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What are my favorite oil painting surfaces?

Over the years, I have painted on almost any surface that I can think of. So what is my preference? Well, I like all of them. Here are some of my favorites:

  • Oil primed linen – I wouldn’t try to prime your own unless you have months to wait for it. Oil primed linen doesn’t absorb much of your oil paint
  • Acrylic primed linen – This is my recent favorite. I put one or more layers of quality grade Gesso with marble dust (a.k.a. calcium carbonate)
  • Acrylic primed cotton canvas – This is fun for messing around.
  • Aluminum panels – Painting on aluminum panel can be fun. You can also put linen canvas on it. Be super careful with this, though.
  • Acrylic primed wooden panels – Put a few layers of Gesso on the wooden panel to get going. You can also put GAC100 medium from Golden so the oil paint doesn’t go through the wood.

Are you interested in painting over Acrylic Gesso? Read these:

General Recommendation

Do some research before you purchase expensive painting surface. If time allows, you can experiment preparing your own canvas from scratch. Use cotton to practice and gradually move on to linen canvas. And, if you really want to use oil ground, save it for the last layers. Remember that it could take a while for oil primed surface to dry.

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Eco-friendly Oil Painting – Part 2

My search for a safer way to paint with oil colors have made me research all different types of reds, yellows, whites, and black colors. I have listed them in the Part 1 of Eco-friendly Oil Painting.

The absolute Eco-friendly Oil Painting option is to limit your colors to use natural earth based colors, and eliminate the use of solvents. I hope I can lead up to that in the coming series, so stay tuned!

At the time of writing the Part 1 of this series, I had listed a few options for red pigment, but I actually narrowed it down to Pyrrole Red as mentioned below. Pyrrole Red has been used to replace cadmiums and other reds, and based on my experience, it’s an excellent color.

As of February 2021, my recommended minimal palette for painting portrait stands as follows:

Color IndexNameBrand RecommendationBrand Name
PY42Yellow Iron OxideMichael HardingYellow Ochre
PW6Titanium WhiteWilliamsburgTitanium White
PR254Pyrrole RedWinsor & NewtonBright Red
PBk9Bone BlackWinsor & NewtonIvory Black

Above are fine choices for beginner artists. There are cheaper painting options, but it’s worthwhile investing on better paints. In the long run, making solid painting material option will save you considerable time.

I have also used Vasari Oil Paint and I like them very much for its silky consistency. When painting with Vasari oil paints, the tend to require less oil and/or solvent. If you have a few extra dollars, go with Vasari.

Color IndexNameVasari Color Name
PY43Natural Yellow Iron OxideYellow Ochre
PW6Titanium WhiteTitanium White
PR254Pyrrole RedPermanent Bright Red
PBk9Bone BlackIvory Black

Although there are lots of colors one can use for painting now, I am definitely a minimalist when it comes to painting in oil.

Material Links

  • Bright Red (PR254-Pyrrole Red; Lightfastness: Excellent) – Excellence choice from organic, red pigment options.
  • Yellow Ochre (PY42-Yellow Ochre; Lightfastness: Excellent) – One of the oldest and safest pigment of all times, allegedly enjoyed even by cavemen. Some companies also use PY43, but I prefer Michael Harding.
  • Titanium White without Zinc – (Williamsburg: PW6-Titanium White) – This pigment is considered completely non-toxic. Titanium became the most commonly used pigment since 1940s. Be mindful that this Winsor Newton Titanium White contains Zinc White, which has been known to be problematic in the recent years.
  • Ivory Black (PBk9-Ivory Black: Lightfastness: Excellent) – Ivory Black is a misleading name since it’s no longer made using Ivory. The ones that are in the market is made from Animal Bones, and is referred to as Bone Black.

Eco-Friendly Oil Painting Series

  • PART 1 – Know the dangers of using solvents and chemicals
  • PART II – Recommended Colors for Portraits Painting

Interesting External Content

Non-Toxic Oil Painting

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Egyptian Woman With Earring – Master Copy

John Singer Sargent was born on this day, 12 January in 1856. While American, he was born in Florence, Italy. As a gifted artist, he studied and traveled widely. I have seen much of his work, but I didn’t really get to learn more about John Singer Sargent until I moved to New York City–I must have slept through that day when my art history teacher was talking about him.

John is probably most well known in the US for his Madam X painting at the MET. That’s a beautiful painting. I still remember encountering that painting for the first time.

If you happen to visit the Metropolitan Museum, though, I highly recommend seeking out to see John’s works there. There are many of his paintings there thanks to a number of folks that joined force to purchase John’s works. And, you can learn all about that if you are into American Art History and all.

Egyptian Woman With Earring - by John Singer Sargent
Pencil Master Study of Egyptian Woman With Earring by John Singer Sargent

Visiting the Metropolitan Museum can be exciting. Before the Pandemic, I would visit the Museum frequently. I went there so much that I even have my preferred route to the American Wing. I am not going to reveal my secret passage here, but you know the route if you have gone there with me–it’s the best route.

Once the museum opened again to the public, I have gone back to examine John’s works once again. This particular drawing is called “Egyptian Woman With Earring”. There are two paintings of the same woman. At the moment, they are hung next each other. I sat down right in front of them for about 30 minutes for this quick master copy. In honor of his birthday, I decided–remembered–to finish this little drawing that I have forgotten all about. Happy B-Day John!

My Favorite Painters

Anthony Van Dyke

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The Other Drawings from 6 January 2021

Pencil on Paper, 11” x 8.5”

This is the other drawing from Wednesday, January 6, 2021. I never got around to share the first drawing because it had been interrupted by the US Capitol Riot–I posted my second drawing: a police officer in riot uniform.

Today, I found myself looking at this, thinking that I will always remember January 6th when I look at this particular drawing. I have been working to better capture values of what I see by making use of all the shades of gray at my disposal: 10B to 10H.

Oh, btw, I uploaded a video on Instagram, demonstrating how I use a lighter pencil to roughly shade a portion of this drawing. Shading with pencils can be a messy business, and there must be a better way.

Every so often, when I paint or draw, there are occasional A-ha moments. These moments come in small waves, in complete silence, but with unusual confidence, letting me know that I am progressing. And, I suppose that’s how Democracy is built on as well. 

Drawing Pencil Recommendation

  • Hi-uni Graphite Pencil Set, 22 Pieces – These are main Graphite Pencils. The Hi-Uni Graphite Pencil Set includes 22 different hardness grades, one each of 10H, 9H, 8H, 7H, 6H, 5H, 4H, 3H, 2H, H, F, HB, B, 2B, 3B, 4B, 5B, 6B, 7B, 8B, 9B, and 10B, in a nice aluminum case.
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The US Capitol Riot of 2021

A mob rushed the US Capitol yesterday. 5 people, including a US Capitol Police Officer, have died as a result of the mob that stormed the Capitol.

Mob (noun): A large, angry crowd, especially one that could easily become violent. – The Cambridge Dictionary

Mob (noun): a large and disorderly crowd of people – especially : one bent on riotous or destructive action – Merriam-Webster

And, what do you call it when a mob attack police officers in riot gear and march into the US Capitol?

The US Capitol Riot of 2021
Police officers dressed in riot gear secure The US Capitol

Related Links:

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Georgia on my mind

All the news about Georgia is interesting, but I find it amusing that whenever I hear the news about Georgia, I can almost hear the song, Georgia on my mind, by Ray Charles. Do you know it? If not, I embedded a version of the youtube video for your viewing and listening pleasure at the end of this article.

I have been experimenting with a number of sketches for my next project, and I have incorporated some ideas with this portrait, mixing some of my early year painting style with contemporary realism ideas. They don’t really go together just yet, but I will keep at it.

I have heard so much news about Georgia this week in the States because of Georgia’s Senate race. There has been much speculation about what could happen based on who wins the race. 

Between all the news about Georgia’s Senate race, I was drawing a portrait, which I appropriately named it: Georgia. It felt like the right name for today’s work after all the talk about what’s happening in Georgia.

26/100 Faces

Related Post:

Materials Used:

  • Blackwing Pencils – Used by famous artists since first introduced. These pencils drive nicely.

Finally, here is Ray Charles, singing Georgia on my mind – Live 1976

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100 Human Challenge (25/100) – A Boring Portrait

#100faces #100faceschallenge

A Boring Portrait

This is my first 2021 portrait–executed on 4 January 2021. This is the 25th of my #100humanchallenge I started at the end of 2020.

I began to draw this painting after spending an hour or so reading and listening to news. I wasn’t entirely sure how far I wanted to go with this drawing. After all, these portraits has been a side project, allowing myself to tune the way I see the world.

Meanwhile, according to news, the world is having a real tough time dealing with Covid-19:

  • In the States, there has been 352K of deaths from 20.8M cases.
  • More people are traveling, despite all the cautionary recommendation. I suppose that’s how us Americans have believed from the very beginning: give me freedom or give me death.

Of course, I am not here to judge what’s right or wrong, but merely recording what I am listening to.

Let me finish my thought on this pencil portrait…

So I have enjoyed using pencil to record what I see. My method of recording mostly has been quick, expressing what I see with line drawings without much shading. I was never a fan of sitting around and drawing for hours with pencils, but I have been pushing myself in the recent months–when I sit down to do these portraits for an hour or two, that’s definitely way beyond how much I am willing to invest on pencil works.

The same portrait at an earlier stage.

The portrait felt pretty boring to me, but every drawing or failed work could be a stepping stone to a masterpiece!

Materials used for this pencil portrait

Tombow Mono Professional Drawing Pencils – These are the ones that stay in my bag at almost all times. These are very reliable pencils for every day use.

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Portrait Paintings

A Few Paintings and Stories from 2020

2020 has been unpredictable. The first half of the year was especially strange. Experiencing the complete lock down of New York City, and all the uncertainty of the near future made everything so strange.

Escaping from all that uncertainty–to my surprise–created unexpected opportunities, connecting me with artists from New York City and beyond.

The selected images on this post showcases some of the works that I created from January to June. The following are the excerpts from my Instagram posts:

January 3, 2020: This is the final product that transitioned me from 2019 to 2020. I finished it around 11:30 AM today.

January 26, 2020: Oil on Canvas – 30” x 24” – Daedalus & His Wings — This is the final view of my latest project. Sending huge thanks to Donato for the inspiring pose!

February 17, 2020: Oil on Canvas—27” x 48” inches: This is the final product. This project—which was executed from Jan 27 through Feb 14—brought lots of good personal memories. Besides my own stories, here are 5 stories that caught my attention in the course of 3 weeks: (1) Kobe Bryant and daughter Gianna died in helicopter crash, (2) The Coronavirus scare accelerated as new cases of the virus found in U.S. patients–noticeable number of people in New York City has been wearing face masks, (3) On 5 Feb 2020, Trump was acquitted on 2 Articles of Impeachment, (4) Pentagon diverted $3.8 Billion to pay for a wall along the U.S. border with Mexico, (5) Bumble Bees are disappearing due to climate change.

February 28, 2020: I am about to check out “Countryside, The Future” exhibition at #Guggenheim. Oh. In case you are wondering, I safeguarded my latest portrait—still work in progress—from coronavirus.
Swipe to see how the painting developed today: I worked on the face and the hands, btw. PS: Seriously speaking, stay safe out there and remember to wash your hands often!

March 10, 2020: Painting slow and painting fast—After spending 2 weeks on my last painting—I need another day or so to finish that painting—I returned to paint an #allaprima to loosen things up a bit. I find it helpful to paint a long and short paintings concurrently and also drawing constantly—See my post yesterday for samples: As some of you might know from looking at my drawings, I am a big fan of quick drawings, especially line drawings.

April 11, 2020: Oil on Linen – This is my first finished portrait of my wife, one of the dedicated New York City Teachers, who has been teaching our New York City students during the COVID-19 pandemic.

As some of you know, the NYC department of education unleashed distance learning to 1.1 Million Students, while continuing to provide FREE ‘Grab and Go Meals’ to all those in need. My hat goes off to teachers, the department of education, and supporting organizations.

This portrait was executed in 3 phases on the following days: April 5th, 6th, and 8th.

May 13, 2020: Oil on Linen, 10” x 8”, title: Raising Covid-19 — Here are the latest stats on Covid-19 (World) 4.3 Million+ confirmed Covid-19 cases, 292K deaths. (United States) 83K deaths—28% of the confirmed deaths in the world thus far come from the United States. I suspect comparing these stats among countries don’t mean much since the majority of the countries are not counting—or testing for that matter—the same way we are counting here in the U.S. No worries, though—We are still # 1.

May 28, 2020: As we welcome the return of traders to the floor of the NYSE this week, here is a painting to remember this epic week—a life portrait of my friend @dougholtstudios, a fellow artist here in New York City.

June 12, 2020: We have welcomed the reopening of New York City after so many weeks of being quarantined. Some states that had opened up first have been reporting increased Covid-19 cases, but that is no surprise. One thing is for sure: reopening of our economy will require relentless forward movement.

Here are the latest stats on Covid-19 (World) 7.27Million+ confirmed Covid-19 cases, 413K deaths. (United States) 116Kdeaths—28% of the confirmed deaths in the world thus far come from the United States. 

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Being an Artist & Building Digital Network

The Winter Holiday Season is the best time to sell art works, but I decided to save my energy and focus on getting ready for 2021. I am comfortable with the progress I have made in 2020.

Safest way to ship oil painting is in a wooden crate.

As you might have noticed, I have taken a break from posting my works on social media channels in recent weeks. I had been posting consistently for a while, but I took the break from all that is Digital and Social when the 2020 Presidential Election was at its full swing. The major social media channels had taken steps to prevent fake news and information from flooding the media, which I suspect also prevented my posts from reaching my audience. So I stopped posting. 

Following the decision to free my time from social media and all, I have been focusing on planning my 2021 painting projects and finishing 2021 projects.

One accomplishment worth noting: I upgraded my website. While my website functioned well and looked fine before, I have learned that there is a lot more that has to been done to connect my website to all digital assets and channels. For Example:

  • Search Engine Optimization (SEO): When you google “je artist”, my website finally shows up on the first page.
  • Online Store: Securely sell my art works online: My works has been sold and shipped using my online store this year.

The entire process of getting the website up and running took a few months, mainly because I needed a body of work to put on the site. Having a website, without enough art works, made no sense. Right?

Another item worth noting is that now I have a pretty good handle on shipping my art works. All my works above $300 will ship inside a wooden crate that I make from scratch. After looking into various shipping container options, making my own crates made sense. It makes me feel safe to send my art works securely on well protected crates.

A sample shipping crate.

Some artists have the luxury to just to paint, but that hasn’t been the case for me just yet.

That’s all for now.

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Eco-friendly Oil Painting – Part 1

I am writing down how to ‘paint safely using oil colors’ to invite new artists to try using oil colors instead of other alternatives in the market. There is much to learn, so I will publish related content in several, bite-size, posts.

Painting with oil colors comes with a heavy cost to some artists. Some oil colors contain toxic chemicals—such mercury, cadmiums, cobalt, lead–and oil color mediums to change oil colors or to clean your brushes can be extremely harmful. Despite the dangers of these chemicals—let me assure you—that oil painting is a safe sport.

The absolute Eco-friendly Oil Painting option is to limit your colors to use natural earth based colors, and eliminate the use of solvents. I hope I can lead up to that in the coming series, so stay tuned!

The dangers from the toxic materials weren’t well known until recent decades, so it’s not surprising that some of the best known ‘dead’ artists had been careless: Carravaggio often used his painting palette as a plate, Van Gogh apparently drank paint thinners, and many artists painted with bare hands, exposing them to chemical poisoning. Perhaps it was the result of chemical poisoning that made Carravaggio go off killing people, and changed how Van Gogh see colors with higher shades of yellow.  

So why use oil colors? Well, because many oil colors are “organic” and safer than newer, heavily advertised artist painting materials. What do you think will be more dangerous: eating oil colors made from earthly materials vs. ingesting Acrylic paint?  But the major reason to paint with oil colors is the quality of the end product that is more vibrant and closer to living things.

Here are 3 main practices that I have experimented to paint safely: 

  • Make use of non-toxic colors
  • Stop or Limit the use of paint thinners
  • Make use of Acrylic Paints for underpainting

I will discuss above practices in upcoming posts. Let me end today’s posts by inviting you to read a post from August 2020 and recommending you additional two colors to start your oil painting journey. Once you have read my two posts, you will be armed with four colors for portrait painting: Ivory Black, Red*, Yellow Ochre, and Titanium White–This is a safer alternative to Zorn Palette, named after Anders Zorn.

RED

*Anders Zorn used Vermillion (PR106), which is an opaque reddish orange pigment that is super toxic if ingested. Many artists now use Cadmium Reds, which is also toxic. Here are some additional options that I have experimented.

  • Bright Red (PR254-Pyrrole Red; Lightfastness: Excellent) – Excellence choice from organic, red pigment options.
  • Scarlet Lake (PR255-Coral Red; Lightfastness: Excellent) – yellowish red pigment – Not completely safe, but better than Vermillion.
  • Winsor Red (PR255-Coral Red, PR254-Pyrrole Red; Lightfastness: Very Good) – PR255 as a yellowish red pigment. PR254-Pyrrole Red, used originally developed to replace carmine and naphthol reds, another possible replacement color for Vermillion. Again, Winsor Red is also not completely safe, but better than Vermillion.

Yellow

  • Yellow Ochre (PY42-Yellow Ochre; Lightfastness: Excellent) – One of the oldest and safest pigment of all times, allegedly enjoyed even by cavemen. Some companies also use PY43, but I prefer Michael Harding.

White

  • Titanium White without Zinc – (Williamsburg: PW6-Titanium White) – This pigment is considered completely non-toxic. Titanium became the most commonly used pigment since 1940s. Be mindful that this Winsor Newton Titanium White contains Zinc White, which has been known to be problematic in the recent years.

Black

  • Ivory Black (PBk9-Ivory Black: Lightfastness: Excellent) – Ivory Black is a misleading name since it’s no longer made using Ivory. The ones that are in the market is made from Animal Bones, and is referred to as Bone Black.

Eco-Friendly Oil Painting Series

  • PART 1 – Know the dangers of using solvents and chemicals
  • PART II – Recommended Colors for Portraits Painting