Category Archives: Technique

Using a Jump Board to Start an Abstract Painting.

Lately I have been working on large paintings. Because of the time involved I was missing the instant gratification from doing smaller studies. So I set aside some time to do a “rapid series”. This is freedom at its best! I work on paper and set up to do 6 at once. As I usually work from pure intuition in this approach I do a series of thumbnail sketches. I get my idea by using my plein air viewfinder and looking for strong compositions in magazine photos. These are not the entire photo but just a little part of something. This really hones your eye for composition. I then take my idea and draw several value studies and variations on the idea.


Now I am ready to get to work. I am using 300 lb. Arches cold press watercolor paper for these. I start by tearing the paper into half the long way and then into thirds. This gives me 6 pieces that measure 10 x 11″.  I then use the blue low tack painters tape and tape a boarder. Because I like working square I use two rows of tape at the bottom. My finished painting will be 8×8″. I learned this tape trick in a Gwen Fox workshop I took.


Now it is time to gesso the paper. The reason for this is to seal the edges of the tape and to reduce the absorbancy of the watercolour paper as I am going to be painting with acrylic. Today I choose white gesso for my ground.

I want to set some parameters before I start so I am not like a kid in the candy store!

  •  Limit my palette, I am using Quinacradone Nickle Azo Gold, Titanium White, and Cadmium Red
  • Charcoal for mark making ( I like how this smudges with the paint and greys it down)
  • My trusty kitchen timer (I use the Pomodoro technique to keep my focus)
  • A working matt to fine tune my progress ( that blue tape is distracting)
  • One Catalyst blade
  • Fine liner Bottle
  • 2 flat paintbrushes

I think I am ready to get started.  I set the timer for the first twenty five minute session.

I work on all six paintings simultaneously. The first thing I did in this series was to make some marks with the charcoal.

charcoal on paper

Now it is time to start adding in the colour. I am using the Titanium white and the Nickel Azo Gold for the back ground layer. I love how the charcoal mixes a muted gray because it is not fixed.

Charcoal with wet paint

I refer to my value study to block in some mid tones with the Nickle Azo Gold

Blocking in mid tones

Now it is time to add some black  shapes. Notice how I scratch back to reveal some of the under colour. I use a bamboo skewer or  a knitting needle to do this.

adding black shapes


The cool thing about working on six is by the time you get back to the beginning of the row the acrylic is dry.  Oh oh-the timer just rang!  Time for a five minute break before another session. This keeps my focus strong!

Finishing up is where you need more focus. I start by looking at them individually in the matt now to get a sense of what they need.

I will use the Fineliner to draw some black lines and the Cadmium red to add my accent circle. How I get that perfect circle is my little secret!  I go back and add some more white and scratch back with my catalyst blade.

Exploring Cold Wax and Oil

After -Adding strength to focal area

   Emerging Thoughts

12×12” Cold Oil and Wax


I love experimenting with new mediums. After working with encaustic I was excited to experiment with cold wax. The beauty of it is that you do not need to fuse the layers or vent the toxic fumes.  I love being able to create textures in it and build up layers. It is a medium that lends itself to my process. The two products I have tried are Dorlands and Gamblins. They are both great products, depending on how you like to work. The Gamblins is stiffer than Dorlands. I also experimented with making my own however was not happy with the results. Maybe I will give it another try one day!

Gamblin’s  explain “Cold Wax medium is made from naturally white, pure beeswax. Formulated to knife consistency, Cold Wax Medium makes oil colors thicker and more matte. Cold Wax Medium can be used to make Gamblin mediums and Gamvar more matte. It can also be applied alone as a matte varnish” If you want more info you can download a pdf here.

Rebecca Crowell is a cold wax and oil painter and you can get a great PDF she wrote with a lot of information from the Jacquard website.

You can also get a lot of information from the group site set up by Rebecca

As part of my

Art a la Carte Series

I will demonstrate oil and cold wax on Mar. 22.

Find more information on my workshop page.




Catalyst painting blades and wedges

Just got some of the new Catalyst blades and wedges and can’t stop playing with them. Not quite a brush and not quite a palette knife! They are the perfect tool for me for many reasons:

  • Unlike brushes I can leave them in water without them deteriorating.

  • They are flexible – they will replace my credit card  scrapers.

  • They are ergonomic and feel good in the hand.

  • Able to use them with, acrylic,oils, and are heat resistant for use with Encaustic. Potters and culinary chefs are using them too!

  • Easy to clean – clean up nice with soap and water and are solvent resistant.

  • Blades can be separated from the handle for cleaning.

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See more Catalyst Blades and Wedges