When it comes to painting with wet-on-wet, it is important to be given to the fact that you’ll be putting one layer of paint over another that is already wet. The less paint you use in the bottom layers, the easier it’ll be to put layers on over top. This is because thin coats dry some before you put the next coat on, though this isn’t the primary reason a thin coat is better than a thick coat. A thin coat of paint will stick to the underlying surface in its integrality. If you put a thick coat of paint on, only the bottom layer of paint will stick to the underlying surface while the top layer of paint will be free to move and slide across the underlying layer. When you then attempt to put another color over top, you’ll get mixing. The key is to use as little paint as possible. You can always add more if it isn’t enough. You will find that very little paint is required for the wet-on-wet technique and that your paint will last longer than you ever thought possible.
Of course, watching Bob is the most effective way to learn the wet-on-wet technique, the strokes involved, the way to mix paint, and how to utilize the tools. However, what Bob doesn’t show you is as important as when he does. In the beginning of many episodes, Mr. Ross will state that a thin layer of liquid white, clear, or black has been put on the canvas, but you never get to see him actually place the layer as it would take too much time. When he says thin, he means thin. Once again, less is more. In general, the layer should be thin enough that if you touch it gently with one finger, you’ll just be able to view the ridges of your finger prints. You should hear scratching sounds as you brush the layer on. If you believe you have used enough, you have probably used too much. You can always wipe away excess with a paper towel if you’re it before you start painting. Try the finger technique. It may take a pair of tries to obtain the right coating. However, once you do your paintings will be glorious.
This really goes along with tip # 1 to a very large deal. When you make a mountain, it’s very important to really scrape hard to remove excess paint. You want to see canvas through the pain layer after you’re finished scraping. Don’t worry, there is enough liquid white (black/clear) to enable you to pull the little paint that is left to make the mountain shape you need. If you use too much, then the highlights won’t go on well and will mix with the under layer to create a muddy mix that sound like a mud slide on your mountain.
Continuing This Conversation About Oil Painting
In standard oil painting, the base layers are permitted to dry before other layers are placed on top. A thick paint is placed over a thin paint with this method. The exact opposite is true for wet-on-wet painting. Thin paint will go on over thick in this setting. So, when you’re having trouble making layers stick, thin them ever so slightly with paint thinner to obtain the effect you desire. Be careful to use as little thinner as possible. Start with a little and add slowly until you reach a consistency that will stick. If you thin the paint too much, it will run all parts of the canvas and will thin the paint that is already there creating a big soupy mess and a ruining your hard work to that. I know Bob says there are only ‘happy accidents,’ but I guarantee you’ll not be pleased if you use so much thinner that the paint begins to streak because this is one accident that cannot be fixed easily.
You may find that your initial painting looks a little dull. Let it dry for a few days and watch as the colors slowly come to life and brighten up. Keep this in mind as you paint because a sky that is a beautiful pink when wet may become an angry red when dry. This is something that will take experience to master, but bear this in mind as you go and your learning curve will provide a little less steep.
Don’t expect to get done with these paintings in the time that Bob Ross does. You will require at least 90 minutes to complete what he is doing in thirty minutes. In general, you’ll spend more time blending, shaping, and mixing than he does. Perhaps after you have painted over 10, 000 paintings like Bob Ross, then you’ll be that fast too. Until that time though, do not beat yourself up for being a little slower. Take your time and appreciate the process.
When Bob puts in trees over top the mountains, he never seems to pickup any of the mountain or highlights on his brush and can make a whole tree without going back for more paint. This may be his paints or his technique or the camera. Whatever the reason, I haven’t been able to achieve this without the necessity for more paint. I can usually get in 2-3 braches over the mountains before I have picked up enough of the mountain itself to dilute the color I am using for the tree. I remedy this by gently brushing the unwanted color onto a paper towel and then getting more of my tree color. It takes longer. However, it gives the best possible result. Bob may simply not possess the time to do this. The other possibility is to think the paint you’re using for the tree. I find thinning the pain is less viable than the technique I have just described. Try both and see for yourself, but I imagine wiping the brush and doing 2-3 branches at a time will work best for you as well.
If you don’t use the exact same colors as Bob Ross, don’t expect to have the same colors when you mix them together. This is probably most obvious when using yellow and blue (or brown or black) to get green. He will come forward with a beautiful green. However, you may not. This may have to do with the exact pigments you’re using (midnight black isn’t the same as lamp black) or the quantities in which you’re mixing them. Start slow and see what happens, but do not be deterred if you do not come up using the same color, you may simply not be able to accomplish such a color with the nature of paints you have.
Don’t over mix colors. Watch Bob carefully and you’ll see that he has various levels of mixing. Sometimes he only gives a few passes of the brush or knife to create a mottled, barely mixed effect. At other times, he mixes until the blending is 100%. Places where over-mixing can be problematic is with highlight colors on trees, bushes, and mountains.
When mixing your colors, use your palette knife and not your brush. A palette knife can be wiped completely clean so there is no possibility of your colors becoming contaminated. Your brush is made for painting and not mixing in addition, you can shorten the life span of your brush if you’re continually mixing with it.
I like to have a small number of clean brushes near by when I am painting. This way, I don’t need to stop and clean my brushes when I am working with another color and there’s less danger that the wrong colors getting into the mix.
Paint when you have a couple of hours to devote to set-up, work, and clean-up. Don’t rush yourself or you’ll never enjoy the process. Each time you paint you’ll learn something new and be prepared to try something else the next time you paint. Enjoy the learning process and enjoy the mistakes because the mistakes will teach you far more about yourself and about painting than if you get it right the very first time.