As an art student I attended several schools. At one of them, the National Academy of Design, in New York City, I recall a particularly fascinating course, titled Painting Materials, Methods and Techniques, taught by Dr. Furman Finck.
The first thing I learned from Dr. Finck was that the jars of ‘gesso’ I had been priming my panels with wasn’t gesso at all, but an acrylic substitute. The real gesso, he showed us, was a silky white gypsum powder, the best quality of which was imported from Europe.
With patience and gentle encouragement, Dr. Finck taught my classmates and me how to prepare canvases and panels to paint on, and how to properly grind pigment powder to make oil paint. The lessons I learned peaked my interest in the nature of artist materials. Shortly thereafter, I became an apprentice to a framer, Timus Bowden, who ran a large studio in mid-Manhattan. There I assisted in restoring and gilding enormous Baroque frames and period Neoclassical furniture, among other things.
My knowledge of gilding and framing eventually connected me to a position as a painting conservator, which became my profession for more than fourteen years.
As a painter, I rely on these experiences, as a student, framer and conservator, to inform my approach to the materials and processes of oil painting. This experience, along with numerous visits to view master works throughout the US and Europe, has helped to me discover the best color palette, media, and supports to work on. For instance, I prefer to paint primarily with non-toxic earth colors.
As a painting instructor, I formerly taught a semester-long Oil Painting Materials course at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. This year I offered the course as three-day workshop at the Palette and Chisel Academy of Fine Arts in Chicago’s Gold Coast neighborhood. My students and I had a heady weekend stretching canvases, making paints and gilding with 22K gold leaf. The images are sample colors charts and my students working on projects.
I am offering The Oil Materials Workshop at the Palette and Chisel this fall. The dates and times: September 12,13,14 from 9 am—4 pm.
If your are interested, please register by following this link:
or call 312-642-4400
I thoroughly enjoyed Painting Materials Workshop. There are very few people that teach this. If somebody wants to learn how paintings and pigments are put together in the dutch painting tradition: This is the workshop to go to. It was fun, we learned about a lot of topics and met some very interesting people along the way. All the basics were discussed. Everything is usable. And some of the materials we used were simply amazing. What fun to learn painting in this way!!!
"Helen Oh's weekend workshop on prepping surfaces for oil painting was excellent. From making rabbit skin glue, gilding a panel with gold to making color charts from pigment, the participants gained an enormous amount of knowledge about materials. We also had 'hands-on' experience preparing paper, linen canvas as well as panels for oil painting. Helen demonstrated how to make gesso, egg medium and oil paint from pigment. It's an opportunity to understand better as a painter the importance of having a well prepared support for your work. Helen shared historical techniques with the class that are still used today. I highly recommend this workshop."