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The

First Brushstroke

Materials, techniques, and equipment you should know about before starting your first painting Written and illustrated by

Donald Skier Royal Fireworks Press, Unionville, New York Royal Fireworks Press Unionville, NY

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Preface

There are many ways to begin a painting, plan a painting, and paint a painting, and the artist should be familiar with many of these techniques before starting out. It will make the task easier, the results better, and the work more enjoyable. Since the forms of artistic endeavor are too numerous to mention here, I have selected those that are the most popular and familiar.

Dedication

This book is dedicated to those of us who truly love art and are continually trying to improve our skills.

Copyright Š 2013, Royal Fireworks Publishing Co., Inc. All rights reserved. Royal Fireworks Press First Avenue, PO Box 399 Unionville, NY 10988-0399 (845) 726-4444 Copyright Š2012 Royal Fireworks Publishing Co., Inc., First Avenue, PO Box 399, Unionville, NY 10988-0399 (845) 726-4444 Fax: (845) 726-3824 email: mail@rfwp.com website: rfwp.com All rights reserved. ISBN: xxxx fax: (845) 726-3824 Printed and bound in the United States of America using vegetable-based inks on acid-free, recycled paper and email: mail@rfwp.com environmentally friendly cover coatings by the Royal Fireworks Printing Co. of Unionville, New York. website: rfwp.com ISBN: 978-0-88092-838-0

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Printed and bound in the United States of America using vegetable-based inks on acid-free, recycled paper and environmentally friendly cover coatings by the Royal Fireworks Printing Co. of Unionville, New York.


Hello, I’m Don Skier, the author of this book. I have been involved in art in one form or another for my entire adult life. I have attended art schools and workshops and have tried and experimented with different forms of art styles, equipment and mediums. I encourage you to try different styles and mediums as you progress in your artistic development. Currently, I am teaching painting and drawing. The group picture at right is my art class at a Fall outdoor session. The most popular mediums used by this group are pastels, watercolors, and acrylic paints. Many of these students belong to art leagues that have group exhibits around the county. Check out the art groups in your area. It is a good way to have your finished art seen by the public. I hope the information I have gathered in this book will help you in your many art endeavors. Sincerely,

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able of Contents

Material. .....................................................11 Materials..................................... Painting Surfaces......................................5 Painting Surfaces ........................ 4 Stretch Canvas. ........................................13 Stretch Canvas ............................ 12 Brushes. ....................................................20 Brushes....................................... 19 Paper & Pads...........................................27 Papers & Pads............................. 26 Pencils, Shading, & Erasers...................33 Pencils, Shading, & Erasers......... 32 Paints, Palettes, & Pastels ........... 38 Paints, Palettes, & Pastels. ......................39 Easels ......................................... 50 Easels. .......................................................51 Shadow ............................... 57 Shadow Box.Box ............................................58 & Shoot .............................. 61 AimAim & Shoot...........................................62 Landscapes ................................. 63 Landscapes..............................................64 Plein ..................................... 68 Plein Air..Air .................................................69 Workspace .................................. 73 Workspace...............................................74 Basic Steps.................................. 79 Basic Steps...............................................80 Color.......................................... 86 Color........................................................87 Matting & Framing .................... 98 Matting & Framing. ................................99 Personal Library & Clip ......106 Personal Library & Clip Files.Files .............107 Glossary .....................................109 Glossary.................................................110

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aterials

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here are a great many items that go into the production of a painting. Over time an artist will accumulate these items, especially if he or she works in different mediums. Some items are used one time only, such as pastels and paints. Some equipment can be reused over and over again, such as easels and brushes. If you have a painting that you don’t want to save, you can paint over it. However, canvases that have been painted on with acrylic or oil paints and dried have a raised texture in some areas where the paint was thick, and that will conflict with a new painting going over it. Therefore, it is not recommended to reuse a canvas unless the surface is completely flat. If the painting had been painted thinly and is 2

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flat, a gesso coating offers a good surface to work on. Brushes can be reused, but they do wear down from extended use, particularly bristle brushes, and especially if you paint on a textured surface like canvas. The canvas acts as an abrasive. Pastels wear away fairly quickly when making a painting, especially soft pastels, which are heavy in pigment with less binder. Paints, of course, get used up. If you tend to use a specific color often, like a white, it would pay when replacing it to purchase a larger-size tube. Watercolors last a long time; oils and acrylics use up quickly. Tools like canvas pliers, a mahl stick, painting/palette knives, and palettes should last a very long time. A shadow box should also last a long time and is easy and inexpensive to remake when it becomes necessary. A good supply of different pads and papers is useful to have. This enables you to switch from one medium to another. It is convenient to have pads that have spiral bindings because they open flat, and the sheets are not glued in as in perfect- bound pads. A sketch pad, a watercolor pad, a pastel pad, a charcoal pad, and some canvas panels are good starting points. 2

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A selection of pencils, including charcoal pencils and soft graphite pencils, is also good to have. A collection of erasers and blending stumps are handy for working with charcoal, pencil, and pastel.

4B Charcoal pencil sketch

Charcoal pencils come in different grades of softness and are preferred by some artists because of the very dense black they can produce. A drawback is that charcoal smudges easily. General Pencil Co. produces a white charcoal pencil. This is a new type of medium that can be worked over black charcoal areas and can be used on all colored paper, giving a brilliant white deposit. Work can be erased absolutely clean. Like all charcoal pencils, it requires a fixative to prevent smearing. The ebony pencil has long been the artist’ s favorite for sketching, drawing, and layout, with its thick, black, large-diameter graphite. It provides deep black, extra-smooth lines in rough drafts, sketches, and pencil illustrations.

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ainting PSurfaces

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The Last Supper, Leonardo DaVinci

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hrough the years, artists have used a multitude of surfaces to paint on. Canvas, wood, tin, paper, gesso panels, slate, and plaster (frescos) are among the many surfaces employed. Frescoes were used in Roman times and the Renaissance by great masters such as Michelangelo and Leonardo DaVinci. The Last Supper, by Leonardo DaVinci, was done in that manner.

Sistine Chapel, Michelangelo

There are several methods of fresco painting. In one method, a thin coat of fresh plaster is applied to a 65


wall. While still wet, watercolor paint is applied to the plaster so as to bind with the plaster and become fixed as it dries. No binder is necessary to hold the paint onto the surface because the chemical nature of the wet plaster and the paint create a binding quality. A second method is to paint onto dried plaster, which requires the use of a binder such as egg (tempera), glue, or oil to be mixed into the paint. This method also is used when painting on wood. Wood was often used by Renaissance painters. Today it is available in a variety of shapes, sanded to a smooth finish. The edges are also sanded smooth, allowing the painting to flow over the edges. Wood panels will hang flat against the wall, and they are available ready-primed with a gesso coating. Gesso is a product that allows paint to adhere well to a surface. Oriental (Sumi) artists work on rice paper, which does not contain rice but is made of mulberry bark and rice straw. Some rice papers are edible and are used to wrap food. Rice paper for painting is available in rolls and sheets. Rice papers contain imbedments of leaves or flecks of gold. Some artists paint on silk and mount the paintings to many layers of rice paper, and then the rice paper is mounted to scrolls. Paintings on rice paper have survived thousands of years.

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Canvas is one of the more popular supports to paint on. Supports are surfaces you work on. Ready-stretched canvas is available in many sizes, though usually in even dimensions. It is also available in different stretcher depths. Stretchers are the bars that the canvas is attached to. The very wide depths, 2-1/2" to 3", are for large works. Some stretcher bars are wide enough so that you can paint the sides of the canvas, and the painting may not need a frame when hung. Canvas can also be purchased in rolls and by the yard if you wish to stretch your own. Stretcher bars come in any length by the inch. Very large stretched canvases may require reinforcement to keep them square. It is important to keep them square or they may not fit in a frame. Today artists use different types of fabric for canvas painting—for example, linen, cotton duck, and polyester. Polyester is nearly flawless, with an extra-fine surface that is popular with painters who work in oil and acrylic paint. Canvas panels: These panels are inexpensive, sturdy, and easy to carry around on your outdoor trips. Good-quality canvas panels are made by Strathmore and Windsor Newton. Store panels flat to prevent warping. The panels usually come already primed and mounted to an acid-free base, and 7

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they are approximately 1/8" thick. They contain a closely woven fine-artist canvas that is firmly stretched over the board, and the entire back is glued. The gluing process allows you to alter the size of the panel to suit your needs by cutting it. Hardboard, Masonite, and plywood are three items that work well as a painting support. Hardboard is the term used for a board or panel made from a hardwood such as oak, cedar, birch, walnut, or mahogany. Softwoods such as pine are not suitable for painting on because they contain excess resins and knots and tend to crack. Gesso-coated hardboard is smooth or textured and good for most types of paints like oils or acrylics. You can make your own panels cut to any size you wish. Hardboard panels are available at home hardware centers and sometimes are called Masonite, which is a brand name that has become generic for hardboard. There are two weights of hardboard available. I generally purchase the lighter weight (1/8" thick) for small works and the heavier weight (1/4" thick) for larger works, as it is less flexible. Hardboard can be heavy when you carry a few sheets at a time. Furniture-grade plywood makes a good painting support. This kind of plywood is extremely smooth plywood made from birch, mahogany, or poplar. The surface is more rigid, so there tends to be less cracking in a finished paint8 9


ing. This grade of plywood generally will not warp as lesser grades of plywood might, and it also is free of knots. It is generally purchased in 3/4" thickness. In large sizes, it can be extremely heavy. A 4' x 8' sheet may require two people to carry it. Hardboard, Masonite, and plywood do not come with a finished surface to paint on and require a gesso coating. They are available at home supply stores, and these stores have facilities to cut the product to size for you. If you buy full sheets of any of these materials, you will need to supply a cutting diagram for the saw operator. Gesso: If the surface you purchased is not already primed and ready to paint on, you will need to prime it. The most popular primer is gesso, a white paint mixture consisting of a binder mixed with chalk, gypsum, pigment, or any combination of these. It is used in artwork as a preparation for any number of substrates, such as wood panels, canvas, and sculpture, and as a base for paint and/or other materials that are applied over it. Gesso is a fairly thick substance that is applied 9

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with a brush or sometimes, on large surfaces, spread on with a trowel. Applying the gesso may require three or four coats, even up to ten coats, each brushed on in opposite directions—up and down, left to right, and diagonally. Each coat is applied after the previous coat has dried. By using gesso, the number of paint coats needed to cover the surface is reduced. Since the pigment most often used in the manufacture of gesso is titanium dioxide white, it also gives you a white base to paint on. Color tints may be added to the gesso.

Shown here is a one hundred-year-old roofing tile that has been primed with acrylic gesso, then painted with acrylic paint.

When applying the gesso to stretched canvas, be sure that you are using acrylic gesso or acrylic latex gesso so that it will flex with the canvas. Standard glue-mixture gesso is susceptible to cracking and is appropriate for rigid substrates like wood or slate and on sculptures. It also is generally used as a primer for gold leaf. Modern acrylic gesso is technically not really gesso at all. It is calcium carbonate, a chemical found in rocks in all parts of the world and the main component of shells of marine organisms. It is combined with an acrylic polymer medium, 10

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latex, a pigment, and other chemicals that ensure flexibility and archival life. I usually purchase a sheet of hardboard, 24" x 48", and have it cut to my specs. Then I coat the pieces with gesso, first in one direction, then in the opposite direction. I repeat this until I have at least three or four coats and let the gesso dry between applications. If you desire a very smooth finish, sand the surface between applications.

Street Scene in Giverny, Acrylic on gessoed 1/4" hardboard (18" x 24"), Donald Skier

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