Greetings from Kentucky (U.S.A)

How in the name of ultramarine linseed did I get here?

I'll be fifty years old in a couple of years and I have touched a canvas only once in my life before today. (I have always worked for charities and nonprofit organizations all my life.  One held a fundraiser at a local place. The shop would donate a portion of each person's admission to the event to the charity for which I worked.  We were each supposed to paint a tree on our canvasses.  I'm not quite sure I did.  To this day, there's still paint there on my canvas as proof that I painted something once, but I think my dog could have made something more interesting and attractive. 

I say that to convey that I am a perfect test case for a premise such as a belief that "anyone can learn" or that people with "no talent" can suceed.  Oil painting on a canvas, like an artist, is about the furthest thing that anyone in my life, including me, might imagine me ever trying to do.  I don't draw.  I can't currently draw anything that looks like a person, forget actually capturing a likeness.  Prior to finding this website, I couldn't identify a John Singer Sargent from an Edward Hopper.  

So, how did I get here?

Well, I saw an advertisement in my Facebook feed.

Not for DMP, but for a class to learn to paint portrait faces using oils and tiny brushes in one of those really hyper-blended styles.  Never having seen anything quite like that, I said "Wow!  That's amazing!  That's a photograph, not a painting!  What if I could could paint my wife like that!!! Or my kids!!! Or even my dog!"

So, then I started googling.  

I settled here because I appreciated the facts that A) Mark's basic lessons were free, he didn't hold out the promise of magic secrets if I gave him more money, B) he tells you how to build yourself most of the stuff he sells, and C) I liked the look and style of the portraits he showed that he's painted.

I've read through the class a few times.  I've browsed the forum here a tiny, tiny bit.  I've now watched almost every single free video.  

I have three big take-aways.

First, binging everything on the YouTube channel is a whole lot of Mark Carder in a short amount of time.  

Second, I've discovered that I absolutely love the work of Ilya Yefimovich Repin.  

Third, I've taken the plunge; I ordered the basic set of oils and from other places I have purchased some filberts and some linen panels.  I would have bought Mark's palettes, too, if they'd been in stock.

As I await the arrival of these supplies, I wanted to introduce myself here, in part because a.) some of you here sound like you are almost as crazy as I am, so I might fit in here just fine; and b.) I know I'm gonna need a ton of help.

To that end...

I haven't started yet, and I have questions already:

1.)  What is the "shelf life" of oil paint  (specifically, the tubed Geneva with the medium in, because that's the only oil paint I have now purchased)?  How long is "good" unopened on the shelf?  After opening and using some of it?  [Keep in mind I don't know what "good" means.  I just saw some of your photos of your studios and I saw dates written on your paint tubes, so it got me wondering.  (One of you had also written the date, and what appears to be the word "pig" on the Geneva tubes, and I'm still running potential scenarios through my mind in search of that meaning.)]

2.)  Why is the color-checker's circle black?  If the canvass and pallette are both stain-color so the colors won't appear darker than they actually are against a bright value white or lighter than they are against a dark value black, shouldn't the same reasoning apply to the checker?  (I suppose color perceived is color perceived, and black does isolate the colors extremely well, but I just wonder if it is making both colors look lighter than they actually are, and that is yet another reason why people expect their paintings to be brighter than they are when hung on a dark wall.)  

3.)  Is this a bad plan?

A.)  First, a still life with three objects.  This is nothing like the type of thing I want to paint, but I'm committed to following the method, and won't cut corners with the first painting, and will do things just the way the method requires.  Shadowbox, proportion divider, color checking, mixing all the steps, etc.  In case it is not total garbage when finished, I will assemble the still life with colors and items that match the theme and decor of one of the rooms in our house (in case I can live with actually hanging it).

B.) Next, after finishing the first one, I will two complementary 12x12 pieces.  We have one room in our house where we have two prints that size that feature dark rust-orange poppies (that match the decor in that room perfectly).  The prints have faded almost to white becuase they are right beside the window. (My wife likes the idea of matching the colors but is not committed to poppies.)  So here's my thought.  My first preference is this: I have one photo of my son, and one photo of my daughter, both inside Antelope Canyon.  The swirls of rock are large and the children are not full frame portrait-size.  Not the best original reference, but definitely sufficient.  I would probably take the shortcut of using saral to transfer just to make things look right.  (Is something like this too extreme of a jump for a second attempt?  Is this a question that is more appropriate after we see the results of my first painting?  A distant second option would be to go the easier route and just do two 12x12in paintings from an online photo of dark orange flowers with no sentimental attachment.)

C.) Eventually, I want to do nice head and shoulder portraits of members of my family.  I'd especially love to do one with both of my children and the family dog.

I have no delusions of becoming a famous artist, or even ever being able to even sell anything I paint-- but I do want to put in the effort to see if I can make some things that might be special for my family.


  • Your first painting should be very simple, as should the second one.  By the time you have done a couple of simple paintings, you should start having a feel for color and value and using a brush. You will also feel slightly discouraged some of the time.  Ignore discouragement its worthless.  Oil paint in a tube has a very long shelf life.  I won't tell you how old some of my paint is because you might assume that I'm to old to breathe.  Above all enjoy yourself and don't stress about stuff.  And welcome to the forum.
  • Thank you.  I'm hoping to at least learn a little bit about values, color, and light as I put brush to canvas.

    When watching Mark Carder paint the three peaches, I was just blown away by the color mixing.  He picks up a touch of one color, a touch of another, a touch of a third, and them boom, it is the perfect value and "tone," SO fast.  Then he says, "This video is just 35 minutes, but it really took me 8 hours."  That really helps me brace for the need to be patient with myself.

    I wanted to give the Antelope Canyon paintings to my wife for Christmas this year (and varnish later.)  Maybe I need to aim for next year, instead.
  • Hello and welcome @Dustin_Cropsboy! i think the most important thing is to start painting. even if you choose wrong subject or whatever you will learn tons from your mistakes. don't worry too much about the result give yourself time to learn and don't stop painting :)
  • Thanks.  I know there will be many, many challenges to carving out the time to do it regularly.  Still, I'm excited to try.
  • edited November 2020
    Hi, @Dustin_Cropsboy. Welcome to the forum.  :)

    @Oilpainter1950 is right.  In the beginning, keep your subject really simple. And I agree with @ArtGal. Make a start. and Just paint.  :)

    Re your questions - 

    Paint in a well sealed tube from which air has been expelled will last pretty much indefinitely.

    The black on the colour checker ring isolates colour well.

    Your plan sounds fine.

  • Welcome .  Once you get started you’ll see how the checker works.  The paint will last in the tubes a long long time.  
  • Thanks, everyone for the warm welcome, and for taking the time to read my wall o' text!
  • aloha aloha and welcome 
  • edited December 2020
    Thanks for the warm words of welcome.

    Today's update...

    I remember fingerpainting in kindergarten and I painted a really, really lousy version of a tree using acrylic one time, but other than that, I've never painted anything else, certainly not in oil.

    While I am waiting for more of my supplies to arrive (namely, Rosemary brushes), I decided I would go ahead and stain a surface or two.

    I am trying to "play by the (DMP) book" as much as possible.  So far, I have deviated in three choices:

    Mark said he doesn't like canvas panels, but I chose to obtain a three pack of "Centurion Deluxe Professional Linen Panels."   At this point, my painting probably wouldn't look any different if I chose shag carpet, paper, cotton, or linen-- but I was curious, and went for linen (even if it was a panel).  The second point of deviation from Mark's recommendation was:  these panels were oil-primed, not acrylic-primed.  My guess is Mark likes acrylic-primed for his work becuase of conservation reasons, but that is not an issue for me with the first thing I will ever try to paint, and, the OP were on sale.  Since Geneva pallettes are not currently in stock, I bought two pieces of tempered glass.  They are much smaller than I'd like at just 11x14inches (28x35cm), but I can upsize later.

    So this morning I put the first coat of the Geneva stain on all three 12x12in panels and the backs of both of my 11x14in pallettes.  I did not attempt to account for the blue shift in the glass; I did not add any paint to change the color of the stain to correct the appearance of the color on the back of my pallette. 

    I was surprised by how dark it was out if the tube.  I applied it outside, but I was not in direct sunlight.  Either it will dry a value or two lighter, Mark's museum quality studio lighting is very bright, I have my phone and computer monitors set way too bright, I applied way too thick, I didn't shake the tube long enough, or other issues I haven't considered.  Could be a combination of multiple factors. 

    I am attempting this, in part, because I hope to practice focusing and being mindful.  However, today's simple attempt to slap stain on a few surfaces yielded nothing of the sort.  Today did, however, bring brief bursts of panic, scolding, and some of my best unintentional comedic buffoonery to date. 

    Today's lesson learned: Don't begin to stain a support without a plan for cleanup.  (And it's even more important corollary: remember-- your wife doesn't rejoice in the use of a kitchen counter and sink to clean a four-inch brush with bristles filled with splattery thin oil paint).

  • edited December 2020
    The first three works in my latest "Foundations" series...
  • It has taken me waaaay longer than I thought it would, but I am gradually inching closer.

    How it started...

    ... and how it's going:

    (I was forbidden from painting the basement walls, so I purchased the cheapest curtains I could find.  Turns out they were vinyl shower curtain liners.  They have much more reflective sheen than I wanted, but they actually do kill the glare from the white walls when I use my pallette.)
  • Drapes are great. These are much easier and less expensive to change later if you ever decide this. I like your progress.
  • You're making good detailed preparation, @Dustin_Cropsboy. I look forward to seeing your first painting.  :)
  • Welcome to the forum! I'm new at this, too. Looks like you have everything well at hand. Good for you.
  • Nice studio setup. I suggest putting a substantial vertical easel into your budget or build one. Leaning into a maul stick slightly really helps in detail work. That requires a substantial easel. 

    Also, one advantage of panels is that they will support pressure from your hand or pinky finger when you draw. But you need a solid easel for that to work. 

    I’m a novice and shouldn’t be giving advice but I wanted to share what I’ve observed so far. 
  • That's really good advice. What type of easel are you using? @ken

    I've been contemplating a way to use the existing (built-in) workbench, and existing shelf as a starting base for a self-built, (very modified design) easel.  I keep fluctuating on the design, but I want to get some real painting under my belt before I start nailing things down (literally) so I don't construct something that is unhelpful.  

    This week is turning into another one with nothing but sixteen hour and twenty hour work days.  Makes it hard to build... or even paint.

    I'm also keeping my eye on Jerry's sales on the Carolina, too, becuase if one of those gets low enough, I'll snag it and make it work with my lighting setup.

  • tassieguy said:
    You're making good detailed preparation, @Dustin_Cropsboy. I look forward to seeing your first painting.  :)
    Lol, (me too).
  • I built a wall easel that moves left to right and up and down on French cleats. You can search wall easel online and get the gist.  Mine is oak and quite an elaborate design. I’m a woodworker with a well equipped shop. Mark has an easel design on dmp that is banged together from 2x4’s that is a smart design. 
    I’ve seen professionals who screw long strips of wood to the stretchers and then screw the strips into a sheet of plywood that has been anchored to the wall. No easel and the painting ain’t going anywhere. 
  • Nice work!  I like the idea of the strips to stretchers and strips to plywood sheet, too.
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