I asked 13 of the most inspiring figurative oil painters working today what painting mediums they like to work with. Here’s how they answered!
“I start the painting process with very diluted paint. A wash made up from a combination of low odour thinners (about 2 litres) and a table spoon of stand oil. This mixture give me a rich lustre when it dries without being too glossy. Later stages of the painting when the paint is much thicker I add a dash of Jackson’s oil painting gloss medium. This gives the occasional, thicker areas of paint a glossy finish that maintains its colour.”
‘Time Memory and Landscape’, a group show curated by Nicholas Archer is on show at Long & Ryle, London from the 23rd March – 21st April 2017. Click here for more information.
Ilaria Rosselli del Turco
“I don’t use any medium when I paint, although I have a cup of Jackson’s Low Odour solvent by the easel that I use to dilute my paint and rinse brushes. I want the surface of my work to be very matte, and I want to be able to lay the paint from thin to medium thick.
In the past I have tried some wax medium but in time I realised that I could do without it: I identified all the colours that dry with a glossy finish and removed them from my palette.
I also use Flake White and some Earths from the Williamsburg Italian and French ranges that have a very good consistency so in fact my paintings are packed with pigments more than mediums.”
Oliver Akers Douglas
“As an oil painting artist who works mostly with a palette knife, applying generous quantities of paint directly to the canvas, I actively choose to avoid any mediums. I avoid anything which will dilute, dull or disturb the quality of the oil paint itself. I like my paint to be thick and buttery and dense with pigment. It is no good working with paint the consistency of mayonnaise. It too readily slips about, mixing with neighbouring colours and one loses the integrity of the mark-making which is crucial in creating a sense of immediacy and character to the painted surface. I like the resistance and weight of undiluted paint. I like to see the licks and ‘schlubbs’ retained on the finished surface. This quality is further enhanced, in my view, by choosing to use lead white paint. Although there are health and safety issues involved with this product, requiring good studio practice, the lead has a resistant ‘memory’ and a stringy quality that adds more complexity to the paint.
I do sometimes scrub in large areas of colour with a brush, diluted with turps. Sometimes that will act as a colour ground to counteract with other areas of impasto paint. I do like the variety achieved by having areas of canvas and ground peeping through the over-painting. Overall, however, I aim to create a consistent style through the course of one painting, and actively avoid dull areas through over-use of thinners.
There is no substitute for quality paint. I use lots of it and it is expensive. I use Michael Harding, Old Holland and some Winsor and Newton. Good quality pigments mixed with Linseed oil, and nothing else (mostly). On larger pictures, I like my paint to stay wet for as long as possible so I can re-work it for several days. Also, by using quality paint mixed with Linseed the finished surface will have a lustre that mitigates the need to varnish. Varnish never seems to suit textured impasto paintings.
I am largely self-taught as an artist, and I have found my own approach to the use of oil colours. It is certainly unorthodox. The beauty of oil paint is its versatility, and the many ways it can be handled. Nothing beats experimentation”.
Susanne du Toit
“I have a few favourite oil painting mediums I use depending on the effect I am going for. When I paint with Michael Harding paints I find that I seldom need a medium. The paint has the perfect consistency for me. When I want more goopy paint, want to paint thickly and more expressively I mix with linseed stand oil. For drips and first washes I mix with Rustin’s Pure turpentine. When I want body but less pigment Dorland’s Wax Medium is perfect for this”.
Susanne du Toit is currently exhibiting at Felix & Spear gallery, running until 12 April with the theme ‘Motherhood’.
“For a long time I was a bit scared of mediums. There are so many of them and many artists make their own, exchange recipes and discuss the pros and cons of stand oil, linseed oil and various solvents. I used to paint with just a bit of linseed oil. Curious, I bought a few mediums to try. Some made me feel sick, some made my paint dry quicker (which was quite useful but it also made the paint on my palette dry quicker which I didn’t like so much) while others were great for glazing or smooth brush strokes. All in all I did not really get on with most of them. In order to paint the finest of details (such as lace) I needed a medium that increased the fluidity of the paint and one that didn’t get sticky or too oily. With some advice from others I came up with a mix of Sansodor, linseed oil and a tiny bit of stand oil. This works very well for small detail work and it doesn’t contain anything that makes me feel ill. I use this type of medium for the finest of details. However, most of the time I don’t use any medium at all. I prefer keeping the oil painting process simple and paint with the paint straight from the tube. The odd drop of linseed oil excepted”.
“LUKAS medium 5 painting butter. I use this when working outside in order to paint thick impasto that dries fast enough to be able to paint wet into dry within about half an hour. I wouldn’t say it was always a joy to use but it solves an important problem”.
Benjamin Hope is exhibiting with Hannah Cole and Rod Pearce at Island Fine Arts, Isle of Wight from 27th May – 24th June, click here for more information, and in ‘Works’ with sculptor Ben Hooper at Gallery Different, London from the 16th – 23rd June – click here for more information.
“It’s a question I am asked a lot. I tend to paint on Acrylic Gesso’d MDF boards if I am painting say 12 x 16 inches or smaller and paint fluidity coupled with finish and speed of drying, as a plain air painter, is very important to me. Shortly after I got back in to oil painting after working solely in charcoal for 3 or 4 years, I used to want to put glazes on working paintings and I ended up using Roberson’s Glaze Medium. It stuck with me and I have always used it since. It reduces the drying time so I can paint on an at least tacky surface in half an hour; it increases fluidity which I love, going heavy on the medium first – working almost as though I was in water colour before I continue with more thick paint; and it gives a gloss finish.
On a recent trip to New York though I had to get medium out there and came across Galkyd by Gamblin. It was much thicker. I noticed I was leaving lines of dribbles from the dipper to palette but I absolutely loved it. So much so that I bought a couple of litres when I got back to England and after 20 odd years of Roberson’s I think I may now switch to that. It does everything Roberson’s does but there is just a better feel to applying the paint – it’s thicker and I like the increased resistance. Also it is less likely to run”.
“I like to mix in Gamblin Galkyd with a bit of Gamblin cold wax medium. The Galkyd adds the right amount luscious gloss to my oils, while the cold wax gives it more of a buttery feel and allows for the brush strokes to be visible. They also both speed up drying time, which comes in really handy for fast approaching deadlines”.
Bradley Wood recently exhibited at Volta NYC and Art Central, Hong Kong. Later in the year he will be exhibiting in group and solo shows in Lima, Buenos Aires, Toronto and Miami.
“For the last year I have been working with a mix of Roberson’s Linseed Stand oil and Jackson’s Low odour solvent, using a pipette to drop the mix onto the paint as I mix it on the palette. I like the viscosity of the stand oil, it adds lustre to the paint and loosens the body so I can move it around on the surface of the board. I am exploring the physical quality of oil paint, working wet in wet and on location, I feel confident that with this mix it dries evenly. I prime MDF boards cut to size, with water based undercoat then finished with a few layers of W&N Oil primer– this gives a very flat surface. I have also worked a lot with Robersons Glaze mediums, again on location and really enjoyed how they enabled me to work in layers quite quickly, so without having to wait days for drying”.
Catharine Davison has a solo exhibition opening on the 4th of November 2017 at the Open Eye Gallery, Edinburgh. Click here for more information.
Haidee Jo Summers
“When I’m painting plein air I don’t usually take any mediums with me, just Sansodor to dip into and to clean my brushes with. Sometimes if I’m travelling further afield I want the paintings to dry faster for safer transportation, so I use a little Gamblin solvent free gel medium. In the studio I mix my own medium from stand oil and turps (about one part stand oil to two parts turps). This comes in handy if I need a little extra flow for details, or to loosen up some of the stiffer oil colours. If I’m building up a painting in layers in the studio I will use a little Roberson or Michael Harding glaze medium together with my solvent”.
Haidee Jo Summers’ new book about oil painting ‘Vibrant Oils’ will be available to buy this summer, published by Search Press. Her Plein air DVD ‘Vibrant Oils’, filmed in Cornwall, is available now from APV films.
Sarah Jane Moon
“‘I don’t use much in the way of painting mediums, preferring the oil to stand on its own. I avoid gloss and lustre in my own work and prefer the oil to retain an organic, gritty and impasto quality. I use a lot of paint. To draw in and to clean pigment from brushes Kremer Shellsol T low odour solvent is my go-to thinner.”.
“If I thin paint at all it’s with the same stuff I clean brushes with, which at the moment is low odour solvent. I’ve tried all kinds of things, but this is adequate and versatile, and moreover I use quite thick paint when I get going, so the medium isn’t that important to me”.
“Honoring the Legacy of David Park”, Santa Clara University, California, 3rd – 28th April
New English Art Club, Linden Hall Studio, Deal, Kent, 2nd – 30th April
Royal Society of Portrait Painters, Mall Galleries, London, 4th – 19th May
New English Art Club, Zillah Bell Gallery, Thirsk, Yorkshire, 6th May – 3rd June
“I suppose the old adage of fat-over-lean with oil paint holds very true. As a painter working from direct observation, all across with heavy impasto, how do I deal with medium additives? The answer is I don’t; add medium to paint that is, as I believe there are enough additives /fillers /shelf life preservatives already in the pigment.
I still though have to deal with the fat-over-lean issue to prevent surface “craquelure”, so the top layers are oilier or “fatter” than the ones underneath. As oil does not evaporate like water but forms a chemical reaction with the atmosphere in creating a bond and the surface reaction continues long after the surface is apparently dry. Personally I “Tonk” and/or scrape down, to remove excess oil from the underlying surface. Tonking, named after Henry Tonks a Slade professor from the beginning of the twentieth century, proposed blotting the surface of paint to extract the oil before continuing. For this I use ordinary newspaper which has absorbent qualities and should paint need “loosening” I add a small amount of white spirit and then stir it in the tin. Otherwise I will scrape down the surface leaving a “ghost” of the previous image and continue painting. With these methods using impasto paint I have not experienced any cracking of the surface”.
Peter Clossick’s solo exhibition ‘Spirit & Matter’ will show at Felix and Spear Gallery, London from 27th April – 1st June 2017. Click here for more information.
Prefer legitimate technical comments,
not clickbait advertising.
Hi, yes we do too! I can’t see any comments on this post though so not sure what you are referring to?
Fabulous post. Always come here got true-
grit inspiration. The way you promote
working artists is inspiring and admirable.
Feels like a true community.
Thank you so much! That’s definitely our aim.
Thanks for this very interesting read. If
nothing else it shows there is no fixed
method! I recently went to the
wonderful Jennifer Packer exhibition at
the Serpentine. Does anyone know how
she gets her thick areas of paint?
Thank you, yes it was insightful to see the many varied ways, and the number of artists who don’t use any mediums at all! I’m afraid I don’t know the answer to your question about Jennifer Packer, but I did spot some Gamblin mediums and Golden acrylics in this video, so this could be a clue! https://www.serpentinegalleries.org/whats-on/jennifer-packer/ . If anyone has read about her techniques in an interview, please let us know. I can’t wait to see that show myself.