Category Archives: FAQ’s

Priorities Are Robbing Me of My Love to Paint How Are You Setting Priorities?

Good morning Darrell.

“I’m having a difficult time finding the time to paint………………………How do you manage and set your priorities?”

Thanks for sending me your DVD. It is super. I especially enjoyed your letter (Secret #2… getting back to basics). It was an eye opener for me and very timely. I remember a seascape I once painted. The sun was high in the sky on the right side of the canvass; plenty of palm trees, bushes, a ship wreck, etc. It came out real good (so I thought) but something about the painting just did not seem right. It took weeks of pondering before I saw the basic flaw. It was my shadows… they were painted on the wrong side of the trees. Talk about feeling stupid!!!!
I think what you have to share with me and others is great! You are truly a servant. The mark of a great man is not his knowledge but his ability to build other lives through the sharing of his knowledge. It seems that my problem would be taking the time to use the lessons after I purchase them.

A basic flaw came to light as I read your letter. That flaw seems to be in setting priorities for in my life. I feel priorities are the basics of a good life. Painting really draws me but it seems that other things keep pulling me away. Does it happen to you?

I am 63, married to a wonderful lady and retired (they should redefine the word to mean too busy to do anything you like). I love to paint, to fish and really love to play and sing to the elderly in St. Pete, Fl. We performed over 300 free concerts last year for our wonderful seniors. Our church is also important and a BIG part of our life. I am secretary of a fast growing work.

You must have to set priorities in your life to be effective in what you do. There are whole days that I would like to just chuck some things out the window so I could spend more time painting. It is so gratifying and relaxing as I can loose myself my work.

How do you set your priorities as far as your work and other parts of your life is concerned? It must be a struggle maintaining a balance. Painting can take much of your time from you. What would you say is a fair amount of practice a budding artist like myself should take on a weekly basis. How do you pull away from things in your life that seem to hold you back from painting or is painting your only interest in life? Sincerely, Roger A.

Hi Roger……

You certainly hit the nail on the head.

As a professional teaching budding young artists how to paint both in live workshops and on DVD, I find myself constantly battling priorities in marketing, production, order fulfillment, lead fulfillment, promotion, pushing the team to complete edits, transcriptions, translations and website developments. And that’s not to mention my priorities I want for my personal life. I often find myself struggling to carve out even five minutes a day to paint.

At all professional artists conventions I’ve attended, the primary emphasis is that an artist must paint every day, even if its for only five minutes. It is my habit to rise early each day. You must have a place to paint and a time to paint.

I have my personal place to paint and I’ve a time, so to speak. First thing I do every morning is check email and then go paint some on the current personal project. I’m currently working on a side view of a tall ship. At my easel I already have the paints out from the previous day. So I find it quite easy to just sit down and start painting right away. I clean my brushes as I go, so whenever I’m done, I just get up and leave my station. If any paints dry, I just replace them the next day. So if I’m short on time, I still can maximize that time because I don’t have to really set-up. When I first committed myself to this schedule, I kind of thought of all the things I wasn’t doing, but over time, I began to relax because I knew that painting had a priority in my life and I had all the priorities balanced.

I remember a great friend of mine, Ken McCarthy, who wrote the book, System Secrets. He cuts right to the core of issues and wham, knocks you in the head with the fundamentals.

Ken spoke of the need to focus on one thing at a time. He talked about how 80% of our daily activities only producing 20% of our lives’ goals. So the challenge was in focusing our priorities on the 80% of productivity we want to accomplish. Build a plan and then do the plan. This way we could move to having 80% or more of time focused on the 80% of our life’s goals.

It all starts with just sitting down and wrestling with yourself on what you truly want to achieve in your life. Setting dates for achievements and the steps required to achieve the goal. I hate it, but I do it each year, month, week and day.

Each New Year day instead of resolutions, I review my list of top ten accomplishments I would like to achieve in my lifetime. Then I choose which ones for the year I’ll concentrate on. I set up milestones and an overall plan for the year that would help me meet my objectives.

Each month, I outline the steps I need to take to ensure that the goals are met for the year.

Each week I review the plan to gauge my progress and make any daily adjustments necessary.
I don’t necessarily accomplish all of my goals, but I’m certainly doing far, far better than not planning at all. Wasn’t it Ben Franklin that wrote, “Not planning is planning to fail.”

I once wrote an article on how to set Smart Goals. I’ll post it on my blog after I finish this article.

One of my top priorities this year is to complete a series of Basic Technique Videos on Oil Painting Flowers. That required nearly 50-60 hours of scheduled painting. To do that meant even more practice hours to ensure I flawlessly painted while being filmed. Then I had my live painting classes and preparation for those classes, painting samples and models and so forth. So my goals this year became quite simple….

1. Building my faith and knowledge of God and walking the talk.
2. Building stronger relationships with all members of my family.
3. Weekly Summer Fishing outings
4. Paint for myself daily for one hour.
5. Complete the Basic Technique of Floral Painting
6. Complete a second Basic Technique Series with a Guest Artist
7. Increase business by xx%
8. Build stronger student services through website, blog, video, sound, pictures.

When you first read this list, it seems impossible. There’s a lot here. But now I can balance my personal needs with my business needs. So at the beginning of the year I decide when each of the priorities will be accomplished and the necessary steps to achieve success. Before January 1 ends, I’ve got a fair idea of what needs to be done for the year and how I’ll focus. Now, as it always happens, things come up during the year. But now, I have a method of gauging their importance and I can always choose to modify my plan. I’m still in control, and I’m still making progress on what matters to me.

My planning cycle came out of simple desparation. Not as a result of a terrifically wise mind. I felt like I was drowning and couldn’t maneuver or think my way through all the business and personal crisis I was facing. So I just thought who were the top men I knew in my life who i thought were successful, great family life and were happy and seemed in control. I then went and talked to each of them. One conclusion kept shouting at me from all of these discussions. There is no magic formulae that will manage and balance your priorities until you control your time. The person who controls their time, controls their life.

So, even though I no longer work in high tech, I go through my planning, keep a calendar and daily, weekly, monthly and annually focus on what’s the most important thing I should be doing right now. And remember, you are important. So set aside some time for you as well to accomplish what’s really important to you.



Carter1946 said,

I really enjoyed reading your reply because like the writer I too am retired with to much unorganized time on my hands. I copied your list and now I can find my way back to painting canvas. I am a beginner with lots of desire to be like Norman Rockwell, I’d be happy to paint like his worst painting which he might have thrown away. Again thanks for your help.

jjshenkir said,

Thanks for sharing this with all of us Darrell. Personally, I couldn’t of read it at a better time in my life!

The Economy Is Tough But There Are Options For Practicing Painting.

Students are always looking for inexpensive ways to practice. Heck, even us older instructors like saving money. These suggestions will save you money…..

Hi Darrell, I am enjoying the art instructional DVDs I purchased from you recently so much! My husband even became interested in painting, although he had never really tried it before. My daughter, who has had a passion for art since she was 2, (she’s 24 now,) is also impressed. She is very much into fine detail, but she tried your technique the other day when she was here, and she had so much fun with it!

Anyways, I was hoping you could answer a question about re-using canvases. I bought some large oil paintings at a garage sale and the paint on one was not thick at all, so I painted over it with white acrylic paint and was hoping to use it for oil painting. Will this work? It could save me some money, since I lost my job and I’m struggling to buy the supplies I need for painting. Thanks. Sue

Hi Sue

There are lots of choices for inexpensive practicing surfaces…. But let me first thank you for your kind words. I’m very touched how your entire family is learning to ‘paint along.’ It’ll be great fun, and yes you all can do this.

You can paint over your old paintings and redo, redo, redo…. Here are some of the many way I’ve practiced

1. Just what you suggested except I used regular paint as opposed to acrylic. Gesso and acrylic will peel off of oils. Now if the canvas is intended only for practice and you don’t want to keep what you paint, then this is an excellent surface to paint on.

2. Canvas Sheets. Your local art stores often sells ‘pads’ of Canvas paper. This is special paper designed to look and feel like canvas. You use them just like canvas. Only I mask tape the canvas paper onto a real canvas. This gives me the touch and feel of canvas without the expense. Paper Canvas Pads comes in various sizes…..I use a 11″x14″ and 16″x20″. Quantities are around 10 to 25 per pad.

3. Masonite boards. A lot of people (including the old masters) paint on these surfaces, and you do lose the ‘bounce’ of canvas. Prime with household paint or acrylic, sand, prime again. You can cut Masonite sheets up to any size you want.

4. Canvas boards. Just like Massonite with the exception these boards’ surfaces have canvas paper glued to them. Now you get the look, but not the feel of canvas. This is very popular for many students, especially when painting with acrylics. If you’re using acrylics, remember the paints always level, so you can cover a painting with white paint or gesso, let dry and you essentially have a new canvas. After 7 coats of practice, I’ll put a final painting on this canvas and then select a new canvas board..

5. The Big Scrapper. I’ll buy a good canvas for practicing and each session when I’m done, I’ll scrape off my practice or painting and wash the surface with Odorless Mineral Spirits on paper towels. But don’t let the painting dry. Remember it’s a practice canvas so scrape it each time when you’re finished painting. Presto ready for me the next time I want to paint. This is by far the cheapest.

When I first started painting I used the big scrapper and then #2 for keeping works. I also bought a lot of canvases. Today I still use the canvas sheets and scrapping.

To come up with lion scenes for our Wildlife Series, I must have painted 15 different lions, lioness and cubs. Painting all of these exceeded $200 on canvas and that’s expensive. I kept my costs down on the studies I did by using canvas papers where I was trying to reduce the time, steps and complexities of certain animal features.


Oval Dining Mats For Oval Cutouts

This tip just in from Bernice Lingenfelter ….

I saw the question from one of your students about how to do the oval cutouts which is a problem I was also having. Oval canvases are so expensive I chose to just place an oval inside of the less expensive rectangular canvas. I have a tip that works for me. I buy the oval table mats that one uses at the table under their plates. I buy them in different size ovals. They work great. The only problem is finding them in the sizes you want but if you keep looking it can be done and they can be saved and don’t take up much room. I place the mats onto sheets of sticky back shelf lining paper and trace the outside oval onto my sticky shelf paper and cut out the interior of the oval. Works great for me.

Thank you again for everything. Bernice

PJ Franklin is such a joy to speak with and she sent the following suggestions which has compelled me to quickly send them to you.

Hi Darrell,

I get perfect ovals two ways and both are much cheaper than buying an oval canvas.

1] buy a oval plastic place mat, and trace around it on your contact paper.

2] buy an oval mat used for framing, they come in several different sizes.


PJ Franklin

Wilmington, NC

Frozen Paint Tip From Michelle

Hey Darrell,

I have several sets of your videos also and have been painting for years! When I read your article on how to preserve paints, I just wanted to add,

If you put your pallete of paint you didn’t use (as soon as you are finished with them) take the pallete and put it in the freezer until you are going to use it again.

The paint doesn’t dry out for sometimes weeks. Just a little trivia hope it helps.

Michelle B.

Oil Painting Mediums: Fat Versus Lean!

Darrell, I have three questions on mediums if you could help me?


Sure Betty, my answers are below your questions.

I noticed that you can mix your own medium with 20% linseed oil and 80% odorless turpentine (turpenoid?). Would you consider this a Fat medium or a Lean medium.

(This is the fattest medium you can get. One should never use over 20% linseed oil, or it takes many forevers to dry. Lean is less and less linseed oil By adding driers or additives, Cobalt or Japan driers, you can make the medium even leaner.) For commercially available mediums (pre-mixed, store-bought) I prefer the Archival Oils Lean Medium. In fact, I use this quite a bit and especially for flowers, tall ships, portraits, wildlife, still life and increasingly with landscapes and seascapes.

You should use fatter mediums if you will be spending several days working on a single painting and want to keep the paints already on the canvas soft for mixing and blending purposes.

You should use a leaner mediums when its important that your painting be painted in “stages’ and the canvas needs to dry between stages. For example, I paint portraits and wildlife in 3-4 stages. It’s important that my canvas be dry between stages. If I use a fat medium, It could take 1-3 months to complete a painting whereas with a lean medium I can complete this type of painting in 3-4 days.

Liquin in a lean medium, I think; what is Winsor Newton Glazing medium?

I do not use Liquin, but my understanding is its on the fat side taking several days for a painting to dry. Perhaps one of my students may have some input on Liquin. Generally speaking, a glazing medium is pretty lean and its frequently mixed with other materials to make it fatter. For instant, I’ve seen it used in wildlife and portrait paintings to keep paints wet. I’ve frequently used glazing medium to study its abilities for portraits and wildlife portraits, but that was primarily to use up the supply I already had. I am not a great fan of glazing mediums. I found that Glazing medium can get really lumpyt. Where I will use a glazing technique is for finishing wildlife and portraits once they’re completed and dry. While oil painting my preference is for a lean medium.

What are some other Fat mediums besides the Bob Ross’s brand?

The general rule I use is that most oil painting mediums are fat unless specifically marked lean or fast drying.

After publishing the above answers, one of my students, Goldie, added this comment.

I have both the Liquin Fine detail and the Archival Lean mediums….and if I were to compare the two I would say that the way it dries tells me that the Liquin fine detail is “fatter.” It takes almost 3 days to be touch dry whereas the Archival Lean medium dries in one day.

I have not tried the regular Liquin. I guess because I started in Acrylics I like the Archival medium the best. Funny when I do acrylics I kind of hate it when I can’t go fast enough or blend, and then in Oils I get upset when I am in marathon mode and it is not drying fast enough so I can try the next step.

Garys Quick Dry Tip

Just a small discovery.

I live in an old farmhouse that has hot water heat using the old fashioned radiators. I put a wet oil painting on top of one while the heat is on and it’s dry to touch in a couple of days. I realize it’s not completely dry at this point and it’ll take six months to dry yada yada yada

But at this point in the drying period the Bob Ross finishing spray works very well.

I have used this method several times, all successfully.

This allows me to have the benefit of using a fat medium during the painting process and when I’m finished, I have a very fast drying technique equivalent to many lean mediums.

Thanks, Gary in Ohio.


Will My DVDs Play on PAL Equipment?

I’m often asked to what standard my DVDs will play. Or, will my DVDs play on PAL?

Here’s the shortened version of my answer …

NTSC, No Region setting.

We are currently investigating the Phase Alternate Line (PAL) television broadcast system products for our European customers, but please read the lengthy anser for detailed information. As of this moment, the decision has not been made to have a specific PAL release. And if we decide to, it will still be quite some time to re-engineer our product.

Here’s the complete answer

The encoded video (MPEG2) on a DVD is stored in digital format, and can be formatted for one of two mutually incompatible television systems:
* 525/60 (NTSC) or
* 625/50 (PAL/SECAM).

Most of the world television formats are based on three main television standards. NTSC, PAL and SECAM (Systeme Electronique Couleur Avec Memoire).

The USA standard is NTSC and all television broadcasts (except for HDTV) meet this standard. This is the standard that we’ve adopted for our digital format storage of the video. In the UK, PAL is the dominant format. SECAM is used in France and Russia, some Eastern European, and some African countries.

There are only two kinds of DVD’s: NTSC DVD’s and PAL DVD’s. Some players play only NTSC, others play PAL and NTSC DVDs. DVDs are also coded for different regions of the world but that’s covered later.

North Americans,
Your system is NTSC!!!
Your Region is 1
That’s for Television, DVDs and VHS tapes.
For DVDs, 95% of the world’s DVD players can read NTSC.
Most NTSC players can’t play PAL DVDs.

Your dominant system is PAL (Except France)
Your Region is 2.
Most if not all PAL DVD players output NTSC.
Most PAL TVs will display NTSC with no problems.
If your DVD player or TV can play “Region 1 DVDs”, than they’ll be able to display NTSC with no problems.
All DVD players sold in PAL countries play both kinds of DVDs. These multi-standard players partially convert NTSC to a 60-Hz PAL (4.43 NTSC) signal. The player uses the PAL 4.43-MHz color subcarrier encoding format but keeps the 525/60 NTSC scanning rate. Most modern PAL TVs can handle this signal. A few multi-standard PAL players output true 3.58 NTSC from NTSC DVDs, which requires an NTSC TV or a multi-standard TV. Some players have a switch to choose 60-Hz PAL or true NTSC output when playing NTSC DVDs.

So what’s the difference ….
The three differences between NTSC discs and PAL discs are:
1) Picture size and pixel aspect ratio (720×480 vs 720×576),
2) Display frame rate (29.97 vs 25),
3) surround audio options (Dolby Digital vs MPEG audio). Video from film is usually encoded at 24 frames/sec. but is preformatted for one of the two display rates. Movies formatted for PAL display are usually sped up by 4% at playback, so the audio must be adjusted accordingly before being encoded. All PAL DVD players can play Dolby Digital audio but not all NTSC players can play MPEG audio. PAL and SECAM share the same scanning format, so discs are the same for both systems. The only difference is that SECAM players output the color signal in the format required by SECAM TV’s. Note that modern TV’s in most SECAM countries can also read PAL signals, so you can use a player that only has a PAL output.

Region Codes – What does “DVD Region” mean?

The global DVD marketplace is divided into six regional zones for two purposes: (1)to combat piracy, and (2)to regulate distribution. Regionalization allows film distributors to stagger DVD movie releases across the world’s various markets. Thus a film can be released for sale on DVD in one territory only, with access to the DVD restricted via regional coding so that this DVD cannot be viewed on a DVD player from another differently coded territory where the film may not have even been released in cinemas yet.

The world’s six DVD regions are:

* Region 1: North America and related Territories
* Region 2: Japan, Europe, South Africa and the Middle East
* Region 3: Southeast Asia and East Asia
* Region 4: Australia, New Zealand, Pacific Islands, Central and South America
* Region 5: Indian Subcontinent, Former Soviet Union and Africa
* Region 6: China

The encryption system for regional coding is the same on all DVDs and is contained in just one byte of information. Each DVD player checks to see whether the inserted DVD can be played on that particular regional player unless it’s a multi-zone DVD player which can play DVDs from any regional zone. DVDs coded Region 0 can be played on all DVD players regardless of their specific regional setting.

If you are having trouble playing any of our DVDs, we recommend that you review your DVD player and television system to ensure that your system has the ability to play NTSC and to play Region 1 or Region 0 DVDs.


Can I Go Back And Fix A Painting?

I must receive this question at least 3-4 times a week.

Yes. We can always go back and correct a painting.
Lion PortraitYesterday was a good example. I’m working on a lion portrait. He’s sitting just at the edge of the jungle, watching the dinners go by. Sharp teeth and powerful jaws. Only something’s not right. I can’t figure it out. So I go over to the computer and am browsing the email. Margie has sent me one that says the eye is wrong.

Immediately I glanced over to the lion and she’s dead on. So I fix the left eye and what a difference. I also have to change the jaw since studying the reference photos has indicated another error.

Done, smiling, happy, I sit back down at the computer and reread Margie’s note.

I had fixed the wrong eye.

Quickly glancing back at the painting I realized two things.

First, the left eye did need fixing. Secondly, the right eye now looks like a poor genetic mutation. Grabbing raw sienna, I heavily cover the right eye, except for one small correctly placed eyelash.

What can we learn from this……..

  • Seek other opinions.
  • Study, study, study your reference photos
  • Never be afraid to go back into either a wet or dry painting and make corrections
  • And its OK to correct, re-correct, re-correct, re-correct, etc….. One of the things I learned in figure painting is the necessity to constantly re-paint, re-paint, re-paint

What shall we paint this fine Saturday…..?

Certificate of Authenticity

When I sell my original paintings, It can increase value and often is necessary to include a Certificate of Authenticity (COA.). (Especially for collectors) This is a document that includes all the information the art buyer might want to have on hand about your artwork. It’s very comforting to know that the art seller/artist is willing to certify a statement that a painting they’ve created is an original work of art.

A COA should include

1. The Title of your painting/artwork

2. Artist Name

3. Year the Painting/artwork was created

4. Country where the artwork was created

5. Media Used

6. Size of Painting, Total height, width (Single canvas size)

7. Number of canvases,

8. That the painting is an original.

9. Statement of Authenticity

10. Signature Block (Name and date)

11. On the bottom of the COA, its always a good idea to put your logo and website address and email address. (Mailing Address/Telephone Number is now optional)

Statement: Keep it simple.

This is an example you could use.

This is to certify that the painting with the above specifications is an authentic original painting created by [your name] and sold by [Name of Seller even if its your name].

You can design your own form or you can put together a statement on letterhead.

Getting All of The Baby Oil Out Of The Brushes When Cleaning

Question: I use baby oil to help keep my bristles soft on my paint brushes. Is it necessary to run the brush through paint thinner prior to using them the next time I go to paint. A lot of times, my brushes are dry before using them. (in other words the baby oil is dry on the bristles). Is it still necessary to run the brush through the thinner prior to using my brushes?

Darrell’s Answer: If the brush is dry, then use it as is. If you find the baby oil is still in the brush, what I like to do is take a soft absorbent paper towel, like Viva, and dry my brush by scrubbing the brush into the paper towel. IF the brush is soaked and its a large brush like a 1″ or 2″ brush, I’ll first beat them in the brush beater rack. Then I’ll wipe dry the brushes using the paper towel to make sure I’ve gotten the final bit of baby oil out of it. I do not use thinner to clean my brushes anymore.