Ethan semmel making rabbit skin glue

Making rabbit skin glue for canvas

Rabbit skin glue is the traditional glue – better known as sizing – that is applied to canvas before the base coat of paint is laid over it.

Most people like to start something at step 1. I have taken to calling this step 0 because it’s usually forgotten, but if were painting during the old master days it would have been standard practice.

Also, note something important – it’s not hard to do.

I’ve found that most art students don’t even understand what it is they are painting on. They have no idea that you don’t just paint on canvas. The canvas has to be prepared before you can make your painting on it.

This is the first step. You can this making rabbit skin glue tutorial on youtube or right here below.

For Further Study

If you would like a complete at home video course like the one you just watched, Go watch a video preview and read the details of my 7 DVD set of oil painting instruction

If you like written instruction, check out my e-book – The Secrets of Oil Painting Techniques Made-Easy

I’m an artist and have been teaching others for 20 years. I have videos and a bunch of information for you to consume here. When I’m not working on my art or other creative pursuits…you can find me reading and watching videos about history

Why your oil painting curriculum doesn’t exist

This article is for those of you looking for an oil painting curriculum that you can follow and learn from.

First, let me just tell you that – on the day I am writing this – the night before I attended a school function for my oldest son that is called curriculum night. This is where the parents visit the school and get to talk to all the teachers your child has throughout the school week. First you see the specialists, which are teachers your child might not see every day. Then you are taken up to your child’s classroom for the main presentation by your child’s main teachers. The ones who they spend most of their day with. Every day.

teaching oil paintingDuring this presentation, you learn all about your child’s curriculum. The teachers went over how they will be teaching reading, writing, math, etc.

As I was sitting there, something very interesting popped into my head.

In all my years having oil painting lessons,only once was a curriculum followed.

For my art history lessons, yes. That always had a curriculum, but for the oil painting lessons, only one time.

This was a class that met once a week at once and covered your materials. We were given the curriculum on the first day of class. It was all scheduled in advance. We would be grinding our own paints, combining pigment and oil and sometimes other ingredients. Some weeks, our lesson for the day was just that one thing.

For example, today we will grind burnt umber. We got to know that paint inside and out. How much oil it takes to turn the pigment into a useable paint…If it needed another ingredient with the oil…how to put it in a tube to be able to use it later on, etc.

So, why doesn’t your oil painting class have a curriculum and why is it usually an acceptable thing to not have a class with a curriculum.

Well, I have 2 main theories on this.

The first is, nowadays, art is thought of as totally a creative process that is very individualistic. Many things are called art now so teachers are very careful to not squash a persons individuality or creative impulse.

In other words, the craft part is thought to be not too important. It’s the concept that’s most important.

My reaction to that, bullshit.

First learn your craft. It won’t kill your individuality or style. Oil painting is still done by hand with materials, meaning it is still a craft. Before you can fully express yourself, you have to learn your craft.

Second – and probably the most overlooked part of the whole kit and kaboodle.

Remember, how I told you about my visit to curriculum night? How a 45 minute presentation was given by my kids’ teachers. These 2 ladies went to school to study education. They were instructed how to teach.

If you have art lessons, ask yourself this. Has your teacher been instructed how to teach? Or are they an oil painting teacher because they are a pretty good oil painter?

To teach in noted art schools such as the national academy of design or the art students league, they do not require a degree in teaching. Last I checked they didn’t require a degree in anything actually.

To teach painting in a university – again, last I checked – you had to have a masters – but, not in teaching!

Teaching is a learned skill as well.

These, I think, are the reasons your oil painting curriculum doesn’t exist. That’s why most of the time, an oil painting class is a bunch of people “winging it” with the teacher doing the “what you’re doing wrong” way of teaching.

Did you start your free lesson plan from my oil painting with ethan program yet? There should be a box on the side of this page where you can start the process of getting your free oil painting lesson plan.

I’m an artist and have been teaching others for 20 years. I have videos and a bunch of information for you to consume here. When I’m not working on my art or other creative pursuits…you can find me reading and watching videos about history

“difference in my paintings since I started watching and listening to you”

Sometimes you have to heard it from an impartial source:

Like Pat who appears to the right

Hi Ethan!  I have been interested since I saw the first e-mail on my computer!  I’ve been taking lessons from a friend of mine for a long time, but I have learned new things since I started watching your e-mails.

I had always painted on white canvas and now I am using your acrylic backgrounds and can tell a lot of difference in the tones I get.

I like the way you do portraits , and I think that is the one that made me try your course.  I am still taking lessons and will probably start helping my teacher with the new things I’m learning from you.  I had her use the naples yellow pale for highlights on the last painting she did, and she loved it!!!  I can tell a difference in my paintings since I started watching and listening to you, so thank you in advance!!  You never get too old to learn, and I’m more than willing to absorb anything I can get my hands on about painting.  I’m looking forward to the new experience!

Pat M

I’m an artist and have been teaching others for 20 years. I have videos and a bunch of information for you to consume here. When I’m not working on my art or other creative pursuits…you can find me reading and watching videos about history

oil painting canvas preparation – canvas for painting

This video goes into a background on canvas for oil painting.

oil painting canvas preparation is not talked about much these days. Oil painting classes rarely talk about it because of the convenience of pre-stretched canvases that are in art stores.

Most of those canvases are, frankly, terrible. They are causing you added frustration because of how they are prepared, but most oil painting students do not even think about the canvas as a “big deal”

This is a huge mistake

Check out this video where I give a quick background lesson about canvas.

Here’s to better oil painting.

Recommended Study

If you’d like to get a full course that will cover not only your canvas and all your materials, but a step by step formula to paint like the old masters, go check out the 7 Part Video series – Oil Painting Formula


I’m an artist and have been teaching others for 20 years. I have videos and a bunch of information for you to consume here. When I’m not working on my art or other creative pursuits…you can find me reading and watching videos about history

Bob Ross painting technique – time to go beyond that

Many people started to paint by following those “wet on wet” tv painters on PBS stations. I suppose Bob Ross is the most known one of them. So when I say the “Bob Ross painting technique”  I am talking about those painters that use things like “magic brushes” or a”foliage brush” or “liquid white” and teach you to paint trees by…

“loading a corner of the 2 inch brush and tapping from side to side” – that sort of instruction.

When you watch them, it can look impressive if this is all the painting you have seen.

If you have seen good painting, and by good, I mean traditional works of art in museums, you know the paintings produced by “tapping with your 2 inch brush” don’t come close to the quality of paintings in the museums.

So this article is about going beyond that way of painting.

Because, for someone who is serious about learning to oil paint, this is not the way to paint. It is not the way the greatest painter of the past have painted and it should never be confused with traditional oil painting.

Let me explain…please take a look at this…

john constable the hay wain painting

This is a landscape painting by John Constable.

Here is another landscape, with water by Pierre Renoir…

renoir landscape painting

Now, here is a sample by those TV painters:

bob ross painting

I hope you can see the difference between the Constable and the Renoir and the paintings done by those “wet-on-wet” tv painters.

If you can’t, I suggest you get yourself to any art museum near or in a large city and look at the landscape paintings by the great painters of history.

The difference is not simply darker colors, or the traditional paintings look more real. The difference will be immense and you should be able to see it immediately.

And, when I talk about this concept, there are always a few people who defend this way of painting as being just as valid as the way Rembrandt painted. And they get angry and tell me Bob Ross was a great man, etc.

This has nothing to do with Bob Ross personally. This is about learning to oil paint.

And if you have painted in that wet on wet method here is the test that will prove it. I know this test from personal experience.

The Test:

1) Go to a park near where you live.

2) Setup your portable easel

3) Use your oil painting skills you have learned (like how to paint clouds, fir trees and tap tapping to paint bushes and such, to paint that scene you see in front of you.

4) If you don’t know where to begin….If you would get stuck while painting about what to do next…If you wouldn’t know where to begin…If you would be totally lost…

Then you have not learned to oil paint. And it’s time to go beyond what you have learned…and I know that you can.

And, here is how I know that…

Take a look at these 2 paintings

ethan semmel painting of florence

ethan semmel painting of venice

Those 2 paintings above were painted by me.

But the main reason I’m showing you them after telling you that I know that you can go beyond that Bob Ross way of painting is

I Started Out Painting with the Bob Ross painting technique like the painters on TV too!

I figured, that old master way was too hard, too tedious, took too long…and every other reason and excuse I could think of.

But, I’m proof that if you are really serious about painting better, you can do it! You can advance and go beyond that Bob Ross painting technique. I am proof of that.

What it comes down to is simple – If you get good instruction, you paint better, period.

Let me explain one of the main misconceptions people have.

Beginning artists think you learn “how to paint a  landscape” or “how to paint a tree” or “how to paint flowers”, or whatever subject matter you wish to paint.

But, the truth is – to paint in the traditional manner you don’t learn how to paint subject matter. You learn to paint – period!

You learn the rules of your art supplies and the language and techniques of painting. You learn the process of oil painting. And then you apply this process to anything you want to paint.

Please, re-read that again.

Wouldn’t you rather be painting in a way similar to Monet and Rembrandt?

Become master of your medium. Master of your tools. A set of a few tricks for one type of subject matter will not satisfy you.

If you have always wanted to become a painter in the traditional sense, you need to take that next step.

If you are content painting this way, I cannot help you. My lessons will not be for you.

It is only for people who have an interest in learning to improve and become better.

Think of it like this, If you learn the alphabet, you can spell any word. Essentially what you are doing by painting in the manner you are is just learning how to write the letter “A”.

How can you expect to spell any word you want without learning the other 25 letters?

You have gained some experience by using painting supplies though. This is a start. Now it is time to take that next step and learn more.

Learn the way painters have been painting for hundreds of years. You may like watching those video demonstrations of a landscape in 27 minutes, well I recommend you check out my set of 7 Instructional DVD’s if you want video instruction that covers traditional methods and procedures.

Remember, I started out painting by following those tv painters too. But now, I can paint anything, and any way I want to. You too can go beyond your current painting you are doing and paint the way the greatest masters in history have painted.

I can show you how with my 7 DVD Oil Painting Instruction Series

I’m an artist and have been teaching others for 20 years. I have videos and a bunch of information for you to consume here. When I’m not working on my art or other creative pursuits…you can find me reading and watching videos about history
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