John Hansen Artist Materials and Technique

By following a basic painting process one may discover there are no Old Master's Secrets needed here! I use a non complicated straightforward technique, documented long ago by the likes of Benvenuto Cellini, which is still employed today by many artists. With many years of painting and drawing experience, along with refining my visual observations, help in contributing greatly to this, my approach

Example painting - Candles and Rose

Follow the four stages below. Each includes a brief description with an accompanied image.


Starting with a symbolic concept I then gather and arrange the supportive objects. When the paint is employed, initially the aim is to keep true to how light describes the forms. In doing so, and as the painting develops, the intent is to explore a tactile and atmospheric reality created from my choice of colours and tonal values while preserving the designed relationships. With the completion of a work I hope to give hint to a renewed realism, potentially conveying, for example here, the obvious artifact of candles and a rose.


First, I will mention that the simple and humorous axiom "Just paint", is how many of my peers understand my simplified approach of the materials. I use a professional brand of highly pigmented permanent oil paints manufactured by Old Holland. As a rule, no solvents or mediums are added to my paints. The brush types I use are usually Kolinsky Sable, though I will employ many different types of brushes when warranted. My preferred painting support is a braced wood panel of high quality hardboard or birch plywood. The protective final varnish use d is GamVar by Gamblin with a small addition of cold wax medium.

Painting stage toned oil ground

Candles and Rose - Grounds

The start of my paint application process begins with the support, and the grounds. I demand very specific properties to this preparation and its outcome. Starting usually with a wood panel I seal it with a few layers of GAG100, an acrylic polymer emulsion. Then a number of thin layers of white oil or acrylic grounds. These primer layers are applied and smoothed to a uniform finish. After this, lead white paint is applied. The final lead layers are tinted with colours based on the subject. The tonal value is also considered, and generally it will not be any darker than the intended middle values of the final painting.

Painting stage oil sketch in

Candles and Rose - Sketch In

This stage could be described also as the drawing stage. Here, great care is taken to render the lines and tonal shapes accurately. This introduces the forms and general values within the painting. I like to start this with the darker earth colours, Brown Ochre Deep, and Red Ochre. Some Ivory Black and Lead White may be employed here as well.

Painting stage oil colour build up

Candles and Rose - Dead Colour

The definition of this named “dead colour” stage should not be interpreted as grim in any way. Historically the dead colour refers to the use of a very limited pallet of, generally earth colours. From the sketch-in stage I will add a few earth tube colours. Using this range of about five colours it is now quite possible to mix a multitude, though limited in saturation range, of hues and values to continue the rendering process. For example a colour like blue can be made from a cooler mix of predominantly black and white, though there are times when I may alternately choose to underpaint a final blue area with a complimentary warm hue.

Final completed painting stage

Candles and Rose - Final

All intermediate stages have not been shown in this example.

After the dead painting layers, a few more oil paint tube colours are added which will extend the palette range. These are usually yellow, reds, and blues. This artwork also called for the addition of Viridian Green. Colour mixtures toward the end of a painting tend to be mixed to cleaner hues which can be broken into variations of saturation by how thin or thick the paint is applied. Final stages are brought about by how the painting developed a built configuration of tones and values.

My goal is to best create a unity within the whole composition and to strike a strong relationship of the overall effect with my initial concept.