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Answers to your questions about my upcoming oil painting course

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Some of you have asked me to clarify details about this course and I'm hoping this answers any questions that you have.

When and where is the course held and how much is it?

The course runs every Thursday for 12 weeks at Swinton's Art Supply studios in Calgary.
Dates: January 9 - March 26
Hours: 9am - 12pm
Price: $432 + gst

Do I need to have experience in painting to join?

No. This is a comprehensive course that is suitable for beginners and painters in other mediums who want to learn oils from the ground up. You also don't have to have taken Foundations 1. I'll review and reinforce concepts from F1 and will make sure that no painter is left behind.

I've painted in oils in the past. Will this course be too basic for me?

Experienced oil painters have taken this course and they tell me they've learned an enormous amount about paint, colour, composition and brushwork.

The course will fill in any gaps in your basic technical knowledge while also addressing higher conc…

New 12 week painting class in Calgary

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Foundations of Oil Painting 2
Thursdays Jan. 9 - March 26, 2020 9am - 12pm Swinton's Art Supply Studios  Calgary, AB
I'm offering a 12 week oil painting course at Swinton's studios in Calgary beginning in January and I hope you'll sign up!

In it, you'll learn the ins and outs of oil painting from mixing colours using a versatile 8-colour palette to constructing a painting from beginning to end. 

My goal is to teach you how to tackle a subject with a logical approach, bold and varied brushwork and edges, and accurate colour. As well,  you'll learn how to use the paint to create rich and interesting surfaces.

I'm a paint nerd so my instruction will cover both the technical and aesthetic aspects of oil painting.  We'll work with either a low or no solvent method and I'll emphasize safe painting and studio practises throughout.

The majority of the course will be taught from life using still life objects, but I'll use still life to teach concepts that y…

The problem with water soluble oils

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I teach a lot of painters each year and, increasingly, I see them bring water mixable oils to my classes.  Their rationale is understandable: they want to avoid exposure to dangerous chemicals and think that the AP non toxic classification on the label means that these paints are globally harmless.

It doesn't.


"A product can be certified nontoxic only if it contains no materials in sufficient quantities to be toxic or injurious to humans, or to cause acute or chronic health problems". The focus of that designation is us.

AP non toxic doesn't consider the plants, animals, and microorganisms that will be exposed to our pigment if we put it down the sink or in landfill where it will eventually break down and enter the watershed
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Checking out the online MSDS sheets posted by every paint manufacturer will tell you a different story.  Under environmental or aquatic toxicity, you'll find phrases like: "no data available" or "unclear".

Water mixabl…

How not to frame a painting

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I haven't been sleeping well lately.  Maybe it's the realization that summer is ending or maybe it's the phases of the planets - whatever the cause, sleep deprivation rules and has me prone to making mistakes.  And I made a doozy on this painting. 

Framing in-progress works is a great way to tell if they're finished or to highlight problem areas, so I put this piece in a frame when it felt potentially done.  It wouldn't stay put, however: it kept falling out which didn't allow me to judge the effect of the framing.  I decided to shoot some framing darts in to hold the painting in place for a good examination.  Picking up the "framing tool" from my work table,  I pressed it onto the back of the panel, and confidently squeezed.  It was actually the staple gun.  Same colour, heft and means of deployment - a squeeze - but different outcomes.


The staple blew a piece of the birch panel up, making the work instantly unsaleable.

The interesting moment came, h…

commissioned work

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I recently finished this very enjoyable commission for a client in eastern Canada. 

Commissions can be daunting because I know that the client has an idea of what they want the finished piece to look like.  In their minds are all the paintings they've ever admired and those that they've disliked on sight.  They have favourite colours which can vary from loathed colours by a tiny, but significant difference in hue or value, and they know exactly how realistic or stylized they like a work to be.   But they can seldom articulate these subtle biases.  Like most of us, they know what they like but couldn't specify why. 

So when this client asked me to create a work based on Klimt's "Flower Garden" but incorporating colours and blooms from my past work, I was nervous.  There were a lot of variables of colour and composition to get just right.

Luckily, this client has an amazing colour vocabulary and the ability to convey her mental image clearly in words.  She ref…

The problems with photo references in my latest Artsy article

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I've always spent a lot of my time working from life, feeling that the work I produce from the real world resonates with me long after I've completed it.  Maybe it's because the paintings done from life are imbued with so many more memories and impressions than those that I've done from photos. 

I can recall the changing quality of the light on my subject, and how flickers of colour revealed and concealed themselves as time passed.  As well, I remember the mental gymnastics that it took to acknowledge what my eyes were seeing, but paint something else because it better recreated the sensation of the scene.  In the painting above - done at breakneck speed while the sun tracked across my studio through a skylight - I saw intense, highly saturated, hot orange along the top edge of the flower, but when I painted it that way, it didn't say "light" in the same way that a cooler, lighter colour statement did.  So objective reality had to be sacrificed to convey…

Limited palettes simplified

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I've been writing a monthly article for Artsy Magazine's creativity strand.  Most are about painting and studio practises, and I admit they're always a huge struggle.  Writing for an editor is very different than writing a blog for myself.   I keep doing them, though, because it feels so good when I finish a piece.  It's the same feeling of accomplishment that I get when I solve a particularly tricky painting.

This month's piece which is about limited palettes and it has pictures to illustrate the concepts.  I hope you'll have a read.

To see the all of my articles, google Ingrid Christensen Artsy (which is very descriptive and apt), and you'll get links.

Happy painting!