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Art “experts” on the internet

There are many art fora, resource sites, blogs, and other places on the inter­net where infor­ma­tion for artists is posted. This is one of them. Often, they (we?) pro­vide con­tra­dic­tory infor­ma­tion, advice, and opin­ions. If you are look­ing for reli­able advice for artists, whom do you believe?

First, with regard to safety infor­ma­tion, don’t ever just take anyone’s word for it. I have sev­eral posts here that relate to safety. But I’m just some guy. Why would you do what I say, no mat­ter how much author­ity I seem to pre­tend to have? This is your health and the health of every­one who comes in con­tact with your art stuff we’re talk­ing about here. Just because I say that lead paint, used with rea­son­able cau­tion, is per­fectly safe, is no rea­son to think it’s true. It is true, but you shouldn’t believe me just because I say so. Only believe it after you’ve checked out the rel­e­vant infor­ma­tion, sep­a­rated out the truth from the fear-mongering, and decided for your­self what makes sense for you.

I’m not an expert. I don’t have a degree in art. I’m not a pro­fes­sional artist. I’ve done a lot of study­ing about art and I think I mostly know what I’m talk­ing about. But you haven’t read my sources. You haven’t tried the things I have. You haven’t made the mis­takes, or had the suc­cesses, that I have. All you have when you come to this web­site is the words and images here. You don’t know for sure whether I know what I’m talk­ing about, or I’m a clue­less blowhard.

The same goes for just about every­one else. Even peo­ple who have nice web­sites and appear to have some sort of cre­den­tials may be pro­vid­ing use­ful infor­ma­tion, or garbage. Like­wise, peo­ple who post on inter­net fora may or may not know what they’re talk­ing about. I’ve found some pretty silly stuff in books as well.

So please read with intel­li­gence and skep­ti­cism. Do that with every­thing here, and every­thing else you see on the inter­net. Try people’s advice and see if it works for you. Read other sources and com­pare. It’s more work that way, but a lot bet­ter than decid­ing that I (or any­one else) can be taken at face value. I know I have a clue, but you have no rea­son to believe me. Not until you try what I sug­gest and find out.

Posted in art technique, personal.

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16 Responses

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  1. Triecia says

    Wise words. The inter­net has placed an end­less sup­ply of infor­ma­tion right at our fin­ger­tips, but like many other sources of infor­ma­tion, e.g. TV, mag­a­zines, your next door neigh­bour, you some­times have to do some extra sourc­ing to sort out the fact from fiction.

    I like your blog :)

  2. David says

    Thanks, Triecia. I like your blog, too.

  3. angel says

    Long time no “speak”! Here’s a very good topic to tackle for your next blog topic. You spoke of blacks in one of your prev. posts. Now, let’s talk about whites: which white do you use? Which white is the bright­est, whitest white? Do you use a dif­fer­ent white(Doak’s flake white for instance) for under­paint­ing, despite the fact that it yel­lows due to lead? Love!(your blog!)

  4. David says

    Angel,

    I already have a post on whites.

    My pri­mary white is lead white, but I also use tita­nium and zinc when appropriate.

  5. Louis R. Velasquez says

    Hi David. Angel’s ques­tion on WHITES, brings up an impor­tant issue for oil painters, the ‘Wash­ing” of lin­seed oil. Lin­seed oil is FOREVER yel­low, and the brigh­est minds have tack­led the issue and failed. My web­site has a new addi­tion, a lengthy essay on the ‘Wash­ing” of ;lin­seed oil. Here below, I include one part of the essay. Inter­ested read­ers can read the entire essay on my site. thank you= Louis Velasquez
    Author of :
    ‘Oil Paint­ing with ’ Cal­cite Sun Oil”: Safety and Per­ma­nence with­out Haz­ardous Sol­vents, Resins, Var­nishes, and Dri­ers”
    One can google the title and link to my site.

    PART SIX: SHOULD LINSEED OIL BE WASHED

    My answer is reflected in my THIRD CONCLUSION ONLY

    There is a web­site that shows HOW TO WASH LINSEED OIL.

    The web­site gives these steps: Place oil in a large 5 gal­lon con­tainer ( pho­tos show a trans­par­ent con­tainer ) with twice the amount of water. Place [ trans­par­ent] con­tainer in tub of very hot water. Add almost boil­ing water into the con­tainer. Hold hot con­tainer with a towel. Shake the con­tainer for 100 shakes. Then, place the [ trans­par­ent ] con­tainer out­side in the sun, in 100 degree heat weather for sev­eral days until the clear oil raises to the top and large amounts of opaque whitish-yellow, col­ored mat­ter set­tles between the clear oil and the water level. Place in a large freezer for sev­eral days until the water is frozen. Since oil does not freeze, pour out the clear oil into a clean 5 gal­lon con­tainer and repeat the process 3 times. The web­site author says that two-thirds of the orig­i­nal amount of the oil is LOST

    THICKEN and to BLEACH NOT DUE ADVISES

  6. David says

    Louis,

    While I’m not com­pletely uncon­cerned about the yel­low­ing of lin­seed oil, I take heart when I walk through muse­ums filled with oil paint­ings that are hun­dreds of years old. While very slight yel­low­ing is often detectable, I’ve never seen a paint­ing and thought, “wow, the whites are so yel­low it detracts from the qual­ity of the paint­ing.” That’s with oils that were prob­a­bly much less pure than mod­ern cold-pressed or alkalai-refined prod­ucts. So I don’t think that a properly-made oil paint­ing, made with­out exces­sive addi­tion of oil to the paint, is likely to yel­low to the degree that some art mate­ri­als pun­dits want you to worry about, espe­cially if the paint­ing is kept exposed to light.

    A big­ger prob­lem, in my opin­ion, is the increas­ing trans­parency of oils with age, espe­cially when ground with tra­di­tional flake white. For­tu­nately for artists, that issue pretty much never occurs until long after they are dead.

  7. Louis R. Velasquez says

    Hi David, Seems you missed the boat. Im quot­ing your state­ment in part

    OILS MUCH LESS PURE than todays? I think you will enjoy read­ing the full essay on my web­site, as it will clear up mis­con­cep­tions of today’s lin­seed oils..refined or other.

    My cur­rent exper­i­ments show SUNFLOWER SEED OIL to be COMPLETELY free of any yel­low­ing. Even when kept in the dark for weeks.

    sincerely=louis

  8. mongoose1 says

    I stopped using Maroger because of it’s tox­i­c­ity and I’ve switched to tita­nium white to avoid flake and it’s lead. I get pretty fix­ated when I am cre­at­ing some­thing and I am always con­cerned that I will have paint on a fin­ger that I unthink­ingly put in my mouth (I bite my nails sometimes).

    As far as safety, a great source is Mark D. Gottsegen’s book, The Painter’s Hand­book. If you paint with acrylics another great place to get info from the horses mouth is Mark Golden’s blog. You can ask him ques­tions there (via a com­ment) and he’s extremely responsive).

  9. Ivan Sahba says

    Inter­est­ing issues … David and Louis, some info for you First thing that should be con­sid­ered is that dif­fer­ent oils have dif­fer­ent val­ues and spec­i­fi­ca­tions. Not all oils do the same job, ren­der­ing com­par­i­son of oils use­less.
    Louis is cor­rect about the color of the oil up to a cer­tain point. lin­seed oil is yel­low­ish. How­ever wash­ing it reduces SOME of the color that is in the “mucilage”. The site that men­tions wash­ing has some points but fails to men­tion that the light color oil is actu­ally sun bleached. The sun bleached oil does not become as yel­low as it was by age. Oils is dark places and dark bot­tles are not a good idea as have no place in paint­ing. No one keeps a paint­ing in a very dark place. Oils will become a bit dark by age.
    The yel­low­ing of many old oil paint­ings from the mas­ters is due to var­nish and not nec­es­sar­ily the oil.
    Louis men­tions sun­flower oil. I hope he means saf­flower NOT sun­flower. Saf­flower is Carthamus tinc­to­rius and while it is a great oil and is used for lighter pig­ments such as whites and some yel­lows it is not as “tough” of a film as lin­seed. It does allow longer dry­ing time so it is a won­der­ful oil to be mixed into the lin­seed oil and some of the quick dry pig­ments such as earths to allow flex­i­bil­ity in time.
    Using saf­flower by itself is not a good idea. Unless you mix your own pig­ments and oil you can not avoid lin­seed oil with excep­tion of a few mak­ers that use wal­nut oil.
    Sun­flower is Helianthus annuus and has no place in paint­ing! Sal­ads and some cook­ing is where it should be used.
    Wash­ing oil with “hot water” is not cor­rect. Heat­ing oil above 120 deg Fahren­heit (~50 cel­sius) is not advised since it start a mol­e­c­u­lar change. Freez­ing oil below 33 deg Fahren­heit (-1 cel­sius) is not advised either as it does change the oil’s struc­ture. Never store your paints in a freezer!!
    The old sys­tem of wash­ing oil is to use very warm water and shake the oil in mod­er­ate amounts, NOT huge bot­tles. Allow sep­a­ra­tion and pour off the oil on top. Do not be greedy and leave the “gunk” in. Then pout the rest of the oil near the gunk to another con­tainer and you can clean it in the next batch of oil. Repeat the process until you are sat­is­fied with the results. Do allow the oil in the sun for a few days to prop­a­gate it and give it some oxy­gen. Or as it was called in the old days, “aired”.
    Here is a few things about oils that might help you.
    Raw — oil that has been made by heat­ing the flax seeds to get more oil. Fil­tered by many meth­ods.
    Cold Pressed — The seeds/ nuts are just pressed to squeeze the oil with­out any heat­ing.
    Boiled — oil that has been boiled after extrac­tion to change chem­i­cally. All oils that are boiled are tougher and make a more flex­i­ble film. They are darker. Used for indus­trial based paints, i.e. house paints. The dark­ness is not a con­cern at all. They are bleached by expo­sure to sun­light espe­cially in lead pig­ments they work very well. NOT suit­able for fine arts paint­ing.
    Refined — oil that has the mucilage or impu­ri­ties removed from it by means of dif­fer­ent processes includ­ing, fil­tra­tion, chem­i­cal (alkali as exam­ple), heat, pres­sure and a com­bi­na­tion of such meth­ods.
    Sun bleached — oil that has been exposed to sun to allow the color to van­ish. The oil will be lighter and yel­lows less. The yel­low­ing is not chem­i­cal but it is due to reduc­tion of the vol­ume dur­ing oxi­diza­tion. Dries faster and works well as a medium.
    Sun thick­ened — the same as above except that it is allowed to con­tact the air and it semi oxi­dized by the con­tact with air, it is stirred often to allow change in con­sis­tency, thick oil and it mixed with tur­pen­tine to cre­ate a medium. nor­mally is mixed with bal­sam oil, venice tur­pen­tine or wax.
    Stand Oil — Oil that has been poly­mer­ized by process of heat and pres­sure, i.e. in a pres­sure cooker to about 300 deg. The char­ac­ter­is­tic of such oil is that it is a “lev­el­ing” oil, mean­ing that the brush strokes will dis­ap­pear. Mak­ing it a very suit­able oil for glaz­ing thin and very smooth paint­ing. It is thicker than oil and is mixed with tur­pen­tine and other oils to make medi­ums.
    Thick­ened oil — Oil that has been thick­ened by expo­sure to air but not sun light. While is par­tially oxi­dized it is not bleached and is as yel­low as it was before. It is won­der­ful for mix­ing to tur­pen­tine for a medium with­out becom­ing as thin as reg­u­lar oil and tur­pen­tine mix. It is faster dry­ing but not as lev­el­ing as stand oil.
    Oil Sources
    Lin­seed — Flax seed oil — The strongest and tough­est of oils, yel­low­ish, medium dry­ing time.
    Wal­nut — From the nut — The sec­ond strongest, less yel­low­ish than lin­seed, more dif­fi­cult to make, a bit longer to dry than lin­seed. Wal­nut oil is also used by old mas­ters, van Dyck, Rubens, Rem­brandt to name a few.
    Saf­flower — From the plant, a mod­er­ate oil and is bet­ter to be used in a mix­ture as a binder for mak­ing paint and prepar­ing the paint. Not as strong as the two above, less yel­low than the the pre­vi­ous oils.
    Poppy — from the seeds, The thinest, weak­est and light­est of the oils above and is great for a mix­ture in the paint mak­ing process for whites. It takes the longest to dry so it is per­fect to be added a drop or two in prepar­ing the amount of paint on the palette for Burnt umber, burnt sienna, naples yel­low (espe­cially gen­uine), jaune bril­liant to keep them from dry­ing too fast on the palette.
    There are other oils that are used by some but none are proven in a test of time such as laven­der, etc.

  10. David says

    Ivan,

    Thanks for the com­ments. I per­son­ally avoid saf­flower and poppy oils, because I am con­cerned about their lim­ited bind­ing strength and use a tiny bit of clove oil if I need to retard dry­ing time.

    Your URL doesn’t appear to work, by the way.

  11. Ivan Sahba says

    David, Thanks for the note. As I men­tioned the saffflower and poppy are not oils to be used alone. There is no harm in using a tiny amount of poppy to retard the dry­ing time. The nind­ing of these would be fine in mix­ture of the Lin­seed, wal­nut or both. Clove oil is not rec­om­mended as it does become brit­tle and detri­o­rates faster than other oils. Some peo­ple use it for the smell fac­tor. In damp con­di­tions it can rot eas­ily.
    Thanks for the heads up on the URL. I cor­rected the spelling!

  12. Louis R. Velasquez says

    HI DAVID AND IVAN, WHERE DOES THE TIME GO?
    WAS JUST READING OLD SITES AND SAW THIS FROM ONE YEAR AGO.
    IVAN GIVES LOTS OF GOOD ADVICE, BUT IS IN ERROR ONFEW POINTS. ;ET ME EXPLAIN:
    IVAN SAID:
    Louis men­tions sun­flower oil. I hope he means saf­flower NOT sun­flower. …..Sun­flower is Helianthus annuus and has no place in paint­ing! Sal­ads and some cook­ing is where it should be used.

    WELL IVAN, IMNOT SURE OF YOUR SOURCE, BUT LET ME GIVE YOU MINE ON WHYDO MEAN SUNFLOWER’, AND NOT SAFFLOWER. THE MATERIALS AND TECHNIQUES OF PAINTING’ BY KURT WEHLTE.YOU CAN BUY IT AT SINOPIA​.COM. THE BEST INVESTMENT YOU WILL MAKE FOR LEARNING OF TECHNICAL/CHEMICAL MATTERS ON PAINTING MATERIALS. MAKES RALPH MAYERS BOOK LOOK SIMPLE.(NO DISRESPECT TO RALPH).

    PAGE 382:.( REFERENCE SUNFLOWER OIL) ..CLOSELY RESEMBLES POPPY OIL..THE ENTIRE RUSSIAN PRODUCTION OF ARTISTS’S OIL PAINTS IS BASED ON THIS MATERIAL, AND THE PICTURES PAINTED WITH IT ARE WELL PRESERVED’. SO WHELTE PROVIDES PROVEN FACTS ON SUNFLOWER SEED OIL. YES IVAN MAY WISH TO USE IT ON SALADS BUT WE DO THE SAME WITH FLAX OIL AND WALNUT OIL. ALL ARE NUTRICIOUS AND TASTY.

    IVANLETTER HAS OTHER ERRORS; (IVAN SAYS): …… Wal­nut oil is also used by old mas­ters, van Dyck, Rubens, Rem­brandt to name a few.
    THE SCIENTIFIC STUDIES MOST RECENTLY SHOW REMBRANDT USED WALNUT OIL HAPHAZARDLY..AS IF HE WAS POSSIBLY OUT OF LINSEED OIL AT THE MOMENT, OR QUITE FRANKLY JUST GRABBED WHAT HE HAD ON HAND.SAY THIS BECAUSE ART EXPERTSON THE WEB, AND IN BOOKS WILL INSTRUCT ARTISTS TO USE WALNUT OR POPPY OIL WITH WHITE AND BLUE PAINTS; THE WALNUT OIL IN REMBRANDTS PAINTINGS…AND THERE WAS VERY LITTLE FOUND.. WAS IN SOME DARK PAINT. THE SOURCE IS FROM THE NATIONAL GALLERY / LONDON. BOOK ART IN THE MAKING; REMBRANDT TWO EDITIONS, 1988 AND REVISED 2006.

    AND FINALLY IVANS REAL ERROR: (IVAN SAYS): There are other oils that are used by some but none are proven in a test of time such as laven­der, etc.
    LAVENDER OIL IS NOT AN OIL, IT ISSOLVENT. ONCE EXTRACTED FROM THE LAVENDER FLOWERS, IT IS CALLED SPIKE’. LIKE TURPENTINE, IT IS NOTBINDER AND EVAPORATES WHEN EXPOSED TO AIR.

    MY WEBSITE, RECENTLY WAS UPDATED WITH MY RESERACH ON HOW FRANCISCO PACHECO ( VELAZQUERZ TEACHER) CLEANSED HIS OIL. THE MAGIC INGREDIENTS WERE AGUA ARDIENTE, LA QUE SE LLAMA DE CABEZA’ ANDLA FLOE DE ALHUCEMA”. TO THOSE WHO DO NOT UNDERSTAND SPANISH, THEY ARE: ALCOHOLIC LIQUOR AND THE LAVENDER FLOWER. THE PROCESS TO CLEANSE THE OIL IS ON MY WEBSITE.

    SORRY TO GET TO IVANS LETTER SO LATE- I WAS UNAWARE OF IT RESPECTFULLY, LOUIS

  13. Ivan Sahba says

    This is more info in regards to the Luis’ response to my mistakes:

    1. Sun­flower oil pro­duc­tion in Rus­sia was started by Bokaryov in Alek­seyevka, Bel­gogorod, Rus­sia in 1828. In 1833 the first fac­tory of mak­ing sun­flower oil started and in a few years it became pop­u­lar. The process was press­ing. Today sun­flower oil is pro­duced by use of heat and pres­sure. While many of Russ­ian painters used the sun­flower oil it was made by pres­sure alone and not heated sys­tems. Sun­flower oil has a very high con­tent of Oleic acid up to and around 40%, vs. Lin­seed (around 1820%). Also sun­flower has a high amount of Linoleic acid, around and up to 75% vs. Lin­seed oil (around and up to 24%). When heated this will pro­duce oil that while works for paint­ing it does cause a faster chem­i­cal reac­tion between pig­ment and oil. In case of some pig­ment this is more than oth­ers. Cold press lin­seed oil is much more avail­able than cold press sun­flower oil due to indus­try as well as the sig­nif­i­cant dif­fer­ence in the amount of oil that can be pro­duced via heat from sun­flower vs. cold press. While Rus­sia is the largest pro­ducer of sun­flower oil in the world the entire artist paint indus­try is NOT based on sun­flower. If KURT WEHLTE says so that is great. Unfor­tu­nately I am from there, went to school there and know a thing or two about it. The largest man­u­fac­turer of artist oil paint in Soviet was Yarka (and is) and they use Cold pressed lin­seed oil.

    I still think sun­flower oil is more suit­able for sal­ads. Also note that flax oil that is sold under that name is suit­able for salad. Mainly flax oil is not refined the way that it is cleaned for paint­ing use and named lin­seed oil. (I am not say­ing lin­seed oil is made from any­thing but flax seeds.)

    1. I have men­tioned that Rem­brandt used wal­nut oil. I did not say he used ONLY wal­nut oil. I am very well aware of the use of it in some of the paint­ings that we have in Her­mitage. Hen­drik van Balen was using it and his stu­dent Anthony van Dyck was also a very well known user of it as well as oth­ers. Also note that wal­nut oil dries slower but it works well in a medium with tur­pen­tine. The use of poppy and wal­nut for whites is due to its less yel­low­ing color. The rea­son for rec­om­mend­ing it for blues is the 3% Stearic acid of it, which helps to lower the sep­a­ra­tion of oil. Sep­a­ra­tion was not an issue in oil paint­ing until the inven­tion of tubes in 1841. Today the painters who do pre­pare their paints by rub­bing it out after exit of the tube do not have this prob­lem. It is only a prob­lem for using the paint directly out of the tube.

    2. Finally my real error! There are 2 prod­ucts made from Laven­der: Laven­der oil and spike oil of Laven­der. I have seen many painters think­ing of the Laven­der oil to be used for paint­ing, as it is oil. That is the one that you may buy for use as lotion and cure for insom­nia, alope­cia (hair loss), anx­i­ety, stress, post­op­er­a­tive pain and Aro­mather­apy. That is what I am warn­ing you about. Spike oil of laven­der is a dis­tilled prod­uct and it is thin and a dilut­ing sub­stance. It should not replace the bind­ing agent in oil paint: the oil. It is a thin­ner. While you can use the spike in place of tur­pen­tine for mak­ing medium for the smell fac­tor, I would not due to the process that is used today in mak­ing spike oil vs. tur­pen­tine.
      The lower amount of medium is used the bet­ter it is for the paint dura­bil­ity and health. Paint that was made prior to 1900 by hand or before that by the appren­tices or the painters them­selves had a higher amount of oil as binder since it was not made by machin­ery. As it was going to be mixed with medium it did not have a thick­ness as it is made and sold today. Most painters today who pre­fer to mull their own pig­ment and oil do not make it that thick either.

    Unfor­tu­nately I have no prod­ucts that I could sell to you.

  14. David says

    @Louis R. Velasquez -

    Louis,

    I’d like to bring to your atten­tion a point of inter­net etiquette—specifically, your habit of typ­ing in ALL CAPS. All caps, besides being harder to read, is gen­er­ally inter­preted as yelling. I’m sure that’s not how you want to present yourself.

    http://​en​.wikipedia​.org/​w​i​k​i​/​A​l​l​_​c​aps

  15. Louis R. Velasquez says

    Hi David, greet­ings to you and your read­ers.
    Yes David, I am aware of NETIQUETTE. But allow me to say you are correct…I am not yelling. And I thi­abnk you for your under­stand­ing. Its my habit to type with all caps because I never learned to type. I type with one fin­ger. But I can type real fast….IF..I just use caps or lower case..and time is so short and pre­cious. I will try not to use caps in the future on your blog. At the moment I am very short on time and tho I would like to respond to Ivan, I cant at the moment. Suf­fice to say I appre­ci­ate him shar­ing his knowl­edge with all of us. Im sure Ivan is a sin­cere, ded­i­cated, edu­cated artist…much like you David. Thanks again. — Louis
    PS: Please see the new meth­ods on cleans­ing the Unre­fined Flax oil on my web­site. IT’S FREE !! Like Ivan, I have noth­ing to sell except knowl­edge, and authors deserve the fruits of their labors. As Abra­ham Lin­coln said, ” An attor­ney is worth his time and knowl­edge”. Oh yes, I do sell the finest Supe­rior Linseed/Flax oil, but not to any­one or everyone.



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