2014 Maine Workshop


Armand Cabrera
                                Fields of Goldenrod             9 x 12                            Oil on Linen
I will be teaching again in Southwest Harbor Maine at the AcadiaWorkshop Center. The program will be focused on outdoor and indoor work for oil and acrylic painters. The dates are September 8 through September 11 2014.


                                 Low Tide near otter Cliffs          12 x 16                  Oil on Linen

The locations for this workshop are beautiful and offer plenty to paint. My teaching style is to help each student achieve their immediate goals as a painter and help them find a strategy for more successful paintings in the long term. Whatever the difficulty, there is a solution for it with a little patience and perseverance any problem can be overcome. I make sure my classes are noncompetitive and fun with lots of time for individual instruction. Last time I taught there I sold out the class so sign up early. Remember a workshop is a great gift for the artist in your life, Acadia and Southwest harbor are great getaway places and have plenty for spouses to do. Class is limited to 12 students.

                                High Tide Evening                   11 x 14                      Oil on Linen

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Anatomy of a Painting – Part 1


Armand Cabrera
I have not always painted in oils. I originally started painting in acrylics at fifteen. Later when I was hired for my first job in the entertainment industry as a background artist, I continued to paint with acrylics. It wasn’t until I decided to make the jump to gallery painting that I switched over to oils and before I did I researched the proper use for oil paint and read up on materials and techniques. I talked to a conservator and asked about proper technique to ensure long life for my paintings. We talked about what to paint on and about sizing and grounds and pigment layers.
 Basically the paintings that have the best chance of survival are ones that follow certain rules to insure anatomical strength for the physical painting. Paintings on hard surfaces have less chance of cracking than paintings on stretched surfaces. if you don’t use linen or cotton the surface must be prepared with a ground to hold the paint. If the surface is wood it must be completely dried to prevent warping and flexing as it dries. Kiln dried wood is best for painting. Gesso and oil prime are what most people use as a ground today. If painting on linen or cotton the fabric must first be sized or sealed to prevent rotting or allowing moisture to invade the layers of pigment. Animal glue was the preferred size for years but that has now given way to polymer sizes made with PVA.
Traditional gesso was made with glue and mixed with chalk or gypsum. Modern gesso is acrylic paint, usually titanium white and calcium carbonate with preservatives like ammonia and formaldehyde added as a preservative,
Oil prime was originally lead carbonate pigment mixed with turpentine this has been replaced with titanium white for safety reasons. Lead white is more expensive and carcinogenic than other whites and has fallen out of use as a commercial ground and as a paint for application although it can still be purchased.
After the ground applying the pigments should follow the fat over lean rule where layers of applied paint contain more oil in the later stages. Thinning your paint with medium or solvents breaks down the paint and makes it more prone to flaking and cracking. I was told the impressionist paintings were the easiest to preserve because the paintings were layered very simply. They usually contain a size and ground for the canvas and then pigments were applied and then a varnish was added. I have followed this advice for my career using oils and I have not run into any problems of permanence.
This is a different approach than more academic paintings which could have layers upon layers of pigments and glazes with different types of mediums and extenders to retard or quicken drying times for the paint. This latter type of painting has a greater chance of problems for permanence s as the painting ages. Extra care must be taken to insure the stages are preserved correctly when drying so the pigment doesn’t delaminate or crack over time. This includes using liquin which has become a popular commercial medium and homemade mediums of various mixtures and consistencies.
A trip to the museum will show the veracity of this advice. Paintings on stretched surfaces and paintings that have many layers of pigment and glazes show a tendency to crack and come apart even in as few as fifty years. This is especially true of the modern art movement where some painters introduced fugitive substance into their work that destroyed the integrity of the pieces and created a nightmare for restorers. Other paintings like some orthodox Russian Icon paintings on oak panels or copper look as fresh as the day they were painted.
Recommended Reading
The artists Handbook of Materials and Techniques (fifth edition)
Ralph Mayer
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Anatomy of a painting part 2- Varnishing

By Armand Cabrera

The last piece of painting anatomy is varnishing your painting if it is painted in oils. No painting step creates more uncertainty and problems for oil painters then varnishing.  A varnish layer was added to paintings for protection from chemical reactions from air and sunlight  and also dust and soot from household smoke from candles, oil and gas lamps, wood and coal burning stoves and fireplaces. Another benefit to varnishing a painting was the varnish evened the painting out visually. Oil paintings have different pigments drying to different finishes of glossiness. Some were very flat and some shiny. Applying a varnish unified the painting surface and gave the colors a fresh wet look.

When varnishing, a thin uniform coat of varnish is preferable to a heavy coat. A heavy coat is actually less durable and more susceptible to decay and problems. The best application is spraying on varnish while the painting is laying flat and then once the varnish has set turning the painting towards a wall face down to prevent dust and other objects reaching the surface.

There are a number of picture varnishes on the market, but basically they break down into two camps matte and glossy varnish. The three most accepted materials for varnishes are Damar, Mastic and Acrylic; two of them, Damar and mastic are made from trees the third is an acrylic solution, methacrylate, a polymer that has been used by museum conservators since the 1930’s as a final varnish.  Damar and its acrylic substitute have the best properties for picture varnish. Varnishes have other compounds added to them to make them have a matte finish and there is no matte varnish recommended as a final varnish by conservators.

The question of when to varnish is a nightmare for painters. According to the material handbook a painting should be varnished sooner than too late. That is, after the oil in the pigment has dried. When using linseed oil, that is about two months’ time in a normal climate. The reason for this is oil paints begin adverse chemical reactions when exposed to air and sunlight. The sooner you seal them from these the better it is for the painting.  Another train of thought is to varnish as soon as the painting is dry to the touch and let the varnish age with the painting. This works better if you are using an acrylic varnish which will retain a more flexible structure over time.

My best advice is to try some tests and see what kind of results you get. I usually varnish my oil paintings within the first couple of months and I use an acrylic varnish.

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Andrew Loomis Reprints

By Armand Cabrera

I have written about Andrew Loomis before on this blog, you can find those articles in the sidebar under Andrew Loomis. Now Titan Books has reprinted five of the six books written by Loomis while he was still alive. The seventh Eye of the Painter was published posthumously after his death and is more of a philosophical book than a how to book and has not yet been reprinted.



 The books are beautifully reproduced and are quite a bargain at fewer than 30 dollars each. Even though I own a complete set of the original books I bought the reprints to use as working copies and they are exact large format hard cover books and reproduced down to the typos.
The last one, Successful Drawing was revised during Loomis’ lifetime and re-released as Three Dimensional Drawing with an additional 20 pages of information not included in the first book. I had hoped Titan would combine the volumes and release them but they didn’t. Still, Successful Drawingis worth the price for any serious artist.


If you are just starting out these books are invaluable for getting you on the right track. Support the publisher and family by buying these books. While some of the information is dated stylistically, the fundamental ideas are all sound and still relevant to this day.
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Armand Cabrera Workshop 2013

Armand Cabrera

I will be teaching a mix of outdoor and studio alla prima painting in Athens, Georgia this spring. The workshop will start Tuesday night April 16thwith a painting demonstration by me at the Lyndon House Arts Center. I will start and finish a large painting and talk about what to expect in the class. The complete dates are  April 16th to 20th 2013.

We will focus on the individual needs of each student to help them improve their work and take it to the next level, whatever their goals are as a painter.  We already have some great venues picked out and a perfect studio space for inclement weather if Mother Nature doesn’t cooperate with us.

 The class is designed for oil and acrylic painters.  Learn to make better statements with your art and develop your unique artistic voice to the best of its ability.

For a materials list and more class information go here
or go to www.armandcabrera.com and follow the links to the workshop page

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