Preparation of Supports

There are a number of things you want to achieve
in preparing your support. To begin with, you don't
want to have to paint on an over-absorbent
surface. Not only is it frustrating, oil paint is
expensive and you don't want to be wasting gallons
of it soaking into the canvas. Furthermore, oil paint
is somewhat corrosive, and so you want to create
some sort of barrier between the paint and say, the
raw canvas to protect it. Traditionally, this was
achieved by applying a coat of rabbitskin glue.
Today, most artists use an white acrylic paint
(gesso) for this purpose. Gesso is easy to apply,
dries quickly and covers extremely well.

Another thing to consider is texture. By applying
several coats of gesso, sanding gently between
coats, you can create a smoother surface.

You can also tint your support by mixing a little
acrylic colour to your gesso.

Commercially prepared canvasses already have a coat
of gesso on them. However, you might find that
that they are still a little "thirsty" and would benefit
from another coat or two.
Use this idea to give yourself a license to break away from the notion that you have to
reproduce the colours you see and instead use colour as means to produce a satisfying image.
Another liberating exercise I have used in the past is to take my three primary colours and re-
label them. Tape the word “Yellow” to you tube of ultramarine, “Red” to your Cad Yellow, and
“Blue” to your Cad Red. Then, use the paints based on the labelled names. Sure, you might
have yellow skies over blue-bricked buildings, but you will be surprised to find that the finished
product is not as wacky as you might expect.
The “Duet”
One approach to colour is what I call a “duet”. In this approach, the painting becomes an
exploration of one colour and it’s complementary colour. (The complementary of a colour is
the one found directly opposite it on the colour wheel). This doesn’t mean you only have two
colours in the painting. Other colours however, will play a subsidiary role.
La Cuppola - Urban street scene- King Street, Toronto - Original Oil painting by Dermot McKeown