Author Topic: Old Fashioned Painting Techniques....quick guide.  (Read 169166 times)


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Re: Old Fashioned Painting Techniques....quick guide.
« Reply #50 on: September 04, 2008, 02:05:41 pm »
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Re: Old Fashioned Painting Techniques....quick guide.
« Reply #51 on: September 04, 2008, 05:54:25 pm »
Good call.
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Re: Old Fashioned Painting Techniques....quick guide.
« Reply #52 on: September 04, 2008, 06:01:24 pm »
Wow, stickied and I've only just noticed my promotion from deckhand!

I'd better get on with some more of the posts  :)

I'm going away for just over two weeks from Sunday, so I'll post more basic information before I go and get on with more demonstrations when I get back (around the end of September).

I'm flattered by your comments and the votes for being stickied.
Thank you.

« Last Edit: September 04, 2008, 06:05:30 pm by HoratioHolzbein »


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Re: Old Fashioned Painting Techniques....quick guide.
« Reply #53 on: September 05, 2008, 06:25:30 am »

The next few posts will cover some of the information that I skipped over so far ....

If I've achieved nothing else with these posts, I hope at least that I've been able to make the point about how closely your drawing and paintings are connected using these old techniques:

With your drawing, you: OUTLINE, SHADE AND SMUDGE
With your painting, you: OUTLINE, SHADE AND SMUDGE! (well at least to get the basic 'form')

I'm sure you can imagine then, that it is not only the quality of your painting which is dependent on your drawing but also the style. 

You might think that would make it difficult to know how much or how little to say on the subject of drawing.  If I say too much, will I stifle your own flair and creativity?  If I say too little, is there a danger that you won't pay enough attention to drawing to make the most of old painting methods - thereby stifling your creativity through lack of knowledge?

If you make up your mind that you'd like to paint beautiful, classical, figurative paintings, then the task before you is straightforward: learn to draw figures to the standards of the old masters.  You might laugh, and think that that's an impossible task - but it isn't, it's just a question of study and practice; lots and lots of practice!  OK, it's a bit of an exaggeration to suggest that anyone (including me!) could learn to draw to the standards of the best of the old masters but my estimate is, that if you've always been pretty handy with a pencil, with a little focussed practice everyday, your drawings will be good enough to produce paintings which wouldn't look out of place in a decent museum inside of, say, 3-4 years.  Think of it like learning to play the piano: you might be able to play the first movement of Beethoven's moonlight sonata (the slow bit) inside two years but it would take a while longer before you could play the incredibly fast last movement wouldn't it?  Not everyone will have the level of drive and / or obsession  and / or natural flair to take them to concert pianist standard,  but an enthusiastic amateur is still a wonderful thing to listen to!

Focussed practice
This means not just picking up a pencil and a piece of paper and 'trying' to draw something good but opening a book and actually learning.  Think of the piano analogy again, if - as a beginner - you sit at a piano and just play, OK, eventually, something interesting will come out but just think how much more quickly you might be able to get there if you had a little knowledge to back up your experiments?  If you took a few lessons?  Somehow, during the 20th century,  the notion that only what pours out of you 'naturally' has any validity has gained the upper hand - with predictable consequences, you might say.

My own experience..
I often paint humorous figures which don't appear to conform to the rules of scale, proportion or even anatomy!  Yet people often say that such figures still look 'lifelike'.   My theory is that our brains seem to be drawn toward the details of human figures - the eyes, the face, the hands, etc, and if these features are drawn and painted with enough care and if they observe enough of the 'rules', people will ignore the fact that one of my fully grown human figures might be only 3 feet tall (in proportion to the size of the head and hands) and claim that it looks 'lifelike'!  I found that years of trying to learn classical drawing techniques (observation, memory, knowledge and invention) means that anything else I try to draw now seems relatively easy.

I have no hesitation whatsoever in recommending you to 'take a few lessons' (by which I mean 'classical' lessons).  I really don't believe that they will have anything but a beneficial effect on your drawing and painting - whatever 'style' or subject matter you choose to adopt!  It will be mind-numbingly boring to begin with (as is learning 'scales' on the piano) but that boredom is more than made up for after a year or so, when you start to produce drawings that you are beginning to be proud of.  And after hammering your poor brain with formal, regimented, concentrated exercises in which you make copies of ancient statues or old masters - sitting back once in a while and creating your own figures / drawings will seem like light, breezy fun!

I've already mentioned the way in which old masters set about the task of learning:  Start with the 'parts' and work toward the 'whole'.  With something as complicated as the human head and face, you have to break it down further.  Traditionally, the eyes were the first thing that an apprentice artist would learn to draw, but even the eye would be broken down into smaller parts - cornea, pupil, eyeball, eyelids.  Anatomy helps a great deal, especially looking at the muscles that control the eye and all of the skin around the eyes. 

A good modern book on the subject is Gary Faigin's "Complete guide to facial expression".  Something simpler to start off with would be the relevant section in Giovanni Civardi's "Drawing portraits".  I would strongly recommend varying the books that you learn from.  The two I've mentioned show drawings based on modern ideas of portraiture (which are a bit too 'dry' and boring for my tastes) but you can download (for free on google booksearch) a beautiful old book by C. A. Jombert called "Methode pour apprendre le dessin" (published in 1755), full of illustrations by some of the great masters of the Renaissance and later.  I took the PDF file to a local printer and printed up a version in A3 size.  The book is out of copyright and I think that for private use, for the purposes of learning, nobody would object to this.  This book shows the Renaissance artists interpretation of classical (Greek and Roman) approaches to drawing the human body.   It also contains diagrams showing the various ways in which individual artists played with the canons of proportion.  It's a pity if you can't read the French text because it is incredibly informative and an excellent insight into the old master's world, but I still think it is worth downloading for the pictures alone. 

Finally, for a 19th century interpretation of antiquity, you could try the reproduction of Charles Bargue and Jean Leon Gerome's 'Cours de dessin' (which is available in a few different languages).  The drawings are much smaller than they would have been in the original course, so you either need good eyes or the cash to have them enlarged.

There are hundreds of good books on drawing out there (and quite a few appalling ones too) so if cost is an issue, you're probably better off seeing what's available locally.  Books (reprints) of old master drawings are plentiful and very cheap compared with books of old master paintings but the former often tells you more about their method of working than the latter!

« Last Edit: September 06, 2008, 04:58:37 am by HoratioHolzbein »


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Re: Old Fashioned Painting Techniques....quick guide.
« Reply #54 on: September 05, 2008, 06:58:29 am »

(i) Pricking and Pouncing - (traditional)
Only suitable when your drawing is the same size as your intended painting.

Take a pin or needle and prick holes along every outline of your drawing, wherever necessary to render sufficient detail. 

Your holes should be very close together.  Closer together on sharp curves but to save time they can be further apart on straighter stretches. 

Next, place your drawing directly onto your painting surface.  Take a dry sponge* and cover it with coloured chalk dust (darker colours show up better).  Then you simply pat the sponge over all of the holes, keeping it fully loaded with dust at all times.

When you remove the drawing from the painting surface, you should have a faint line of dots left behind, outlining your drawing.

Resist any temptation to wipe or blow away excess dust at this stage!

*To make your sponge more efficient, lie a closely woven cloth on a clean surface, place the sponge on top of the cloth, gather all the sides and edges of the cloth together above the sponge and bind a piece of string around the ‘neck’ of the cloth, forming a tight-ish sack.  Use the smooth side of this sponge-filled sack to pounce your chalk dust.

(ii) Squaring up - (traditional)
This technique is particularly suited to transferring drawings of a different size to the intended painting

One thing to take care of is that the proportions of your painting surface are identical to the proportions of your drawing, otherwise you will distort your drawing making it appear either elongated or squat.

  For example, if you draw a rectangle around your drawing and that 'box' measures five units wide by eight units high, you have a ratio of 5:8.  You must ensure that whatever the size of your intended painting, that the width to height ratio of your painting surface is also 5:8.

Do not be tempted to simply draw lines at convenient, equally measured distances from each other because if the painting surface is of a different size, then the calculation of the appropriate distances on your painting surface will become tedious in the extreme.  Far better to make sure that the width to height ratios are the same and use the following procedure:

Draw a frame around your cartoon drawing which corresponds with the intended edges of your painting surface (allow a few extra millimetres for the area that will be covered by the picture frame, that way, your composition won't be compromised by framing).

Find the mid-point along the bottom edge of your pencil frame and mark the spot.  Now do the same with the opposite top edge and join the two dots together with a pencil line and a long straight edge.

Then find the mid-point (along the bottom of your frame) between the point you have already marked and one corner of your drawing.  Mark the spot and repeat on the opposite top edge, join the dots with a line.

Repeat this process for the other corner of your drawing. 

Continue sub-dividing your picture in this way until you have a series of vertical parallel lines running across your drawing. 

Use your judgement to decide how many sub-divisions you need, depending usually on the size of the painting and the complexity of the drawing. 

When you have enough, repeat the process from one side of your drawing to the other until you have a series of horizontal parallel lines.

Then turn your attention to your painting surface.  You can, if you wish, mark the surface with pencil lines in exactly the same way as above, but I find that pencil lines can be notoriously difficult to remove thoroughly and have a habit of remaining visible through some of the most transparent passages of your painting.  If you must use a pencil, I find that HB or harder leads can be removed more effectively than softer leads.

The better alternative is to find the mid-points (as above) and push a drawing pin into the edge of your painting surface at those points.

Next, take a thin thread, tie it firmly to one of the pins in the corner and stretch it across your painting surface, joining opposite pins with a straight line of thread. 

Wrap the thread around the opposing pin a couple of times and lead the thread to the neighbouring pin.  Wrap again and stretch back across the surface once more to the opposing pin.

Repeat this weaving back and forward until you have created a 'grid' with the thread that resembles the grid you have drawn over your cartoon.

Now all you have to do is copy the outline of your drawing onto your painting surface (using either pencil or preferrably charcoal) by noting, box by box, where those outlines intersect your grid. 

Look for easy places to start.  For example, you can usually find places where the outlines of your drawing intersect one side of a grid box at exactly the half-way point.  If you are even luckier, there will be places where the outlines intersect the 'cross-hairs' where four boxes meet.

Usually I would advise an artist to trust their eyes, not their brain but in this case, I would advise you to trust your brain.  If, for example, one of the outlines of your drawing intersects the edge of a box at one third of the way across but somehow it is now closer to one quarter of the way across on your painting surface, then it doesn't matter if it looks right,  it isn't, so you must correct it.

Again, if you are using charcoal to transfer the drawing, do not be tempted to rub or blow it away at this stage.

After you have transferred your two-hundredth drawing using one of the above traditional methods, you will be longing for a quicker, easier method.  The following two 'duplicator' methods work extremely well for full-sized drawings.

(iii)  One-off Duplicator
Cover the reverse side of your drawing with a smooth, even coat of either coloured chalk or pastel (don't use pastel crayons with either an oil content or too high a wax content).

Place your drawing onto the painting surface with the drawing uppermost.

Re-trace the outline of your drawing (I suggest using a coloured pencil so that you know which bits you’ve done and which you haven’t).

When you lift off your drawing, you should have a perfect outline left behind on the painting surface.

(iv) Multiple Duplicator

Similar to the above, except that you coat a separate piece of paper, rather than the back of your drawing, (this only works well with pastel crayon).  The advantages of this technique are that (a) you will waste much less of your expensive pastel because it is the initial coating that uses the largest quantity of pastel, not the occasional ‘top-up’ and (b) it will keep your drawings nice and clean.

Use a piece of paper from a roll, larger than the largest size painting format that you usually use. 

Place your tracing paper on your painting surface (pastel side down).  Then place your drawing over the top, taking care to make sure that the edges line up with the edges of the painting surface.

Then re-trace the outline of your drawing using a coloured pencil.

You can prevent the pastel from drying out too much by wrapping it around a cardboard tube covered in polythene when you have finished and then wrapping and sealing another piece of polythene around the outside.  Thus sealed, your duplicator sheet can be used again and again (albeit with occasional top-ups with pastel).

(v)  The Hi-tech technique

I frequently find that I have used up all of my wall space for hanging paintings which are drying between stages and therefore don’t have the space to hang paper for full sized drawings.  My modern (if expensive) solution for scaling up and transferring the drawing is as follows:

Do as large a drawing as you have space for

Photograph the drawing with a digital camera on the ‘documents’ setting (highly detailed - small aperture, sharp focus).

Print the photo onto paper at a maximum size of 15cm in any direction (the maximum size that my projector can handle).

Wait until it’s dark, then project the printout onto the canvas and re-trace the outlines with pencil or charcoal (projector must be of the professional type with a non-distorting lens).

It’s clean and quick and I still have a useful sized drawing to help me with placing the shadows.

NOTE: If you draw your figures small, any mistakes (in human proportions, etc) are amplified when you scale them up.  This is why nearly all comments on the subject recommend learning to draw 'full-sized'.  BUT I have found that you can sometimes take advantage of this fact if you want to give your figure paintings a genuine 'renaissance' feel.  By drawing the figures very small and scaling them up, these imperfections sometimes add to what I can only describe as the 'hand-made' feel of certain types of painting.


After the last stage, you are left with either a light chalk outline, a charcoal outline or even a pencil outline of your drawing on your painting surface.

These outlines are often easily erased (usually accidentally) or contain excessive charcoal, so you need to 'fix' the drawing in a more permanent way before you can proceed.

(i) Fix using ink (traditional)
This is possibly one of the oldest methods of fixing your drawing.   I have found manuscripts describing recipes for making ink used in this stage of the painting process dating back almost eight hundred years but it is certainly older than that.

Fortunately, you don't have to make your own ink anymore but it is still satisfying to apply it with a quill or even a modern dipping pen with detachable nib.

Use ink of the waterproof, permanent kind and trace over all of the outlines of the drawing that has been transferred to your painting surface.

When completely dry, tap the back of your painting surface to shake off loose chalk or charcoal.

(ii)  Fix using paint (traditional)

If you have transferred your drawing using charcoal, then tap the back of the canvas (or other painting surface) to shake off excess dust before you fix with paint.

The procedure is as simple as it sounds, you simply take a small, round, hogs hair brush, thin down your paint with your 50/50 medium until it's only slightly thicker than ink, and re-trace your outlines.

I don't want to be too prescriptive about which colour to use for this paint fix as artists over the centuries have used many variations to good effect.  Most commonly, the colours used have been English red, bistre, yellow ochre, verdigris, burnt umber, burnt sienna and raw umber.

(iii) Don't Fix.

There are many examples of painters, particularly in the late 18th and 19th centuries, who did not appear to fix their drawings at all.  They were simply careful not to erase their charcoal outlines as they proceeded with the stages in their painting plan. 

(iv) Using Fixatives
Some people have suggested using modern spray fixatives to 'fix' a charcoal drawing but I am not qualified to say how this chemical product would affect the oil in a painting and I have been unable to find a chemist that could enlighten me, so I can't really comment.  It seems pretty pointless to me when there are tried and tested methods which really take up very little time.

If you look closely at old paintings, you will often be able to identify the 'fixed' outlines of objects, particularly figures.  With some painters - particularly those of the Venetian school - you don't have to look that closely at all as they seem to have made a feature of their fixed outlines.  I have found that as well as providing guidance, these outlines also add an almost imperceptible but nonetheless important contrast which adds to either to the realism of an object or the pictorial quality or both.

Experiment with brightly coloured paint fixes (pure English red or yellow ochre) next to skin tones and compare them with darker fixes and you will see what I mean.

« Last Edit: September 05, 2008, 07:12:32 am by HoratioHolzbein »


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Re: Old Fashioned Painting Techniques....quick guide.
« Reply #55 on: September 05, 2008, 08:49:44 am »
Yet again, your lessons are full of indispensable information. 

As few occasions as I've taken to painting, I'm surprised that I've actually used most of the transfer methods you mention here.  And now that I think about it, I've never once fixed with ink or paint...

I really do love these lessons.  Even just going over transfer techniques gives me all sorts of little ideas to mess around with.


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Re: Old Fashioned Painting Techniques....quick guide.
« Reply #56 on: September 05, 2008, 03:51:02 pm »
Just thought I'd let everyone know, that I've had better luck finding these books on than on Google US. From my experience looking for books in Russian, using the google website of the native language of the book always yields better results.
Hope that helps :)


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Re: Old Fashioned Painting Techniques....quick guide.
« Reply #57 on: November 02, 2008, 06:40:13 am »
very nice! I really enjoyed this, and am beyond inspired to work on my drawing skill.  :)
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Re: Old Fashioned Painting Techniques....quick guide.
« Reply #58 on: November 02, 2008, 08:04:52 pm »
Cool paintings i am glad to see these survived while the page was not working.


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Re: Old Fashioned Painting Techniques....quick guide.
« Reply #59 on: November 03, 2008, 12:39:17 pm »
Excellent stuff! This have really inspired me to start painting myself. Must dig out my fiancés painting tools when I get off work.
More pictures of you painting, please. They are very inspirational! :)

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Re: Old Fashioned Painting Techniques....quick guide.
« Reply #60 on: November 16, 2008, 11:54:41 am »
I do not know whether or not to be dismayed at the fact that your lessons here far have surpassed several, if not most drawing and painting lessons I've had at school, and I've been at it for three years, by Jove. Oh well. Perhaps I shall have another stab at the classical approach.


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Re: Old Fashioned Painting Techniques....quick guide.
« Reply #61 on: November 16, 2008, 06:49:24 pm »
Oh,  man, C.C. Elmroth, I know exactly what you mean. Horatio's stuff is very, very impressive. At least I have additional impetus to continue improving my drawing ability.
I hope you all enjoyed Air Kraken Day


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Re: Old Fashioned Painting Techniques....quick guide.
« Reply #62 on: November 18, 2008, 06:11:59 pm »
what's the best way to simulate a wood finish on plastic? I'm starting a gun build after the Holidays and need to make the panels on the grips look like wood-they're currently raised molding on plastic, so they can't be unscrewed or easily cut off-leaves gaping holes and structural weakness that way.

But it needs to look like oiled or shellac'd woodgrain when it's done. Where to start?


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Re: Old Fashioned Painting Techniques....quick guide.
« Reply #63 on: November 19, 2008, 02:03:35 pm »
Well-written, instructional, in-depth and professional guide to classical painting and drawing methods. And easily understood and followed to boot.

I might very well have missed it, but I shal ask none the less: Do you sir, teach painting? The world of classical arts education needs your skills!


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Re: Old Fashioned Painting Techniques....quick guide.
« Reply #64 on: November 24, 2008, 02:46:06 pm »
Sorry for my absence lately folks, it's a very busy time for me at the moment, professionally.  I'm hoping that I'll have a bit more time to make further contributions early in the new year.

Nillerus, no, I don't teach painting.  I have considered it in the past but I'm not sure I've got the right temperament for teaching :)

Rick, I don't know how to do it on plastic but if I was doing it on canvas, I'd do in stages as follows:

1.  Take a small, square, flat brush (you could use a thin round one but they don't usually hold enough paint) and load it with something dark, like raw umber - reasonably well thinned.  Because raw umber stays a bit greasy, you could modify it by mixing with one of the other browns or black (an oxide black or iron black would be best but ivory black would be ok).
2.  'Scrape' the paint on, using the edge of the brush (run it up and down longways, not widthways) creating the stripes of the grain.  Leave it to dry.
3.  'Glaze' (very thin transparent paint) a wood colour over the top (depends on the rest of your picture usually, but) you could try a burnt umber, burnt sienna probably mixed with a little yellow ochre - experiment.  Normally, I would recommend layering your pigments on in separate glazes but for your purposes, you could take a few shortcuts, like mixing an orange glaze (yellow and red) then leaving it to dry before adding blues and browns - to taste. 
4.  I'll have to stop myself here, because you don't need to create the illusion of three dimensions as you're already painting on a 3 dimensional surface.
Hope this is helpful?

FOR THE REST OF YOU, the above method works perfectly well for hair too!  It's the same method I used in the creation of the hair in the Lefebvre copy earlier on this thread.  The only difference was that I went on to paint solid colours in the highest highlights of the hair.  The rest is transparent and the impression of individual hairs is given by step one above.

Thank you once again for your all your kindness.  I'll try to check back when I can in the next few weeks but if not - happy holidays, honiker, christmas - whatever your personal preferences  :-*

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Re: Old Fashioned Painting Techniques....Appeal to steampunk artists.
« Reply #65 on: December 08, 2008, 04:24:31 am »
I move to the city to start art school this sunday and would be most highly interested in any and all instruction you would grace us with.

Ah, if only the late Bob Ross had been a steampunk.

 Good luck with the art school, been there and done that.

 If Bob Ross had been a stempunk, then would we have pictures of happy little gear assemblies?


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Re: Old Fashioned Painting Techniques....quick guide.
« Reply #66 on: December 21, 2008, 05:13:45 am »
This is wonderful! I've just discovered this thread, and it couldn't have come at a better time.
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Re: Old Fashioned Painting Techniques....quick guide.
« Reply #67 on: January 03, 2009, 01:50:50 pm »
It is truly wonderful to have an original painting by a great artist..

I am fortunate enough to own two by Koo Schadler, an egg tempra artist whose work is reminiscent of medieval icon paintings, she has lots of birds and animals in them with things like old rusty keys and stuff, not strictly "steampunk" per se but to me they conjure up ideas of nature,beauty and industry which are fundamental to the genre...
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Re: Old Fashioned Painting Techniques....quick guide.
« Reply #68 on: January 06, 2009, 02:41:47 am »
I've never been a painter. I could never get my head around liquid mediums but this makes sense. A whole lot of it. Not only that it reminds me quite heavily of the way a teacher was recently attempting to teach us to handle pastels.

Thank you so very muhc.

Now it is experiment time.

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Re: Old Fashioned Painting Techniques....quick guide.
« Reply #69 on: February 09, 2009, 04:18:36 pm »
Hum wonder why i have not received any updates from this page.



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Re: Old Fashioned Painting Techniques....quick guide.
« Reply #70 on: January 10, 2010, 04:46:40 am »
Absolutely wonderful! I'm not set up to do oils right now, but I have given a copy of this thread to a friend of mine who has been struggling with a portrait. And I do believe that this will make her life Much Simpler.

Also: I was rattling around the aetherwebs and ran across an illustrator who has stumbled over the mixed method all on his lonesome. Incredible! I don't think he knows what he's found though... :)


Here's his making-of posts. :)
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Re: Old Fashioned Painting Techniques....quick guide.
« Reply #71 on: January 12, 2010, 02:04:06 pm »
Another way of getting good base drawing.   Draw the thing digitally, print it onto overhead transparency film, the project it onto the canvas to draw over.

One problem with this is that overhead projectors don't tend to focus under a certain distance, so in order to fit the projection onto the canvas you may have to print it undersized, (or do a really big painting)  :)      Of course if you have a data projector you could just use that instead and cut out the printing step.

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Re: Old Fashioned Painting Techniques....quick guide.
« Reply #72 on: February 08, 2010, 04:47:15 pm »
Ah, this is excellent. I have recently decided to go as traditional as possible with my art knowledge, i.e. i have started making my own oil paint to get a much better understanding of color and pigment characteristics. I was somewhat surprised to discover how confused everyone I know seems to be with this decision. Everyone seems to have the attitude of 'what's the point? they already make paint in tubes.' No matter how hard I try, I can't explain it to anyone in a way that they understand my mentality on this. It is very nice to know that there are at least a few other people out there who are still interested in traditional methods of art. The old masters are still masters for a reason, but no one seems to want to take the time to learn their methods. Not that everyone should go make their own paint. I have just always wanted to do it and finally decided to start. But the classic methods I fear are being slowly forgotten and I greatly appreciate others who still have an interest in them.
All our knowledge has its origins in our perceptions. -Leonardo da Vinci


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Re: Old Fashioned Painting Techniques....quick guide.
« Reply #73 on: February 09, 2010, 09:14:46 am »
Brilliant and fascinating stuff!!  I am no good at painting or drawing but I can follow techniques so I think I'll have a go!

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Re: Old Fashioned Painting Techniques....quick guide.
« Reply #74 on: March 01, 2011, 11:14:19 pm »
This thread is really good, learnt a lot from it!
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