down the beige moraine in the mid ground shadow area by adding a blue veil over it and I punched up the highlights and dark contours on the mountain.  I wasn’t happy with the rock reflections in the foreground, so I spent some time working on that area as well.

...(assiniboine) 36x48 ac without the french horn (assiniboine) 36x48 ac


I will end with a few choice quotes from various artists that address this very issue.  Some are philosophical, some more practical, and some are just funny.

…a piece is finished when the master has achieved his intention in it”  Rembrandt

“A painting is complete when it has the shadows of a god.”  Rembrandt

“Every great painting is left incomplete at the point where its completion is obvious”  Robert Brault

“The painting is always finished before the artist thinks it is”  Harley Brown

“One always has to spoil a picture a little bit in order to finish it.”  Eugene Delacroix

“The best way to finish a painting is to start a new one.”  Silvio Gagnon

“That’s the terrible thing: the more one works on a picture, the more impossible it becomes to finish it.”  Alberto Giancometti

“…letting well enough alone – which is the rule for grown artists only.” Winslow Homer

“Great is the art of beginning, but greater is the art of ending.” Hennry Wadsworth Longfellow

“While adding the finishing touches to a painting might appear insignificant, it is much harder to do than one might suppose…” Claude Monet

“I’m never finished with my paintings; the further I get, the more I seek the impossible and the more powerless I feel.” Claude Monet

“The strength and clarity of the picture you envision at the start will tell you when you are done. You are finished when you have said what you wish to say, when nothing added can make it better.” Richard Schmid

“The minute you finish a piece, get rid of it! If it’s bad, it’ll drag you down, if it’s great, you’ll just sit there looking at it.”  Unknown

“When a thing is not worth overdoing, leave it alone!”  Henry S Haskins

“I’m finished when I can’t stand it anymore.” Ron Mosma

Investing in Art,… Supplies

When I was starting out as a full time artist all those years ago, another more experienced painter advised me to invest in art supplies.  After he explained what he meant, it made good sense, in fact, I thought his idea was brilliant.  When I have the opportunity, I buy extra art supplies at significant discounts.  With the bulk discounts on purchases over a certain amount, plus the hedge against inflation (a tube of paint sells for a lot more now than it did 20 years ago).  That all adds up to a massive return on your investment.  I have saved well over 50% on my ‘investment’ art supply purchases over the years.  I have never made anything close to those gains in the investment markets.   Remember to that every dollar saved is a dollar, plus tax, saved.  Because too we are taxed at a minimum rate of 25% on our incomes, you have to earn at least $125 to have $100 left to spend.

I was looking for a specific oil paint color in my collection the other day and I came across these tubes of paints that I have had for about 40 years now.  I switched from using acrylics to oils as a young teenager and one day I was out shopping with my mother when we came across a liquidation sale on oil paints.  You had to buy the whole lot.  My mother asked me if it was a good price, I said yes and she immediately bought them for me.  She understood, managing a household with 8 children on a very tight budget, the importance of saving when you can.

old paint

old paint










I also advise workshop participants and members of artist organizations and painter’s guilds to purchase art supplies in large quantities and split them among the members.  By buying a gallon of Fluid Acrylic paint for example, and splitting it among 10 people, they will save more than 1/2 the cost of buying a 4oz bottle of the same color individually.  The same applies to painting mediums and other products.  Getting together with a couple of painter friends and making your own painting panels will mean you can paint on a very permanent surface that will cost you only a couple of dollars per panel.  I wrote a blog about that recently.  See my notes on how to make your own painting panels on the Technical Q&A page of my website.

I ship my paintings all over the country and I got a membership with a shipping broker company (shiptime) several years ago and that saves me hundreds of dollars a year.   I also like to buy art supplies on Ebay once in a while.  I look for lots of paints or brushes.  Sites like Craigslist and Kijiji are also worth browsing for deals.  Here is a stunning example of savings.  I bought 36 jars of 8 oz Golden paints on Ebay, that’s 4 regular 2oz tubes, for $70 + shipping.

what a deal!

what a deal!

At approximately $27 + tax for a tube of Cadmium Red,…  do that math on that one!  Granted, not a lot of painters are going to use that much paint, and I will die with left over paint in my studio.  Still, you can always split it with friends, or resell!  I was talking to a painter friend last week about getting deals on paint supplies and we took a look on Ebay, I had not been to my search page for a while.  I spotted a lot of expensive hand made oil paints that I have been waiting to find a deal on for years, and there they were,… that tube with the orange label you see in the basket behind the jar of paint in the picture is one of them.  Shopping can also be dangerous,…

Artists are always looking for ways to make more money selling their art, often pricing their work out of range of the market as a result.  As painters, we are fortunate because our overhead costs are quite low compared to most businesses.  Still, it is a good idea to heed the advise of experienced and successful business owners that recommend that it is just as worthwhile to ‘increase your profits’ on the purchasing end by looking for savings on fixed expenses – those items that you will always need to spend money on to produce your product.  Don’t forget too to take advantage of all the income tax deductions available to you as full time, or part time painter.

I will be doing another one of my business talks at the FCA Gallery on Granville Island in Vancouver on the same weekend as my workshop in May.  In the meantime, here are two paintings, one acrylic and one oil, that were done with significant cost savings on supplies.

aspens in the way 24x36 op

aspens in the way 24×36 op

finally spring weather 48x16 ap+

finally spring weather 48×16 ap+

FAQ’s (technical) Greatest Hits

As some of you are no doubt aware, I spent many years studying materials and techniques of painting, particularly the methods of the so called ‘Old Masters’.  I have dedicated myself to teaching, writing, and doing presentations on the topic to help artists become better at mastering what I call ‘the craft of painting’ – the kind of stuff I was so keen to learn about when I started out as a young painter.  Basic stuff really, thinks like:  Why are there 3 kinds of blacks and two kinds of whites, and what are the differences; what is the difference between turpentine and mineral spirits; what does ‘fat over lean’ refer to; why are some brushes cheap and others really expensive; what is a glaze and a veil; why, when, and how do you varnish a painting, and so on.

I have also been writing a technical Q&A article for the Federation of Canadian Artists (FCA) magazine where I answer these kinds of questions from painters.  I have just submitted a compilation of the most frequently asked questions (FAQ) from over 15 years for the next edition of the magazine.  There is a lot of misinformation and down right mythology about the basic physical and chemical properties of the painter’s methods and materials going around out there since the decline of the Master/Apprentice studio system of old.  As a result, there are a lot of paintings that have been produced in recent times that will not look very good a couple of generations from now.  I hope my contributions can help to steer that ship back on course.








Since many of my artist friends and followers are not members of the FCA I thought it would be valuable to reprint that article here.  For more detailed information on these topics, visit the Technical Q&A page on my website (


FAQ – Technical Q’s Compilation

After many years of writing these technical Q&A articles, as well as doing countless presentations and workshops on ‘the craft of painting’, I thought it would be a good idea to review the most frequently asked questions (FAQ).  My goal has always been to help people become better painters, more skilled and knowledgeable about how to use the tools of the artist’s craft to create art that will last for generations.

Q:  What is the best support for paintings?

A:  Overall, untempered hardboard is the most permanent and economical support for oils, acrylics, and mixed media. Acrylics will remain flexible indefinitely so just about any surface they will adhere to that is permanent is OK.  They are sensitive to acidic elements so sizing a support made of wood for example, is important.  Oils become more hard and brittle with age so prefer a non flexible support like hardboard. Unlike acrylics, oil paints are acidic so supports like canvas need to be protected from coming into contact with them.  You can prepare canvas to be more stable and less flexible for oil painting.  Go to “Supports’ in the Technical Q&A section on my site for instructions on how to prepare hardboard for use with any media, and canvas for oil painting.

Q:  Is commercial primer or house paint from the hardware store suitable as a ground instead of gesso?

A:  These products are not made for permanent painting applications. They would be OK to use for beginners and practicing.

Q:  Can I use gesso to cover an old painting before painting over it?

A:  Not if you want it to last, esp if it is an oil painting. If you are not concerned about permanence then you can paint over it with white paint, not gesso, and start a new painting.  Gesso will not stick to paint, it is a ground (primer), and has very little adhesive strength.

Q:  Can I paint oils over acrylics?

A:  Yes, oils will stick well to acrylics, but not vise versa. I would suggest this practice be done on a rigid support (see above).

Q:  Is it OK to dilute my oil paints with solvent and my acrylics with water?

A:  Oils and acrylics are ‘body’ paints so unlike water media paints they are designed to be used thick and rich in texture. Diluting them with solvent (oils) and water (acrylics) will make the colors dull and the paint film weak and unstable.

Q:  Is a mixture of linseed oil and solvent a good medium to mix with oil paints?

A:  No, modern oil paints already have too much oil in them and tend to yellow and wrinkle with age, adding more oil compounds this problem. Traditionally, oil paint was made of a mixture of drying oil and resin.   Use a good quality alkyd resin medium instead to mix with your paint.

Q:  Can you explain the ‘Fat Over Lean’ principle in oil painting?

A:  Briefly, it recommends that you not paint a fast drying color over a slow dryer. Also, a color with high oil content (fat) should be painted over a pigment with low oil content (lean) for better adhesion, and not the other way around.

Q:  Is it safe to mix different brands of paint?

A:  Yes, as long as they are of the same quality. Mixing low grade inexpensive paint with good quality professional colors will yield unstable results.

Q:  Is there a technical reason to not use black paint?

A:  No. It is interesting to note however that for hundreds of years great painters avoided mixing colors until the advent of the color wheel and the theories that have been built up around it.  Any mixture of two or more colors will always be duller and less vibrant than a single pigment color, including black.

Q:  Why are some brushes so expensive? Is it important to use good brushes” 

A:  There is no technical reason to spend extra money on good brushes but from an artistic point of view good quality brushes will give you much more flexibility and control in oils and water media paints. This is not the case with acrylics because of the nature of the paint and so cheap brushes tend to work fairly well.

Q:  Can all the different acrylic mediums be mixed together?

A:  Yes, with one reservation; it is not a good idea to use an abundance of hard mediums like molding paste and pumice gel on flexible supports as they are more likely to crack.

Q:  Are oil paints more toxic than acrylics or watercolor paints?

A:  No, they are all equally toxic. The pigment (color) is the toxic ingredient, not the binder/medium.  Treat them all with care.  Some people are sensitive the the volatile solvents given off by oil paints.

 Q:  Acrylic paints are relatively new, are they permanent?

A:  Yes, they are very durable and stable and accelerated aging tests show that they will last for centuries under normal conditions.

Q:  Should paintings be varnished?

A:  It is a good idea to varnish your oil and acrylic paintings so that they can be cleaned without damaging the painted surface. The best picture varnishes are acrylic solution varnishes.  Acrylic paintings need two layers of varnish:  an ‘isolation’ coat, then the final picture varnish.  Wait at least 3 months, depending on the thickness of the paint, before varnishing oil paintings.









New Paintings

I just shipped out a collection of new paintings, some are going to the Artym Gallery, the rest are going to La Galerie D’Art au P’tit Bonheur in Quebec.  You can click on the gallery links to view the paintings as soon as the images are uploaded to the sites.

Here is a sneak preview of some of the paintings I have been working on recently, including a collection of oil paintings.  These will not be ready to ship for a while.

the way in to assiniboine 24x36 op

the way in to assiniboine 24×36 op

I'll take the low trail 36x36 op


These two oil paintings are from a hiking trip at Assiniboine park I did with my friend Doug Smith a couple of summers ago.  Its fun to do these paintings at this time of year, makes me look forward to summer and some more spectacular hiking adventures.





make up your mind 24x36 op

make up your mind 24×36 op


This is another oil painting that I completed over several months and five different sittings.  It took a while for this one to come together.  More on that in another blog.




Of course I did a couple of tree portraits as well.  The titles allude to the feeling of spring in the air.  The one on the left is going to the Artym gallery, the other one to Galerie D’Art au P’tit Bonheur.

are you guys getting ready to bud 48x16 ap+

are you guys getting ready to bud 48×16 ap+

its almost over 36x12 ap+

its almost over 36×12 ap+











For those of you still hanging on to winter, weather (pun) you want to or not, here is one with lots of snow.

you're blocking the way 30x30p

you’re blocking the way 30x30p

Click on the ‘Paintings’ page on my website to see the new paintings, including these one, that I have recently uploaded.


2016 Calendar update

I have finalized the dates on my events calendar and it looks like I am doing more workshops than usual this year.  I may even do one more next fall, perhaps right here in Kamloops.  I will also be doing another presentation on the art of business in Vancouver in the spring.  I look forward to getting to know the many wonderful people in the workshops, it is always a treat for me to connect with other artists.

I am also doing a different kind of event in Calgary next October at the Stephen Lowe Gallery.  They are hosting a dinner gala evening at the Bow Valley Club in downtown Calgary with Cameron Bird and myself doing presentations/talks on our art careers.  I think I may do a picture presentation of some of my hiking adventures and paintings that came out of them.  This will be lots of fun.  We will also have a show at the gallery with a collection of new paintings.  In fact, I have just completed a couple of Rocky Mountain scenes in oil that I will likely put in that show.

I hope you all have a very fulfilling year.

Click on the link below and follow the links to the hosting organization’s websites for more detailed information about the workshops and presentations.

Events Calendar