How to accomplish "fat over lean" when using geneva paints

I'm new to painting in general, and especially new to oil paints. I just ordered my first batch of geneva paint, and they should get here any day now!

Anyways- I've been reading and watching videos in preparation, and it seems there's a universal principle to apply paint "fat over lean". However, my understanding of geneva paints is that they are pre-mixed with medium such that I shouldn't need to worry about adding more during my painting.

So, if I'm supposed to paint "thin" layers first, and progress toward "fat" layers, but the idea behind my paint is that I needn't modify its thinness... what am I supposed to do?!


  • edited May 2021
    "Fat over lean" refers to the amount of oil used not the thickness of the paint. "Fat" means  oily, "lean" means less oily. As I understand it, the Carder method is a la prima, wet in wet - you paint only one layer instead of building up the surface with glazes as previous layers dry. Since it's just one layer the problem of fat over lean does not arise. Even if your first pass dries and you want to do more to a painting you can do so with Geneva because subsequent layers will not be leaner than previous layers unless you add solvent to the paint. If you use the paint straight from the tube without thinning it with solvent there would be no problem. You could, however, add more oil so that you are painting "fat over lean". 

    Painting thick over thin is not really an issue either because that is not what Geneva paint is designed for. It has a runny consistency. It's levelling properties mean that thick, impasto brushwork is not really possible. It's deigned to give a smooth, even surface without ridges of paint. 
  • edited May 2021
    Hey @phildo,
     I'm no expert but i know this,with regular oil paint you want to be starting off with paint straight out of the tube and if you wanna add extra layers you should add a bit of medium. 
    I suppose it's because the layer with added medium takes longer to dry. If your top layer dries before your first (bottom) layer it might crack.  Other members might correct me if I'm wrong.

    About Geneva paints. Since they have added medium they are a bit more Fluid. I believe (not 100% sure) Marks paint is meant to be used for painting alla prima(one sitting,  no extra layers). In your case you shouldn't be concerned about the fat over lean rule if you're going to be painting one layer. If you want to add another layer you might wanna wait for the paint to dry because the paint is gonna mix together,  especially if you want to add white on dark coulors. If you add a white mix paint on a wet(already painted) canvas it might change to a different colour to what you mixed on your palette. 
     Hope it helps,
    Other members are more knowledgeable on the subject.

  • Fat is oil. Lean is turps or today OMS. You want faster drying in base layers. Fat is out of the tube mixes over base layers.

    It really doesn't apply in the same manner with Geneva. Which is meant for wet in wet painting. Of course you could thin it and add dryer for base layers and paint with out of the tube mixes for top layers.

    Glazing transparencies can be done over tacky dry paint. Glazing today is usually done with W&N Liquin, Gamlin Galkayd, Copal or other quicker drying transparent medium.

    For some the lean or base layers are done with acrylic. 
  • All these comments are great but they don’t really help me out with my dilemma. I would like to do a preliminary draft in thinned raw siennna (or whatever) before considering values etc. This is how I’ve always painted, regardless of whether or not the surface has a transparent stain. It sort of helps me get my bearings in the composition. 
    If I do this with the not terribly lean geneva stain, I’m afraid I’d be painting lean over fat. Make sense?
  • I don't think the intention of Geneva paints is to paint fat over lean. It's sort of a one pass kinda thing. Staying wet.
    I occasionally will paint with Geneva thinned as a underpainting then finishing with Geneva mixed with Cold Wax. It's a nice effect but a pain in the ass. Why not just paint with regular oils.
  • edited July 2021
    The answer is simple. Don't use Geneva stain if you want to put leaner paint on top of it. Stain the canvas with a very lean wash of whatever colour then do your draft.
  • I remember getting a little confused over fat and lean until I was put right on here a couple of years back.

    I had considered that my initial layers of paint with a little walnut oil (or walnut alkyd medium) were lean.

    I had wrongly assumed this because the layers were thinner in consistency than just oil paint.

    Then it was pointed out to me that adding oil to oil paint means its fatter as there is more oil.

  • Thanks everyone. I do use regular oil paint, but I love the idea of the toned canvas and palette to match, a la Carder. I think the short term solution (and I only say short term because this whole thing is an experiment to see if I like it), is to lay in my design with yellow pencil, and go from there without any lean sketchy work. Make sense? I’ll let you know how it goes.
  • Yellow pencil of the right kind should be fine, or pencil.

    I agree with the idea you can lay in with thinned Geneva.  I think you can also paint in with acrylic, it dries fast, the over top of that.

    You can also just start painting your composition in Geneva, Use an old stub brush, or whatever you like, but something that makes marks that are not too heavy.  Then you can simply carry on.  It is alla prima so you will eventually paint on top of a lot of it, and you don't have to worry about it, until you get to the point of some of it drying.
Sign In or Register to comment.