Frequently Asked Questions
How do you paint over your graphite drawings without smudging them?
After I am satisfied with a graphite
drawing, I spray a good coat of workable fixatif
on it. This fixes the drawing so that it doesn’t smudge. After it dries completely, I begin to paint. When painting on canvas or wood with oils
, the oils can be removed without damaging the drawing. To do this I take a cloth or old t-shirt dipped in turpentine
and simply wipe away the paint. I also find a plain kneaded rubber eraser
works well in removing oils during detail work. I do fix drawings on paper and illustration board to ensure the drawing will remain intact but the turpentine technique doesn’t work well on paper because paper materials absorb oil paint and the turpentine will warp the paper.
Can you tell me a little more about your technique?
My process continues to evolve and grow the more I create and experiment but I have found myself developing a way of working that has become more consistent over time and that has developed into something like a ritual for me. This ritual begins when I prepare the canvas or wood by applying a layer of white gesso
or a colored gesso/acrylic mix in a certain fluid pattern that guides the future placement of elements in the piece. I then map out the drawing and begin the long hours of graphite work. When I feel the drawing is complete, I spray it with fixatif
and begin to paint.
Painting has always been experimental or intuitive with me and so I never know what I’m doing when it comes time to add color. I just do what feels right and that has resulted in a sort of “wash” technique where I apply a layer of paint that is sometimes thinned out with linseed oil and turpentine
or water, then wiped away to achieve a watercolor look. With oils
, the result is melted and fluid; with acrylics
, there is more of a layered, rougher effect due to the nature of each medium. I usually build up the paint in many thin layers and then work on the finer details of the painting like hair strands and eyes, etc.
Wait... you use acrylics and oil... together?!?
Well, not literally, because if you actually mixed them together, you would get a lumpy mess. The rule is to apply acrylics first, oils after. Just be sure that the acrylics have dried completely (all the way through, not just touch dry on the surface) before you start with the oil paint.
There’s a big controversy over whether it is safe to use oil paint over acrylics because they are made with different paint vehicles. In my opinion there have been enough respected older works of art where the artist has used an acrylic gesso or underpainting in conjunction with oil paints and most commercial canvas for oil painting are primed in acrylic. I also err on the safe side with thin washes. It is my understanding and experience that acrylic paint, however, should never be applied over oil paint. I get asked these questions a lot as there is not a lot of good info on the web about it. Here is a site that I think gives a valid, researched opinion and tips on how to use this technique safely: GoldenPaints
Note: I am not affiliated with the above site and am in no way qualified to verify any advice or information given. Ultimately, use your own judgment when deciding what to do in regards to the longevity of your own paintings.
What are some of your inspirations?
Music is definitely a huge inspiration for me. I am also inspired by different cultures and belief systems. Native Americans have always held a special place for me and influence my art. The truth is that anything can be inspiring really. It could be a person’s energy or a look or a place or even a story I hear. Most often it’s just fragments of the world waiting around to be captured and expressed in my own unique way. My eyes and ears are always open to something mind and soul awakening or emotionally arousing. Those things have allowed me to go forward, along with the support of all those who admire my work.
Which artists do you consider to be major influences?
Some of the great masters include Leonardo DaVinci, Ingres, and Jan Van Eyck. Other influences include Maxfield Parrish, Norman Rockwell, Klimt, John William Waterhouse, Dali, Frida, Jackson Pollock, MC Escher, Lucien Freud, Ralph Steadman, Chuck Close, and Andrew Wyeth.
What have you learned as an artist that you can share with other aspiring artists?
As an artist I have learned that you never stop learning, and that passion and talent alone are not enough. It takes discipline and hard work to make something unique and significant.
I also know that any successful artist needs an audience. If you are trying to make a living with your art, then mastering your technique is only one part of your career. Creating and marketing your artwork and shows along with keeping up with interviews, emails, and other requests is a full-time job in and of itself. There are also a lot of numbers involved like material, shipping, website, and marketing costs; gallery commissions; and taxes. You have to be an excellent organizer, learn timing, and keep track of all those things. It is certainly a great balancing act especially in balancing your creative mind with the reality of the market and of the world.
I have learned that you must above all else believe in yourself and your worth and be brave enough to live the life you choose. Being a full-time artist is about doing what you love every day, expressing yourself, touching others lives with your art, and making a unique mark on the world – but it is not for the lighthearted. Our lives depend on it. This is how we earn our living, how we spend most of our time and energy, what we pour our deepest passions into, how our face is shown to our loved ones and to the world. We don’t just want to succeed. We have to.
I do this because I love it and what I aspire for is to reach out and touch viewers of my work, making sure that those who see my paintings see something that enriches their experience.
Do you take commissions?
Yes, I do, but I only take work that encourages me to stay true to my unique style as an artist. I have been commissioned for many personal portraits and occasionally animals. I recently finished a book cover commission and would love the opportunity to do more editorial work. Please visit my pricing page HERE
for more details on personal commissions and contact me
at MichaelShapcott@gmail.com if you have any questions.
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