Craft & Studio

What is good craft?

And what produces a beautiful AND durable work of art?

Durable Gesso

Premium quality acrylic gesso is applied in 2 layers layers that leave traces of brush marks. It dries really fast in my studio, especially in winter. There’s a furnace right next door. Great for freezing Minnesota winter! The sealed panel surface will not absorb any of my beautiful oil binder.

I prefer a bit more of a toothy surface that will reveal the process of applying color. Surface and all edges are covered to ensure a good seal that won’t deteriorate over time. Acrylic gesso is a great for this purpose, although rabbit glue gesso is supposed to be excellent. I’ve never tried it, but the masters knew what they were doing! I raise the panels off table surface so there will be less gesso sticking to bottom.

Filberts, rounds and flats.

Rich Underpainting

Next comes a thin layer of underpainting. Since my area of interest is landscapes, I tend to use earth tones such as raw sienna or yellow ochre. My reason is that sky blues tend to pop better with a complementary color below. And since I like to allow shards of underpainting to show through, the effect is quite intense.

Another reason to use a base coat of color is that it unifies the whole painting to create harmony of color. Another way to create unity, by-the-way, is to let your paints bleed together a bit while working. Little pieces of paint mixed together randomly can produce some very striking and interesting results.

My beautiful mess.

Premium Pigment Load Paint

A long time ago, in another life when I was at the College of Visual Arts in St. Paul, Minnesota, I learned to paint. Or rather, I learned to hate to paint. Coming from a Prismacolor and graphite background with all those pointy little pencil ends, painting was unruly, unpredictable and unmanageable. Upon acceptance to the school, I was told, “We’re taking away your colored pencils.”


For the first couple of years, I detested painting. I was a bit high strung visually. But after awhile, I learned to loosen up and came to embrace to randomness that was painting.

From almost the beginning, I found Utrecht paints to be my best friends. And maybe I should expand a bit, but my palette hasn’t changed much either. Now owned by Blick, I am still attached to that label.

See that honey jar? Full of linseed oil. I really like my paintings to look wet when they’re done. So I add a bit of extra oil to keep things moist.

Quality paint is not ‘Studio’ grade (also called student grade), but Professional Grade. What’s the difference? The amount of pigment is much higher in professional paints, as well as quality binders – the oil that holds the pigment together. Color fastness – the ability of paint to resist fading – is also much higher in pro paints. And we all want paintings to last forever. Right?

Palette table.

Hand Crafted Canvas Stretchers & Panels

My canvas stretchers are built and stretched by hand in my shop. Each canvas is stapled on the back – not the side – of the canvas. To me it’s just more professional looking and enables collectors to hang paintings without a frame. No frame? Yes! Because each stretched canvas is painted on the edges for a complete look.

My canvases are also gessoed using premium quality acrylic gesso. It’s the same process as the panels with two thin coats to seal the surface, glazed with an earth tone color, and they’re ready to roll. Speaking of roll – my canvas is cut from 12oz. cotton duck. I buy my canvas in bulk rolls and size as needed. Again, only the best quality canvas.

So why panels instead of canvas? Both have their own strengths and weaknesses. I really love the hard surface of a panel because it shows more process and it’s easier to blend colors on a hard surface. But the ‘giving’ (bounciness) nature of canvas is enjoyable as well because it creates a different surface effect. I switch whenever the mood hits me.

Hand crafted wood stretchers.