This is another question I’ve heard lately at the gallery (in our gallery we usually describe our works as oil on linen). If you go to a museum ninety percent of the paintings you will see are painted on linen. Linen is a preferred support (in art lingo ‘support’ means whatever you are painting on) for oil paintings because the weave is irregular and can add subtle variety and movement to passages in a painting that would otherwise not have enough interest such as a flatly painted area. Cotton, though commonly used, has a very regular pattern that can look odd and simple. On the other hand I saw a group of cool landscape studies by John Sargent at an auction and when I turned them over I was surprised to see they were on cotton. So good work can be done on cotton too. I noticed the Deibenkorn still lifes at a recent show were on heavy cotton so maybe its fine for work that not trying to look traditional. My own theory is that the shape of the linen fiber (if you would cut it and look at it sideways) is a polygon, it has points, and when a brush loaded with paint is dragged across linen it aggressively pulls the paint from the brush more so than the round cotton fiber. For me that’s a good thing. I guess bottom line is the choice of supports effects how the brushstrokes look.
alla prima painting
How long does it take to finish a painting? That is an age old question that has been asked of artist since time immemorial. When I was a young artist I was told that the proper answer is twenty five years and three days. However I will try to give you a short but more complete answer here. Of course I can only speak for myself and it will vary from artist to artist. Van Gogh seems to have painted 4 or more paintings a day while Ivan Albright took 21 years to finish a portrait. The important factor when it comes to time is technique. Many artist and more so in modern times paint using some version of the alla prima, or “all at once” style, which means that you try to get the image completed in one session. Total time, from a few hours to a couple of days but time is up if the paint starts drying . When this goes south the artist has entered what is known as the modified alla prima mode, where one must paint additional “adjustments” on top of the dry but unsatisfactory “alla prima” painting. Actually this is a slippery slope and if the artist was rational he would just chuck it all and start from the beginning. But many artist struggle on not wanting to waste the time and effort expended so far. Anyway this can go on for some time and in the end it may take many days or weeks to finish what you thought you could pull of with a few days effort. I read the analogy that if the wagon doesn’t make it over the hill its best to go back to the bottom and start over again. Many great works have been created in this manner.