Tuesday How To: Priming Over an Oil Painting.

Every artist at some point has a scrap pile, burn pile, do-over stack, or dark corner relegated to castaway works.

I have my fair share of those. Some are my own atrocities, others are old abandoned student works from my time in college, or the occasional thrift store find – paintings that I collected for their scrap value in canvas and stretchers bars.

Well, those horrible creatures lurking in dark corners haven’t been paying their share of the studio rent, so it’s time to put them to work.

The thing is, priming over an acrylic painting is not a big deal. You can find gesso just about everywhere that has an arts and crafts section. But to cover an oil painting is a little trickier because regular gesso will not form a proper bond  with the surface of the oil painting, and eventually your hard work will come chipping and flaking off over time. This is why you must use an oil-based ground or primer to cover up an old oil painting.

Make a used oil painting surface new again by following these simple steps:

What you will need:

  • An oil painting that you’ve salvaged for the canvas and stretchers
  • 150 grit sandpaper 
  • Can of Oil Ground (mine is made by Gamblin)
  • Gamsol or other Odorless Mineral Spirits
  • A shallow bowl or dish that is solvent-proof and only for use in the studio (I prefer to repurpose tuna cans because they are wide and shallow)
  • Pallette knife (or butter knife, only for studio use )
  • Hog or Synthetic Hog Brush with firm springy feel, about 1 inch wide or whatever is best to cover the size canvas you have.
  • Patience – you must let the ground dry for about 1 week before you can start your painting.

1. Use 150 grit sandpaper to scuff the surface of the oil painting to be covered. Run your hand over the sanded surface to make sure the canvas feels smooth and any brush strokes or texture has been smoothed evenly. Use a clean dry rag to wipe away any excess dust when you are done.

2. At an estimated 2:1 ratio, scoop out some oil ground with a clean knife and place it in your bowl. For 2 parts oil ground, we’re adding 1 part Gamsol or Odorless Mineral Spirits (OMS) to the bowl and mixing them to a brushable consistency. 

3. Coat the painting until it is covered. If you like, you may add a 2nd coat after the first layer tacks up a bit. See the directions on your can for recommended drying times.

You now have a painting surface that will be ready to use in about 1 week.

You may add oil color to your ground if you wish to tint your 2 coat. This could affect drying time. 

Gamblin’s oil ground is faster drying than some other brands, and uses an alkyd resin instead of linseed oil, so it has great adhesion properties for long term durability and conservation.


Field Sketching in November.

Yesterday I packed up my painting gear and drove to Dave’s Falls County Park near Amberg, Wisconsin.
It is about a two hour drive away from where I live, so it makes for a great day trip. 

The rocky terrain makes for a stunning change of scenery. 

I had visited this place with my family when I was a kid, and it made a lasting impression on me. I’m not sure why it took me 25 or more years to come back to it, but I know there will be many return trips in the future.

I lugged my gear along the best I could, but with a late start, limited daylight, overwhelmingly beautiful scenery, and a rocky, rooty path, my little cart remained parked where the trail forked at the bouldery rapids.

With so many acres of beautiful scenery to take in, I simply could not decide where to paint or how to get my equipment there. 

So, before I left the park, I did a quick sketch.

I took many photographs for references later, but I would like to return better prepared – with a backpack (instead of a cart) full of paints and panels so that I can paint from life.

Last Week In Review: Studio Happenings

Last week was quite the busy week at the studio!

Wednesday’s Panel Production Lab was a success. Marty cut and built several panels, large and small.

The next Panel Production Lab will remain To Be Announced, due to upcoming scheduling conflicts.

Earlier last week, I began a project to convert blank wall space into utilitarian wall-mounted workspace by installing pegboard.


After a few trials and tribulations, the project came to a successful conclusion!

So far, I like the vast amount of work space that this offers versus that of an easel. Time will tell whether the hooks offer a satisfactory support hold on things, especially for unmounted panels.

Well, that about sums it up. See you next time!


Small Work

Every year, a local arts organization holds a fundraiser called the Small Works Project, in which artists and members of the community can sign out an 8×10-inch canvas, make some artwork on it, and return it.
The canvases are then raffled off during the Small Works event later in summer.
There are no rules other than that the artwork has to fit within the 8×10-inch size, and must be returned before the event.

This is palette knife painting I did the other night is my contribution this year.


Sansevieria, acrylic on canvas, 8″ x 10″   June 2015


Some thoughts on my current painting…

I’m stubbornly and slowly – very slowly – applying the last areas of color to my last big painting for the show that opens this Saturday, which we will be installing tomorrow night.

This particular painting has been a little bit weird for me, but not in a bad way. If I didn’t have the approaching deadline staring me in the face, I probably would have stalled out and let it sit to the side for weeks, or months even.

Nevertheless, I plowed through my awkward blocks and am very close to finishing.

I snapped this detail shot because I really liked where the painting was taking me at the time:


In the end, what I like about this painting is that I felt free to just make things up as I went along. I can’t explain why that part of the experience was more apparent with this painting as opposed to others, but I do know that I felt some personal growth, as a painter, while working things out.

Some in-progress images:


The finished painting along with other new works will be on exhibit from May 9th through June 13th at:

Frank Juarez Gallery,
1109 North 8th Street,
Sheboygan, WI, 53081.
Open Saturdays, 10am-4pm, and by appointment.