See it in terms of paint. We don’t learn subject matter, we learn paint. The musician can play any score that is set before him. ~ Helen Van Wyk

What if you wanted to be a professional baker but never bothered to learn the importance of preheating the oven, greasing the pans, or measuring ingredients? What if you didn’t know the difference between baking soda and baking powder and thought it was perfectly fine to open the oven door and let it slam shut again on a souffle?

You’d be a pretty crappy baker. Your friends wouldn’t want to eat your nasty deflated souffle and no one would give you a job. You’d waste a lot of food, time and money. You’d be frustrated to see no improvement.

So why would anyone who wants to be a painter neglect to learn the basic principles of curing time, color mixing and paint adhesion?

Learning about the materials we use is a cornerstone of artistic development

Some people think this is a boring waste of time and the only thing that really matters is their ideas, what their work means.

Yep, ideas are great.

But if some colors in your painting fade or the outer layers start peeling off ten years after you’ve sold it, the poor schmuck who bought it won’t give a damn what it means. He’ll feel ripped off and will tell all his friends about it.

If we don’t develop an intimate familiarity with materials, our work suffers.

Sadly, you won’t learn these things in college. Your professors will mainly be concerned with theory, teaching you how to defend your ideas and aesthetic decisions and encouraging you to network. If you want to learn materials, you have to commit to undertaking this journey outside the classroom.

It starts when you quit ignoring those seemingly insignificant little questions that keep niggling you.

As painters, we must design and implement our own education

Why don’t the colors that come out of the tube look like the labels? Why are some colors more expensive than others, even though they’re the same size and brand? How the hell do you mix purple that doesn’t look like an eggplant made a baby with dirt?

Taking materials seriously has made me a much better, and less frustrated, artist. My work is stronger and I’ve had more fun making it. That’s why I made this site — so I could share with you everything I’ve learned. Plus, I’ll hook you up with good resources and encourage you to research and experiment for yourself.

I’m going to go deep and get dirty, and I hope you will too. Check out my blog and see what I mean.