Questions and Answers

Members have suggested a Question and Answer Section:

  • Pen and Ink
  • Oil Painting and Framing

    Pen and Ink - the answers kindly given by Anne Bonner.

    Q What type of pens are best/recommended for general sketching? (e.g. technical pens, fibre tip, calligraphy (dip type), bamboo).

    A For my drawings that will have watercolour washes added I need to use waterproof ink. I use Faber-Castell artist pen in size S or F and a sepia colour. Others I have used are Eddings 1800 profipen (size 01) in a sepia/burnt sienna colour and also Staedtler pens. The water soluble pens are useful for sketching and the line softened with a damp brush. My favourite pen for this type of drawing is the Rotring cartridge pen. This can give a very dark wash when whetted so use carefully but it is lovely to draw with. I find that the fibre tip pens give more control but do give a rather uniform line. The dip pens produce a more interesting line but do not flow as smoothly on the paper. It is always a good idea to try all sorts of pens but the ink should always be light-fast (not all coloured inks in bottles are) and beware the coloured pens that give one colour when dry and then another shocking colour when wet!

    Q What are brush pens and how do you use them? (which are the best types/makes)

    A The only brush pens I have used are Art-Kure. They come in small packs with just a few colours. I find them hard to use. You can buy , what is called, a colour sketch brush (same make) which holds water and has a brush on the end. I use this in preference to the coloured ones and use it to blend water soluble ink or watercolour pencils.

    Q What type of paper due you recommend? (water-colour paper (weight), cartridge paper, tinted paper)

    A I use 140lb(300gm) Arches Hot Pressed watercolour paper as I use watercolour washes over my drawing. I always stretch my paper and this gives a very smooth surface to draw on. If the paper is not going to be used for washes then good quality cartridge paper is suitable for pen drawings. Tinted paper can be used but I would rather stretch some watercolour paper and put a variegated colour wash on first. I think this gives a more interesting result.

    Q If using dip pens what ink should be used (Is the distinction between waterproof or water-resistant important? )

    A I have not found any reason that you cannot use either type of ink with a dip pen. I usually avoid using dip pens.

    Q Any hints on techniques to use for various subjects

    A I think the marks you make for various types of things are very much up to the individual. I try to use as many broken marks as possible. Dots and Dashes, hatching and squiggles. I try not to use marks when doing skies and water but leave that to the washes that go on later. Rocks, grass and trees etc can all be done with loose lines and hatching. There are two books that I found very useful when I started drawing with pen and ink. They are 'Pen & Ink Sketching' by Peter Caldwell (Batsford ISBN 0-7134-7909-4) and 'Townscapes in Watercolour' ( he uses an ink drawing underneath the watercolour) by Richard S Taylor (Batsford ISBN 0-7134-6808-4)


    Oil Painting and Framing - the questions were asked by Marianne Wilding and the answers kindly given by Bob Hill.

    Question 1

    Should you varnish oil paintings, if so when and what with.

    Answer 1

    Oil paintings, where the surface is exposed to the atmosphere, should have some form of transparent protective coating and varnish is used in one form or other by most oil painters. Otherwise there is a danger that dirt and dust will eventually become ingrained into the paint. Most picture varnishes today are soluble in turpentine. This means that the dust and grime that builds up with time can be removed without damaging the paint and then a new application of varnish should follow. The choice is matt, gloss or satin (mixture of matt and gloss) varnish which will depend on the finish that the artist wishes to portray. The critical question is when to apply the varnish. Care must be taken to ensure that the varnish is not applied until the paint is dry. Retouching varnish is a temporary protective varnish for use soon after a painting is complete but the application of the main varnish should only be applied after the paint is completely dry. This may be more than 6 months with heavy impasto applications or when linseed or poppy oil is used with the paint.

    Question 2

    What is Damar Varnish, and is this a good varnish to use?

    Answer 2

    I have no experience using Damar Varnish. Can anyone else help?

    Question 3

    What brands do experienced oil painter’s use?

    Answer 3

    Jackson’s mail Order has a range of their own brand of varnishes, which are a competitively priced alternative to the established brands (Windsor & Newton or Rowney) sold in most art shops.

    Question 4

    Do they paint the varnish on with a brush with the painting laid flat, or do they use a spray?

    Answer 4

    A further advantage of varnishing is that it can lift colours that have dried in an uneven or dull finish. I tilt a painting when applying the varnish but the important point is to apply it evenly and check that bits have not been missed by looking at it from an acute angle with reflected light behind. It is easy to miss small unvarnished areas if viewed directly onto the painting. I apply varnish with a brush but care must be taken to ensure that loose bristles are not left in the wet varnish. I have not seen picture varnish in a spray form. DIY spray varnishes are not recommended as they tend to yellow and are not soluble in turpentine for long term future cleaning..

    Framing of Oil paintings

    Question 5

    How do you start to choose frames for oil paintings and how deep should the rebate be?

    Answer 5

    This depends on what ground you have used. If you have worked on approximately 3mm thick oil board you will find that you have a wide choice of frames, but if you have worked on stretched canvas you will find that the choice of frame moulding is considerably more restricted and the wider the frame the more limited the choice becomes because the wider canvas frames require a deeper rebate. Some artists prefer not to frame work on stretched canvas and often continue their painting around the edge returns to the canvas, however, I personally prefer to see a painting sitting within a frame particularly if it is to be displayed in one’s home.

    Question 6

    Some frames need a "slip" to separate the wood from the picture, or else it seems to close the composition down. But a slip, or mount?

    Answer 6

    Some artists prefer to display their work with a front facing rebate, where a ‘slip’ is required to ensure a uniform gap between the edge of the canvas and the frame. I would suggest that mounts are only appropriate when a painting is displayed behind glass (otherwise the mount would inevitably become soiled)

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