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Wet-on-wet with Oils?

I first encountered the wet-on-wet technique while watching an old episode of The Joy of Painting starring the late, great, Bob Ross, he of the soft voice and large afro.

The idea behind wet-in-wet is to slick the canvas with an oily substance which will allow the paint to smear and blend much easier than by wet-on-dry which most people use. Ross was taught this technique from another TV artist, Bill Alexander, but it is certainly most associated with Ross.

The only problem was; to make the canvas slick, Bob used his custom made paint which he called 'Liquid White'. It wasn't until later that I realised there was an equivalent to Bob's Liquid White; white oil paint and linseed oil. This mixture makes a slimy, watery, white paint which should be spread very thinly over the primed canvas. It is a bit of trial and error to get the right mix of paint and linseed oil but I use a pea sized amount of paint and roughly double that in linseed oil, once mixed that is enough to easily cover an A4 and if applied thinly enough will cover an A3 sized canvas. The fact that it is oil paint coupled with linseed oil means that initial coat will take a long time to dry so you have plenty of time to mix and smear colours on your canvas.

Through much trial and error (and frustration) I found out the hard way that some of Bob's techniques require his unique thick paint. But it is possible to emulate some of his simple blending and palette knife trickery to make beautiful skies, fluffy clouds and rugged mountains.

I never could get the hang of those 'happy little trees'.

About the Author: I am a Scottish landscape and portrait artist who has sold several paintings worldwide, a member of the Society for All Artists and publish art related articles on my web site at

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