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I’ve gotten a lot of push back from other artists saying that you MUST use solvents when oil painting or you’re going to break the fat over lean rule. 

But I wasn’t sure so I did a ton of research over the past few months and this is what I’ve found.

Did you know that when oil painting began there were no solvents. At least no solvents like we have today. These paintings were done almost entirely without solvents and they are still lasting today. No solvents, 500 year old painting. Even after that amount of time paintings will crack but you don’t need solvents to keep them intact. 

Why is this?

Well, the fat over lean rule says that you need to make sure that the first layers of paint need to have less “fat” in them than the next layers over them. This is so the first layers dry before the last layers. It’s like building a house. You want the foundation to dry before building on top of it.

More fat, the longer it takes to dry.

BUT! Oil paint is never completely lean or completely fat, it’s on a spectrum. On one side you have the most lean paint you can get. Paint thinned with solvents. And on the other side you have the fattest paint you can get. Paint with lots of oil based medium.

Most artists just focus on the ends of this spectrum. Solvent and fat. But in between there is paint just right out of the tube. So if I start with paint right out of the tube and then build up with medium after those layers you’re still following the fat over lean rule WITHOUT ANY SOLVENTS!

Then the newest addition is Alkyd mediums. These are wonderful mediums that dry much faster than traditional mediums. They were made for these beginning layers. But you really don’t even need these mediums as well.

Here is the process I use and have used for years that follows the fat over lean rule without solvents.

Using an acrylic gessoed canvas, first, draw out your composition using graphite. 

It’s more accurate than using a brush to draw with.

Second seal the drawing with GAC 100 by golden.

Third, use fresh paint right out of the tube to begin your painting and work this layer up opaquely. No mediums, no solvents, right out of the tube.

Fourth, let it dry for a few days. You will be surprised as some colors dry within hours, like burnt umber.

Fifth step, start your second layer of paint with your favorite non solvent based medium. I like Gamblins solvent free gel medium. This will be an opaque and glazing layer that I’ve found adds all kinds of depth to a painting.

Lastly, if you want more layers continue the process. Letting the last layer dry for a couple days and adding on paint with more medium. 

This process lends itself well to having multiple paintings going at once. 

If at any time you find that you want to start the first layer with more fluid paint then use the galkyd lite medium by gamblin to take advantage of the fast drying alkyds. 

This is how you can paint and keep yourself and your family healthier while making sure your painting lasts for a very very long time and if you want to see this exact process I have this awesome painting tutorial that I think you will gain a lot from so check that out.

Until then, have a happy healthy non solvent toxic free oil painting week.

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