What kind of acrylic paints do you use?

The brands I use are primarily Liquitex and Golden. I favor the jar or ‘fluid” acrylics because they flow better and I often use glazes or watercolor wash effects in my work. In addition, I occasionally run them through an airbrush, which the tube colors are unsuitable for. I do keep some tube colors around for the very last stages of a painting, if there’s an area which calls for a particularly opaque and strongly stated layer of paint.

On occasion I use Golden Satin painting medium when I want to execute a wet-in-wet blend. Golden’s GAC 200 medium is very useful to me, as it’s the hardest medium I know of which imparts a gloss to a layer of color. Other gloss mediums can get sticky on humid days long after an acrylic painting is finished, whereas the GAC 200 stays hard and impervious to such changes. However, it’s rigidity makes it suitable only for non-flexible surfaces, so i can only use it when I’m painting on a panel or board.

What kind of oil paints do you use?

Mostly I use Winsor & Newton oils,   supplementing them with their Griffin alkyds when I’m in a hurry and can’t wait for a passage of some slow drying color (like Cadmium Yellow) to dry. I have an assortment of odd tubes of paint with particular colors available from Gamblin, Old Holland, Holbein, Rembrandt, etc. which I use on special projects.

I’m picky about some colors in particular. Only the Rembrandt Raw Umber, for example, has the quality and tonal richness I desire in that color.

The Daniel Smith Company keeps coming up with cool pigments to play around with, but I recently realized I have more materials than I’m likely to use in my lifetime so I’m determined to be strong and stop acquiring more.

Liquin was my medium of choice until a couple of older works of mine showed signs of delamination, which made me worry that I was using too much of it. I decided then to simplify things in the interest of safety and go back to a more traditional medium made up of linseed oil and mineral spirits.


What kind of brushes do you use for your acrylic paintings?

I have a wide assortment of brushes, and their use is dictated by the effect I’m looking for. In the course of completing a painting I can employ many different kinds of brushes – as well as sponges, fabrics, pipe cleaners, pieces of cut plastic, all kinds of wacky things – whatever does the job.

75% of the time I use synthetic brushes, but often towards the end of a painting I find that nothing short of a real sable or bristle brush will do. I save them for critical detail work and places where I’m seeking a very smooth blend. Watercolor brushes have the most utility for me since much of my acrylic painting employs thin layers of paint laid down in washes of varying opacity.

Do you use different brushes for your oil paintings?

I use mostly sable and hog bristle brushes, depending on the effect I am seeking, what kind of surface I’m using, and how fast I need to work. Dan Dos Santos turned me on to Utrecht synthetic sable oil paint brushes, which I find quite useful.

Do you have an airbrush that you can recommend? What do you use?

First off, I can’t recommend any type of airbrush “kit,” because I’m not familiar with them at all. I’ve always bought my stuff piecemeal and I don’t really know what’s available or who’s offering what.

I’ve tried all sorts of airbrushes, from top of the line Iwatas to Badgers and Paasches, double action as well as single action models, and the old reliable Paasches H series have been consistently useful. They are the easiest to clean and maintain, work best with my methods, and interrupt my work flow the least. But they have definite limitations, and a much coarser spray than other models…but then again, I am always trying to force a thicker paint fluid through them than I should be.

I’ve recently reopened my Iwata Eclipse models and have been using them for retouching and fine detail work, and man, they are amazing. Wonderfully crafted and hard working tools. On paintings that need repair work done the Iwata’s have proven to be invaluable tools, as their precision and ease of use are unmatched in my experience.

  • For gessoing panels and large sheets of watercolor board, I use an Iwata W-88 spray gun. I also use it for spraying final varnish layers on my acrylic paintings.
  • For large areas on my acrylic paintings (I don’t use an airbrush on oil paintings of course), I use a Paasche H series single action airbrush. I actually have two hooked up, one with the H-1 tip and nozzle and the other with an H-5 tip and nozzle. I use one or the other depending on how fine the application has to be, or how broad the surface area to be covered.
  • I use a pressure ranging from 20 psi to 60 psi depending on how thick the paint is, what kind of coverage I am looking for, and whether I want any spatter effects, etc.


What kind of boards do you use?

The terms “boards” in the illustrator/artist sense can mean anything from actual wood panels to sheets of watercolor or illustration paper mounted on heavy archival cardboard or museum board.

One of my favorite surfaces is D’Arches watercolor paper mounted on 100% rag museum mounting board. It’s a wonderful and sensitive surface to work on. The other kind of “board’ is usually understood to be some kind of composite wood surface such as Masonite. To avoid confusion I refer to these as “panels”.

What about panels?

My favorite is a commercially made product called Gessoboard (from The surface is ideal for acrylic work, with almost a magical ability to keep the paint workable far longer than other surfaces I’ve tried. There’s a new set of primers from a company called “Colourfix” which I like very much because they have an extremely aggressive tooth, and sometimes I’ll coat a Gessoboard with such a primer.

Is there a particular kind of canvas that you prefer?

I use Fredrix Polyflax or Ultrasmooth for some of my paintings on canvas. Others are done on Claessons linen, among other brands. I like to buy canvas when I can actually feel it and see the weave with my own eyes, so I don’t buy it online.

Sometimes I mount the canvas on panels because I like the rigidity of the surface as well as the creative inspiration I get from the canvas weave itself. Now that there are archival canvas panels available, I have been painting on some of those, but I make the larger ones myself.

What sizes do you like to use?

Since most of my illustrations are on watercolor board, and the board comes in sheets of 30″ x 40,” many of my illos are in derivatives of that size. When I was just starting my career a front cover painting would run about 16″ x 20″, though many were smaller. As the years went by, however, I found my work getting larger and larger.

Also, after the first few years a greater proportion of my work was intended for wraparound cover designs, which were by their design already twice the size of what I had been doing before.

Most of my work for publication these days is 24″ x 36″ or larger, whether a front cover only or a wraparound, depending to some extent on the subject matter.

My self-commissioned or gallery works vary greatly in size. I suppose that in some ways I’m choosing sizes that are deliberately different from what I get to do in my published work. hence, many of my gallery paintings are either diminutive in size (8″ x 10″ or smaller) or quite a bit larger (4′ x 4′ or greater).

Many of the themes that seemed destined towards my gallery work have a gravity or sense of significance to them that impels me to make them large. Part of it comes from a desire to have the image encompass as much of the visual field of the viewer as possible. A larger work automatically becomes a more immersive experience for a viewer, it can’t be avoided.

I’ve seen many works –some of them ones that I did myself– that would have been much improved by being larger. Dali’s “Persistence of Memory” , for example.


Do you use the computer in your work?

It’s a great layout and sketching tool and that is primarily what I use it for. I’ve no doubt that Leonardo would have used one for just that purpose, if he could have.

I’m less excited about making final output digitally, though I have done so for some CD cover art and other purposes. I like tactile feedback, being able to run my hand over canvas or watercolor paper or whatever, the feel and smell o the paint. It’s like a symphony for me. Why would I seek to deny myself that wonderful experience?

Nonetheless, over time my computers, scanner and printer have been incorporated into my workflow in different ways. It is common for me now to go back and forth from my drawing table to the computer and then back again while composing a book cover painting, swapping or transforming elements and then revising them with traditional media until I arrive at a design that works for me. But the final rendering is almost always painted with conventional media.

Virtually all modern illustrations are “digital” now by the time they arrive at the art director’s office; at some point an image becomes a digital file for publication. It’s just a matter of personal convenience or preference at which point the artist decides to go digital. For me –usually– that point is at the end of the process.

What kind of computer do you use?

My primary studio machine is an iMac which is in it’s own room with a large format scanner and printer.

I use a MacBook Pro upstairs in my main studio. I’ll dump scans of reference photos and sketches into a slide show which I’l keep running as a background resource while I’m working. I can easily carry it into whatever room I happen to be working in at the time, and helps to diminish the clutter in my work space [ha!].

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