I'll present Speed's main topics numbered in boldface type. If you want to add a comment, please use the numbered points to refer to the relevant section of the chapter.
In this section of the chapter, Speed discusses grounds for oil painters. By "grounds" he means the prepared surface that you paint on.
|Whistler, detail of oil painting (Source MOMA)|
Better permanency because oil paint always becomes more transparent with age, so a dark ground will show through and influence the painting in time. Oils also darken as they age, so if they're painted on a white ground, if they darken and transparentize, the two effects mitigate each other.
Disadvantage is that it's not always a sympathetic surface because it can be hard to judge values and colors against the bright white.
2. Recommended toned ground
Mix ivory black and raw umber to make a neutral color, thinning it with turpentine and applying it with a clean rag. Wiping with the rag gives an even tone and brings out some of the grain of the canvas.
3. Texture of ground
Speed says, "A perfectly smooth surface is not often used nowadays, although beautiful work has been done on it in the past. It is essentially the surface for very thin painting and high finish when soft brushes are used. The paintings of the pre-Raphaelites were done on such canvases.
4. What the ground should do
The surface texture should "pick the paint off the brush evenly without any scratchiness." And it should "hold the first touches painted sufficiently firmly for other touches to be painted evenly across them, without picking up the under paint unduly."
Speed complains about canvas manufacturers making prepared canvases with a slippery, soapy surface, which makes the paint slide around uncontrollably. A prepared canvas shouldn't be slippery and smooth; it should have a "bite" to it, a slightly gritty feel.
5. Coarse vs. fine canvas
A coarse canvas is good for large, simple masses of color—"the grain of the canvas breaks up the surface slightly and gives it a little movement, whereas on a smooth canvas, it is dull and lifeless." Beginners should start with a medium-grained canvas and then experiment with rougher and smoother options.
6. Absorbent canvases
Although paintings done on absorbent canvases may dry matte, the surface will absorb the oil, which tends to darken with time. Absorbent surfaces are suited to high key paintings, but they're not as good for dark subjects.
Dry, matte-surfaced paintings should be framed under glass, as dirt will settle into the rough surface of the paint. When Speed says, "Dirt is the great enemy of permanency in our modern cities," remember, he's talking about a London that was regularly blackened with coal smoke, and it really damaged paintings more than today.
Next time— Palettes
In its original edition, the book is called "The Science and Practice of Oil Painting." Unfortunately it's not available in a free edition, but there's an inexpensive print edition that Dover publishes under a different title "Oil Painting Techniques and Materials (with a Sargent cover)," and there's also a Kindle edition.----
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