Sunday, January 9, 2011


I have an early appointment tomorrow so I think I will field a few questions from the comments. Like the following

"I've been struggling with this concept of rather tight drawing being a good foundation for painting, I admire the calligraphy of the bold dash of a brushstroke, and would think a detailed prep drawing would inhibit it. Like maybe one would be afraid to 'paint over' the lines. Also to me a good drawing has lots of accurate detail, and we are always told to not look at detail when painting, at least in general. So it's tough for me to reconcile it."

A drawing that is good is not necessarily highly detailed any more than a painting might be. It may not even be accurate in the simplest sense. Drawing is an art and contains all of the niceties, like design form etc. that a painting does except for color. Generally drawings are not colored. Most artists who work in bold strokes do not put fixed drawings on their canvas before painting. They draw with their brush. But the best of them could draw very well with a pencil or charcoal. Sargent is a good example here.

An artist with the moniker b commented;

"I think you might be confusing details with good drawing instead of accuracy. An accurate drawing does not necessarily have to have tons of details, but the shapes and lines that are there should be precise and correct for the subject being drawn. Obviously there are other things beside accuracy that make good drawing, but in my opinion accuracy should be the first goal, since everything else is built upon it.
And to reconcile them to paint, if you can see and draw something accurately, then when you lay that bold brush stroke down it will be in the correct place, and be the correct shape for the area you are trying to describe.
Drawing is the physical manifestation of a well trained eye. If you can consistently see accurately then, even if the drawing is obscured, you will be able to recreate the obscured parts by referring to your reference or subject."

I think that covers it pretty well too. Well said, I should have written that!

Karla asked me "Also, if you can squeeze in a post on the different types of white oils and why you prefer one over the other that would be great!"

I have written on that before here. There are three basic whites. They are titanium, zinc and lead.
  • Lead white is poisonous, handles beautifully and can be made in a variety of consistencies from stiff to very loose. Lead is rather transparent and warm.Few major manufacturers offer it these days but the smaller boutique paint houses all seem to make one. Unless you are a seasoned pro and willing to accept the poisonous nature of the lead, this is not for you.
  • Zinc white is a transparent and nonpoisonous paint with a reputation for being brittle. Some restorers and paint experts caution against it. The people who use it like it because it affects their colors less. They feel they get more colored less chalky notes.
  • Most artists today use Titanium white. It is a very opaque very white nonpoisonous color. Every manufacturers is different I prefer the Lefranc Bourgeois Titanium, because it handles beautifully, it is also very inexpensive. But I would still use it if it cost a lot more.... Jerrys carries it as do several other online retailers. For most of you, almost all of you, this is the white you will use. Winsor Newton makes a nice titanium. I think Rembrandt is too fluffy. Old Holland is extremely concentrated and too expensive for this artist.If you buy student grade whites they will generally handle poorly.
  • Permalba is a titanium-zinc mixture that has a bizarre handling quality.It covers well and is permanent. Some well known artists like Waugh have used it, I used it myself for several years. It comes in a dreadful plastic tube and is sort of a novelty act. But if you like it, it is inexpensive and reliable.
  • Titanium-alkyd whites will give you fast drying. They tend to have a little less pigmenting strength than the straight titanium. If you want guaranteed fast drying try the Griffin alkyd white.


Philip Koch said...

It's always good if an artist can look at a form and "nail it" right away with a few strokes of the pencil, brush, or whatever. That's why we practice and study (well, also cause it's fun).

Accuracy in drawing is a bit of a slippery concept. In any source you're working from (or even if you're imagining your source) some of the shapes that present themselves are way more useful to the overall design of the painting than others.

Recognizing which they are, and figuring out how to cast the spotlight on them is huge. So I think part of any useful definition of good drawing has to include both sensitivity and selectivity.

And finally, one has to be willing to make big changes in a painting even when it means undoing a lot of drawing work. It's a little like we are orchestra leaders trying to command a group of musicians who all secretly want to be soloists. So often when I've struggled with a painting its because one beautifully drawn section at the left side doesn't work well with an opposing (but equally well drawn) part at the right.

julie susanne said...

And finally, one has to be willing to make big changes in a painting even when it means undoing a lot of drawing work. True, Phillip, and I hate, hate, hate that it is true!

I had such trouble understanding whites, that I researched and did 6 separate posts on white oil paints! I was especially shocked when I discovered the "titanium white" I had been using actually contained zinc, as well!

Sharon Weaver said...

I have used Permalba White but am not crazy about the texture. The color is good, but the plastic tube sucks in air and then the paint gets dried out. I am almost out so I will try the Lefranc Bourgeois Titanium that you mention.

Stapleton Kearns said...

I heard it said once that a painting is like a choir that all must sing together. If you have one choir member who is much louder or flashier, you have to tone them down to keep them in concert with the others.

Stapleton Kearns said...

I noticed you were using the RGH when I went to your blog. So far a s I can tell their paint is always what it is supposed to be. Their titanium contains only titanium for instance.

Stapleton Kearns said...

Buy the big tubes. Little tubes of white are a nuisance. I bet you will like the Lefranc much better than Permalba.

Linda Navroth said...

Thanks for the info on whites--always a conundrum for this beginner artist! I'm still mucking about trying to find one I like.