Written by Erik Henry Johnson

What’s happening?

Plenty of things in the works right now. I suppose I should focus on finishing paintings before I start any more.


Painting a radish

Here’s a quick look at a painting as its developing:

It still needs some work. I’m going to let it dry and then go back in and get the colors and values right. But here’s where it stands right now:

Painting of a radish by Erik Henry Johnson


Here’s what’s currently on the easel. Might not be able to tell what it is at this point but when it’s finished it hopefully will look like some flowers frozen into a block of ice.

– Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone


I’ve been working on this painting and am nearly finished with it. The challenge in this one was all of the long, flowing lines that made up the fins of the fish.

Image of Goldfish

One of the keys to painting long thin lines is the consistency of the paint. Oil paint out of the tube is just too thick so it needs to be thinned into a liquid. Use the medium of your choice for that. Galkyd works well… or maybe a bit of linseed oil. Brushes can make a big difference too. Here are some of the brushes I use when I need long lines:

The first two on the left are liners. The second two brushes are typically used by sign painters, often for lettering (they’re called lettering quills). They have soft hair and are almost floppy when loaded with paint but can pull very long, smooth lines. The last two brushes are dagger stripers. The little short one on the end is sometimes used for painting pinstripes on cars. With a bit of practice the dagger striper can be used to paint intricate lines and it holds a razor edge. Great brush, but they don’t come cheap.





Recently I’ve finished this painting:

Painting "The Idea"


Thought I’d show how I came up with the pattern on the background. I created a bunch of random Rorschach-type ink blots using acrylic paint on paper:

Inkblot patterns


Of the many patterns I chose one that I thought could work, took a photo of it and brought it into Adobe Illustrator to clean it up. If you don’t have Illustrator you could clean it up by hand as well. Here was my initial ink blot:

Single ink blot pattern


And here’s the cleaned up pattern, with some slight modifications:

Cleaned up pattern.

Next, I printed the image onto a sheet of vellum and cut it out with a razor, creating a stencil. The final step was to determine the spacing of the pattern and stencil it in.

The final stencil created from the ink blot pattern.


This is by no means complex or original, but hopefully it’ll give you some ideas.


In the beginning…

Every painting starts with preparing the surface. It’s not the most enjoyable part of the painting process, but absolutely necessary. Since I paint with a high level of ¬†detail I need a pretty smooth surface. I’ve recently started to paint on wood panels. I enjoy the surface much more than canvas and it eliminates the problems I’ve had with stretcher bars warping on my canvas.

I try to prepare several panels at a time. Right now I’m using an acrylic gesso, but I’m in the midst of trying out an oil based primer (I’ll let you know how that turns out in a future post).

I’ve found that a foam roller like this gets me the nice, smooth surface that I want.











It’s a simple process. I lay out my panels and roll on thin layers of gesso. I’ve found that if I try to use too much gesso on a layer it tends to create problems. The surface ends up with heavy texture in some areas and little texture in other areas. So I opt for very thin layers of gesso.











Right now I apply no less than five layers. I lightly sand between each layer and with acrylic gesso I can reapply every 30 minutes or so if I want. After I lay down the coat of gesso I go back over it several times with the roller, allowing just the weight of the roller to smooth the surface out. The surface doesn’t end up smooth like glass but has a slight tooth, which I prefer. Hopefully this image will give you some idea of the texture:











In between coats I wrap my roller with a plastic grocery bag. I’ve found that it will stay wet for weeks this way.











If you prefer more texture you can swap out the foam roller for a fuzzy roller.





I’ve been experimenting with atmospheric backgrounds lately, thought I’d share how I’m going about it.

Here in this first photo are my materials, standard stuff. I’m thinning my colors with Gamblin’s Galkyd Lite.

Panel with palette and brushes.









In the next step I start scrubbing the colors in according to a loose idea in my head. In this case I wanted the colors to transition from dark in the lower left corner to light in the upper right.

Starting to paint.









I’m not trying to blend at this point, just laying my colors in until I end up with ¬†something like this, at which point I’ll use the big brush on the left to blend it together. The big brush is actually a brush for faux finishing that I picked up at Lowe’s.

Ready to blend the colors.









I work the surface in all directions with the blender. I blended these colors for about five minutes, working in every direction and cleaning the brush with a cloth every once in a while. Here’s how it ended up:

The end result.









Now I’ll let it dry and figure out what to paint on it.



In progress…

Here’s what I’m working on right now. I’ve made it about halfway through the first layer.

A  work in progress.