Brilliant book on techniques and materials by Tad Spurgeon (and a great website too).

(Photo above from Tad’s website). Tad Spurgeon is another one of those generous artists and art technique researchers who seeks to share his considerable knowledge and expertise with other artists. Those of us who have been struggling to find a way to produce art that mirrors the beauty of the old techniques (now lost in the onrush of “new, improved” cheap, plasticky materials and solvent-drenched painting techniques) are extremely grateful for this kind of well thought-out research. My copy of this book has arrived and I’m extremely impressed. It’s the most erudite, comprehensive and intelligently organised book on painting materials and techniques I’ve ever read. I would still recommend having a copy of Mark Gottsegen’s “The Painter’s Handbook” and also consulting the MITRA website, for cross referencing etc (as no art book can possibly cover absolutely everything) but nevertheless this book is in a class of its own. I’ve been painting with the calcite putty Tad recommends for a little while now and am absolutely loving the difference it makes to my paintings. Evidence supports the premise that this was a medium employed by Velazquez and Rembrandt, among others. It gives the paint body and imparts a beautiful “drag” (hard to explain) which gives a lovely gestural quailty to brushstrokes. It has the advantage of making your paint go much, much further. And it creates a stronger paint film into the bargain. It can be used instead of white to lighten colours, without losing chroma (ie strength of colour) as happens inevitably when one uses any white (but especially titanium white) for that purpose. And there is so much more in this book to delight in. You can get a taste of it from Tad’s website, where he details a lot of his experiments (based on his extensive reading and pondering) and findings. I have tried making my own calcite putty and have also bought a commercial version of it, which I’m finding works very well. It’s made by Rublev and called “Impasto medium”– but there is no need to use it in a way which creates impasto if this isn’t what you want. I got it from Kadmium art supplies in Sydney. They have an excellent website and ship their products throughout Australia. I was impressed with their service.

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