A Smattering on Painting Technique and Questions

At work in the studio during my short love affair with the hand-held pallette

At work in the studio during my short love affair with the hand-held palette

This post was originally one of my first, in a series on technique.  The post, “The Difference Between Drawing and Painting” has had over 1100 views since I posted it.  I’m a slow learner, but I think maybe some of you out there would like to see more of my thoughts on technique.  Please, please leave comments, though, because I am not a mind-reader, and will not know if this is of interest to you, unless you leave a comment.  Comments are appreciated, and I will respond to you! And now, here we go:

I go into this territory with a bit of concern.  Let me explain why:  My first training in traditional portraiture was with Miles Mathis.  He insisted that we learn pastel work, used in a painterly fashion BEFORE we were allowed to move into oils.  Miles considered himself an “intuitive” artist.  Basically, there was no method, and no set formulae.  He also gave no direct pre-instruction.  About every six weeks, we would beg him to do a “demo”.  We would watch him work for 3 hours.  There were times when I hated him and became frustrated from the lack of direct instruction.  Now I know that he actually helped me develop as an artist in a complete fashion.  Once, I sneaked off and took a painting class from a New York Italian, who held workshops in the “Italian Rennaissance Style”.  Miles was so derisive and said that “Method” painting would ruin me.

Thank God for Miles.  Some people do just fine with systematic, formulaic styles.  But truly, I am so left-handed that I have militated against this way of working all of my life.  Now, I am not about to say that I am a “self-taught” artist. I have read many technical books. I even own and have read books about brush technique. I own several painting DVDs.  Actually, I learned a lot about painting by putting the DVD on slow-mo and painting along with the artist.  I read artist’s biographies, and I took more classes from other teachers.  The best of these painting teachers was Elizabeth Locke (more about her later).

And now, with that long introduction, we may discuss painting technique, as exclusive to the live oil sketch.  But not right now.  I have rambled on too long, and must do some studio work.  I promise to return to this subject.

If you found this post interesting, and would like to hear my ramblings on the subject of painting, please leave a comment or morsel.


  1. Posted October 1, 2008 at 7:50 pm | Permalink

    wow. that is beautiful. I look forward to reading about your thoughts on the technique!

  2. Posted October 11, 2008 at 3:49 am | Permalink

    Hi, Grace.

    Thank you for the compliments and encouragement.

    I love your blog on coffee. it is the only coffee blog that I go to daily. You are so cute!


  3. Posted October 26, 2008 at 5:19 am | Permalink

    I see your wonderful color charts in the background — did you use the Richard Schmid book for inspiration on doing those? I did them too and they were sooo helpful. I’ve learned from books and videos too, but also really appreciate studying a good teacher when I need help. I’d be interested in hearing more about the videos you like.

  4. Posted October 26, 2008 at 2:17 pm | Permalink

    Hi, Jana.

    Yes, those are from his Alla Prima book. I did them during a painting block that lasted several months, and then I never used them except for decoration. It’s not that I don’t think they are useful, I just wing most of my painting. I have a huge failure rate because of this way of working, but I can’t seem to be methodical. In this same post, you will see that I try to excuse bad habits as the “intuitive process”. 🙂

    The best teacher EVER is Elizabeth Locke here in Austin. Seriously, I know a woman that has studied at Beaux Arts in Paris, and w/ all the heavy-hitters, and she says that Elizabeth is the best teacher of them all. Go no further.

    You are past the video stage. Your plein air work is superlative and shows a complete understanding of the landscape as a room with background wall, middle ground (the furniture), and foreground. Your color work is fabulous. If I may be so bold, I would say this type of work is where you should go.

    Thank you and nice to talk with you!

    ~Lavanna Martin

  5. Posted March 21, 2009 at 11:51 am | Permalink

    Yes please, do continue with the technique discussion – very interesting indeed. And what a great studio you have there!

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