Artist Painting Questions - Ask the artist

Ask the artist -
By Ron Gribble.

I will attempt to answer some questions.
If you have any questions, you can add them to my list below.

Impasto acrylics 

When would I use Acrylic, as opposed to Oils?

This is largely a personal preference for each artist, but I always remember that the Acrylic is transparent, while the Oils are more Opaque. So if the subject you are painting is better rendered by a transparent paint, use Acrylics. Ask yourself the question:
A. " Would the white of the board be a help or a hindrance? If it would be a help, then Acrylics it is. If it is not a help, then Oils it is.
E.G. A scene of rocks and transparent water. The white of the board can be very helpful in creating textures on the rocks, while the transparent nature of the Acrylics is wonderful for glazes to create the "looking through the water" affect.
B. Is there an advantage to having it quick drying? If so, Acrylics is the best option.

Do I need to paint my boards with Gesso?
If you are using store bought canvas panels or stretched canvas, then you don't but it will prolong the life and improve the flexibility of the final painted surface.  If you were to visit your local hardware store and ask do I need to prime and seal timber before I paint the answer is a big fat 'Yes'.   Surface preparation is everything when your painting if you want a finish that will last the years.

What is Gesso used for then?It is for those who are preparing there own canvases, or using hardboard, or similar as a support for their work. It is ideal for tinting your painting.
What is Gesso?
Gesso is a sealing coat made from white chalk or plaster of Paris with a water soluble gelatine binder. On its own, it does not make a good base for Oils, as it tends to draw the oils out, and it is very difficult to work on. The brush tends to drag. Polymer Gesso is the better option if you can get it, as it is a better base for Oils or Acrylics. It is best if you lightly sand it to give a" tooth" for the paint to stick to.

Would a standard canvas last through time without Gesso?
A well Gesso-ed canvas  will improve a commercially produced canvas specially if your are painting in a heavy impasto style. In fact, most fabrics are nor going to last for much more than 25 years without losing up to one third of their strength. Linen and cotton are almost as bad as each other on that count. Polymer fabrics are the new answer. I will be well in my grave before any future restorer gets to care anyway!!

Odour free Turps. What can you tell me about it?I do not know much of the technical details, but I know that my wife is happy for me to paint indoors at last, and that is all I need to know. It is obviously more expensive than ordinary Turps, but it is worth every penny. I do not have any health issues from breathing it in! I was giving a two day workshop last year in Blenheim, and the local newspaper sent a reporter.

The resulting article was more about the stink of turps that she found than about our fine attempts at art. The fact is I had not noticed the smell myself, as I was used to it.  One fact about odour free turps and other cleaning solvents - is that the you may not smell the product but it is still there only masked - so it is still inflammable and dangerous  to your health - always use in ventilated work areas.

Happy Painting
Ron Gribble
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String Block Printing

String Block Printing with School Paints

LEVEL: Pre-school and Primary.
This is easy and it’s fun.  It is amazing how something so simple can be so much fun and create interesting artworks. 

String Block Printing with school paints
String Block Printing
You will need:
: Sheets of Paper
: Tempera Poster Paint
: String or rope
: Small blocks of wood
: Shallow trays
: Plastic table top or cover a table with a plastic sheet.
: Apron and a cover sheet or newspapers – plus paper towels.

Let’s get started:
Put on the apron and prepare a surface to paint over.
Have one block of wood per colour.
Wrap your rope or string around each block of wood a few times.  Trying not to have a build-up of string in just one spot.  If you can make each blocks string differ to get a range of effects.
Tie the string at the top of the block.  This will be the end you hold on to.

Pour one colour of the Tempera Paint into the shallow tray

Press your block into the shallow of paint or paint it with a paint brush.

Make a print on your paper by placing the string block of wood around the paper in different directions until you have an interesting design taking shape.
Allow to try
Block Printing school painting

-          Small square blocks that little hands can use are best.
-          Often less is more.  A few prints of one colour then the next colour.
-          We found that if you pass the blocks around in a group circle works well.

Share and enjoy & have fun.
Tony Parker
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Artist painting Colour mixing with school paints

How do you mix a colour as dark as black, without black?? 
by Ron Gribble.

How do you mix a colour as dark as black, without black??

I use a very dark blue, like Ultramarine, or Thalo, and mix it equally with a dark red, like Alizarin Crimson. These opposites tend to cancel each other out, and the result is a very dark neutral colour. You can add more of one or the other to make it tend towards hot or cold, or equal amounts to make it neutral.

One thing that I look for though, is to make the colour "believable". The two pigments are very strong, and need toning down with an earth colour. If you make it as dark an earth colour as you can, you will still have a deep rich, almost black. I use Burnt Sienna, and add little at a time until I have the colour I need. This idea with Burnt Sienna is a good one to remember whenever you are mixing any very strong pigments together.

Artist painting Colour mixing ron Gribble


1. Add little bits at a time. Mix it together, and add more. If you add too much of a colour, it is very hard to take it out again, but very easy to add more.

2. More colours is not better. Limit yourself to two or three colours max, and add tiny amounts of others to achieve the finished hue. Any more and you will have MUD.

3. Use a Pallet trowel, and NOT YOUR BRUSH! I never mix paint with a bush. You cannot get control of the colour by using a brush, as you have no idea how much raw colour still lerks in the brush, waiting to mix with something you do not want it to mix with. You will get paint every were and it will do your brushes no good at all as well.

4. Unsure of how to mix a colour? Try mixing a small amount first, and when successfull, mix up the larger mix.

Happy Painting,
Ron Gribble.

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