Painting Thin Lines and Fat over Lean – a blog question

I had a question from one of my Blog visitors a short while ago and thought my answer might be of use to others, so here it is –

Here’s the question

“Hi Jason,
Thanks for putting this up. Excellent info. I have some additional questions though.
I was wondering how you deal with the lean and fat rule in oil-painting since you mention a wash over previous layers. Also can you give some information about the consistency of the paint you use for whiskers? I always have trouble with these long, clean curvy lines, even with a rigger brush. The paint just doesn’t flow from the brush and when I thin the paint to improve the flow it becomes too transparent.
How fast do you paint 1 whisker, is it a quick swoosh of the brush or do you slowly drag the brush along the surface.? Hope you have some tips because these are the things that you normally don’t read in tutorials”.

Here’s my answer

“Good questions, I use Alkyd Oils which dry quite fast and hard, and currently I thin my paints with an Alkyd type thinner (I’ll find out the make and post here), similar to Liquin, which improves the flow when required, I’m not using any other oils etc so I think that takes care of any fat over lean type stuff.

I honestly don’t worry about that stuff too much myself, as I’m not doing anything to excess.

If I need the paint to slip / flow even more, eg when painting whiskers, I will also add a little odorless paint thinners to the mix. So to paint a whisker I would get some paint (white for instance) dip my brush in alkyd thinners, mix it a bit, then dip my brush in a little odourless thinners and mix that in too.

There is a fine line between too little and too much alkyd thinners and odourless thinners, which as you have found, will cause the transparency of the paint. Practice is the only way to really know.

I paint a whisker in one movement, at a moderate speed approx 1 second to do 5-6 inches.

Sometime, but not always I will need to carefully go over the whisker a 2nd time to make it nice and opaque (let the 1st layer dry 1st).

One important thing to consider is the texture of the surface you are painting on, ie if you are using a rough grade canvas it will be VERY difficult to get a nice even flowing line, when compared to a finely sanded board, for instance.

I use a fine grade canvas – often called a portrait canvas.

To make it even finer you could paint an additional layer of gesso on top, let dry fully then sand with some very fine sand / glass paper”. This will certainly make painting flowing lines MUCH easier.

Alternatively prepare your own painting panels out of MDF (UK term I think) and a few coats of Gesso, sanding between coats. This is certainly the easiest surface to paint flowing lines on and is great untill you get a lot of experience.

Hope that helps

How to Paint Fur – Tiger Tutorial

UPDATE 13th May 2013

As promised I have listened to your opinions and just completed my brand new eBook packed full of ADVANCED fur painting techniques and tutorials. The eBook is called “How to Paint Animals” and is available right now for instant download and also on a computer CD (for a limited time only)

Full details are on my wildlife art tutorial site or click the photo below 🙂

advanced techniques painting fur

advanced techniques painting fur













From the Poll it appears that most of you would like to see more fur tutorials and tips, so here is an excerpt from an article I wrote in Artists & Illustrators magazine, if you didn’t see the article in the mag hopefully you will find this of use 🙂

It might appear that I painstakingly brush in each individual hair. But that type of painting can become very tedious, so I concentrate on just giving the impression of detail such as fur and hair.

I use fast-drying Winsor & Newton Alkyd Oil paints – which consist of pigment in oil modified alkyd resin – so there is minimum waiting time between drying stages.  Whether you paint tigers, gorillas or poodles, the following stages will help you depict realistic fur…

Image number 2) This is the blocking-in stage. Paint the colour and tone deep down in the fur, the area you can see between all the surface hairs – it’s frequently a dark brown or grey. At this stage, don’t worry about details. Your aim should be to give the animal a solid structure. The details will come soon enough, and you will need something quite dark underneath them.


Image Number 3)  This is really a mid-texture stage.

Remember: fur is made up of not just hair but also air. There is usually depth to it, so try to imagine what it would feel like as you paint it. This stage helps to create the appearance of depth and thickness to the fur – I frequently do it while Stage 2 is still wet. Use quite loose brushstrokes, especially when painting long fur, and try to detach yourself from thinking about where each stroke is going to go as you paint. If you think about it too much it can look regimented and unrealistic. Always paint in the direction of the fur’s growth.


Image number 4) Complete this stage after Stage 3 has fully dried (essential if you are going to glaze). Begin by knocking Stage 3 back with a fairly dark glaze (a thin wash of colour). This then automatically becomes mid-depth fur. Then, when it is still wet, add the final details using a rigger brush. It’s surprising how few details need to be applied over the other layers to give the illusion of fur.


Image number 5) Refine the fur, glazing where necessary and adding a touch more detail here and there – in the case of this tiger, whiskers and the white hairs on the surface of the coat.


Hope you liked it and don’t forget to leave your comments 🙂

This Tututial is also in my brand new ebook with even more text.

Learn to paint site

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You can download 2 FREE pages right now – PDF files

Giraffe Painting – Finished

Well thanks everyone for completing that last poll – very interesting – I’ll adjust my new posts to cover your comments:)

Interestingly composition received quite a large number of votes and for this latest Giraffe painting I felt the composition was lacking somehow.

I was happy with the grass and also the giraffe, but although the giraffe was supposed to be moving, he / the scene, seems somewhat static. One way to make things look  like it’s moving is to blur it a little, I’m sure you have all seen photo’s of racing cars that are blurred a bt to make the car look like it’s moving fast. But that wasn’t going to work in this instance, he just wasn’t moving THAT FAST! Ha… I just wanted the giraffe to look like he was gentle walking – so what could I do?

Well I finally decided that by adding some birds, moving from the giraffe towards the tree it would lead the viewers eye, creating that subtle feeling of movement I was after. Also to make the composition more pleasing I chose an odd number of birds (3 oxpeckers), and made sure they were all unevenly spaced too.

Hope you like the finished result (note due to the contrast of the photo the giraffe looks a little cut out – it’s better in real life 🙂


Poll Results – Strange but TRUE!!!

Well thanks everyone for completing my latest poll, I would NEVER have predicted that result, would you? – Basically none of you (that answered the poll) are real beginners, but there is an almost complete 50 / 50 of advanced and novice artists!

I have a feeling that the beginners just haven’t taken the poll, but rushed off to search for more blogs and sites with tutorials instead? Not sure, I could be wrong.

So with those results it looks like I should spend less time posting about the very basics of painting and more time concentrating on things like composition etc.

But what I think you want to see is probably going to be different than what you REALLY want to see. So rather than give you all the time consuming hassle of emailing me (please email if you want though) here’s a list of common things you might want to see more of – just select which best fits you and then the next Blog post I write can cover those areas in more depth – Sound like a fair exchange 🙂  ?

So Your Almost All Artists! Lets Steamline this Blog Even More!

That poll was super interesting for me, I hope you all found it interesting to.

So basically almost everyone that visits my website is an artist, looking for tips or instruction or just browsing to see how other artists do things. 

That is fine and great, but now that prompts another question, one that will help me refine my Blog even more.

Are you a complete beginner, a novice with some experience, or an advanced artist? It’s just a quick click of the button below, so please take the 1 second to take the poll and I’ll try to pitch this blog to what everyone wants 🙂 With a little variety in there as well of course 🙂

Just wanted to update everyone that I have now finished my latest ebook “Wildlife Art On My Easel” 🙂

You can find more details and download it here

A Pole to Benefit us All ;0)

To continue my post on getting to know you all a little better I thought it might be a cool idea to find out whether most of my visitors are collectors of art (ie from people just interested in looking at paintings to full blown collectors)  or artists themselves (ie  from professional artists to complete beginners).

This might help me structure my blog to better suit my visitors, or even run two completely different blogs.

I’d love and appreciate as many of you as possible to just take 2 seconds to take the poll – appreciate it – Jason

I know Your Bloated But Please – Don’t Miss Out!

These days we are all suffering from bloat – email bloat that is!!!

Every time I check my email I get another load of garbage in my inbox and I think everyone is suffering the same fate – it’s a real shame – it’s spoiling the net.

So the last thing you want to do is give your email address away and sign up to a Newsletter! Right?

But my Newsletter is somewhat different – it only comes out every month or two, it has ABSOLUTELY NO SPAM, it’s written by me personally and I NEVER disclose your email address to anyone else – I know how precious your email address is – remember I have one too ha…

But IF YOU WANT TO BE THE 1st to see my new paintings, prints, art tips etc etc then PLEASE DO SIGN UP.  it’s my only real means of staying in touch with you all 🙂

It’s simple to do just click on the image below and fill in your email address. Over the years I have built up over 1,500 followers and I’d hate for you to miss out – sincerely


Link now working! 🙂

wildlife art newsletter

Don’t forget to Talk to me :)

Well I’m delighted to say that just about everyday the number of visits to my Blog increases – that’s got to be good news right??? Well it means I’m not typing out all these pages for nothing! Ha….

But hey…. why not introduce yourself, drop me an email, make a comment on my blog, tell me what you would like to see on my Blog, on my gallery site, on my tutorial site. I’d love to hear what you all have to say – I don’t bite! ha….

Just thought of something else too – if you like my blog / sites etc I’d love you to tell your friends – the more visitors I get the more inspired I am to add new content 🙂 he he…..


Giraffe Painting – Detailing The Grass

I want this painting to be quite realistic and that means to me that the grasses will also need to be detailed. Which on my large paintings is not usually a problem, but as mentioned this painting is something like 20in wide, so quite small.

Painting in all the individual grasses and little seed pods etc would no doubt look contrived and unrealistic, so I needed to devise another more natural way. What I did was a combination of loose directional brush strokes in the under painting and then a layer of spatter using various colours and a toothbrush! (old one 🙂 then I went back in with the brush just to define the more important grasses.

I think it has come out ok so far. I need to let this bit dry before I do the very front ones – then I will go back and work most of the painting again.

There are some great close-ups of the grass etc on my site


Giraffe Painting – Tutorial (WIP) Latest Original Oil Painting

I’ve just started to paint this magnificent African Giraffe. The photos below shows the very 1st stages – I have drawn the giraffe and scene on the canvas and also toned the canvas with Burnt Sienna, just to eliminate the stark whiteness. I’ve also started to block in the sky and distant trees / bushes.

The subsequent photos show more layesr being added as I complete the blocking in stage.

Giraffe painting Giraffe painting


giraffe oil painting giraffe oil painting

Hope you are enjoying this tutorial – remember more free painting tutorials available on my site

Painting tutorials