Monday, May 21, 2012

Bob Ross was an oil painter who taught wet-on-wet technique in a running series with PBS,“The Joy of Painting,” 1983-1994. Because Bob Ross spent some time in Alaska and claimed to get his inspiration from the majestic Alaskan landscape, Alaskan artists abroad are often asked if they knew Bob Ross. He died of lymphoma in 1995, in Florida, his home state.   

His predecessor on PBS, Bill Alexander, ran a show called “The Magic World of Oil Painting,” from the 1970s to 1982. He was born during the First World War and grew up in deteriorating East Prussia. He was drafted into the Wehrmacht during World War II. Captured by Allied troops, he made himself notable by painting portraits of Allied officer's wives, thus paving his way to the United States. Bill said his early years helped him realize in painting, just like in life, you must have the dark to see the light, life has shadows as well as sunshine.  He died in 1997, in British Columbia, Canada, where he lived in a small cabin with his family, and a great view.  He was known as the “Happy Painter,” because he often referred to the subjects in his paintings as “happy trees,” “happy little clouds,” “mighty mountains”.... etc.
Our Painting classes spent over a week practicing still-life observation and layering in the traditional oil painting techniques: from a lean underpainting of brown washes, through a thick application of heavy mixed tube-paints for mid-tones, then, soft blending, oily over-glazing, and finally, the application of small flecks of pure white for highlights! 
Then, for “fun,” we tried to follow along with a Bill Alexander video tutorial - 
Wet-on-wet oil painters prime their canvas with a solution of medium + solvent + white paint. this allows for soft, wet-blending for days, and, it means you save the white of your canvas for your brightest spots like watercolor painting, rather than painting dark-to-light, like traditional oil painters.  Bill waxes philisophical in a heavy Polish accent and commits his painting magic so easily its hard to keep up with his shared secrets, but we learned even more about oil painting. 

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