I started with oils, loved the smell and the creamy texture under the brush, but as my technique transitioned from a thicker application of paint, into using multiple thin, opaque and translucent layers, I wanted those layers to dry quickly, and that wasn’t happening with the oil paint. So I started to experiment with acrylics. I’ll spend days and weeks just looking, but when it comes to making marks or applying pigment to canvas, I’m an impatient painter. Acrylics do dry fast and as my technique expanded to include scraping, sanding, scrubbing and all manner of abrasive manipulation of the canvas, acrylics not only held up to the abuse I delivered but glowed under the strain, and I’ve used acrylics ever since. Golden is my brand of choice. Why Golden? No particular reason other than Golden acrylics were the very first acrylic paints I experimented with, and while I’ve tried a variety of other brands over the years, Golden acrylics consistently do what I want with no surprises.
The whole dry pigment idea started out with crushing up pastel sticks and rubbing the pigmented powder into the canvas, but now it’s the way I describe my catch-all basket of mark making tools . . . colored pencil, pastel, charcoal, graphite . . . whatever gets used that doesn’t come out of a tube. These “dry pigment” media do require something to make them stay put, and I use fixatives to accomplish that task. The original Blair 105 was a great fixative, workable and water-soluble, and had been an integral component in my technique for years . . . but then the 105 formula was changed and that was the end of that. I’ve experimented with all manner of fixatives since, and my current fave is SpectraFix. SpectraFix is a casein-based fixative using milk proteins and grain alcohol . . . It does what it’s supposed to do, with no funky odor or noxious fumes . . . and that’s good enough for me
When I think painting, its brush on canvas, and while I use many tools to accomplish what becomes a painting, brushes are my number one tool. I have a couple of favorite shops where I purchase my materials, and the brush displays are my Sirens song . . . come to me . . . come to me . . . and my destruction? Leaving the shop with a fist full of new brights and flats! I have an affinity for small to medium-sized brushes (from a #12 down) and larger 2″-3″ long handled ink/water-color brushes. I like my brushes a bit on the stiff side, and I test them on the length of my fore arm, drawing down, elbow to wrist, as if applying a light wash. I’ve both natural and synthetic bristle brushes, and I can’t say I prefer one over the other, they just need to pass the arm test. (a slight tickling, more than a breeze, less than a scrub). I think of rounds being better for drawing lines, but I’ve found rounds less versatile in my technique, and I can draw a wonderfully expressive line with a brush as wide as a #8 bright . . . gently rolling it, as I go from edge to face. A cursory view of my work illustrates my love of line, and my approach to line is often more sculptural than painterly . . . I’ll lay down a foundation for my lines with the brush, and carve them into their final structure with other tools.
The canvas. I’ve always stretched my own and the heavier the better. Same for the stretcher bars, I want big and beefy. I like the object that is the recipient of my energies to be my equal. I want it to have it’s own mass, it’s own substance, so regardless of my abuse (and believe me I do abuse my canvasses) or even if all I contribute is a drop of pigment or an imperceptible line, the stretched canvas as an object, requires acknowledgement.
I don’t prime my canvases. I love the way raw canvas drinks up paint (and it’s natural color too!), and as I carve, slather, dribble, splash, and drown it in washes of pigment, I know what the canvas accepts can’t be reversed, and that is a challenge I willing accept . . . it seems to me, an honesty of intent, the canvas becomes a partner in my endeavors rather than a simple repository of my dithering.