Friday, September 30, 2016

Dinotopia's Oil Wash Technique

A lot of people are surprised to hear that the illustrations in Dinotopia were painted in oil rather than watercolor. This one of Tok Timbu is typical. I sealed my pencil drawing on illustration board with workable fixatif and after that a thin layer of acrylic matte medium. When that was dry, I used bristle and synthetic brushes to apply the paint, mostly transparently. When I needed to thin the paint, I could use either mineral spirits or alkyd painting medium. At any time I could scratch through to recover the drawing or just to get light lines, like the hairs on the beard.
You can get a signed copy of the 20th anniversary edition of Dinotopia: A Land Apart from Time from me at my website.


Anonymous said...

Yes, yes! The idea of using oils thin [and water-mixable oils meet the needs of the case quite nicely] is a fine one. We don't need to be always painting as though spreading cream cheese on a bagel. My only caution would be to avoid putting opaque and transparent pigments up side by side—especially if one contemplates photographing a piece at the end. And water-mixable oil allows one to bridge the gap with watercolour and traditional chunky oil-painting. For one thing, it can be got to trickle quite nicely. Whistler [not always a trustworthy source, admittedly] talked of painting "like breath on glass." GJ

Unknown said...

Yeah, I love the water-mixable oils too. They work wonderfully, without toxic solvents and without a mess to clean. They're perhaps not completely entirely the exact same as traditional oils, but being so close I kind of see no point in using anything else. I guess gouache largely has the same qualities too, although it dries more quickly.

@James Gurney: Seeing this thin layer technique it reminded me of having read about using grisailles for portraits as another strategy that involves washes or in fact glazing. I was wondering whether or not you ever made use of an extensive grisaille underpainting and then glazed on top of that for for example portraits?

Daroo said...

I really like your oil wash technique -- especially when the pencil drawing shows through BUT --I've been wondering lately if you were to do a new Dinotopia book now-- would you use watercolor/gouache/casein plus colored pencil in place of (or alongside of) the more finished full on oil paintings?

John Kaay said...

Hi James,
How are the painting holding up after 20 years? I'm concerned about oils over acrylic medium, although I guess it's alright, since gesso is made with acrylic now.
I like the idea of having pencil lines being visible through the washes. I've had this happen inadvertently, and I can see it could be a great effect.
John Kaay