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Darrell, when you paint backgrounds it seems your paint lasts a long time and is very dark at the top, lighter at the horizon. I’m frustrated in that it seems my paint is too thick and the color comes on dark. Do you thin your paints? Paul

Paul, there could be many reasons for this. Let’s explore them.

First, as far as your paints are concerned… old are they? Are they drying out? When you squeeze out a bead of the paint, do you fine dry paint flakes and strips throughout the bead? Or is it the devil to squeeze out. If so, that particular tube has seen better days. Your cure may be as simple as a new tube of paint.

Secondly, how much paint are you loading onto your brush? When I’m painting backgrounds for any reason, I know that the particular color will be used to cover only a small area, or a large area and load accordingly. For example, if I’m going to paint in a blue sky and have a lake in front, I decide I’ll paint the sky in one load and the bottom half of the canvas in the second. I load my paint onto the first load by pulling the large 2″ or 1″ brush through just a corner of the Prussian Blue (or blue of your choice). I pull the brush lightly through the paint 2 or 3 times to ensure enough paint. Then I’ll firmly tap the brush down onto the palette to even out the distribution of the paint on the brush.

As I go to paint the sky, my first objective is to have the paint darker ontop and lighter as I had to the horizon. Now, since I’ve already covered the canvas with medium white, I already have a thinning agent on the canvas. I do not need and should not thin my paints. I want to make a minimum of three rows of “X” strokes or chris-cross strokes across the top half of the canvas.

I start out on the right side, top, making X strokes with the brush. I’m pressing on the brush a bit, but not a lot. I will cover the top row of the canvas and look at the coverage. Often I see that the right side is dark, but its really light on the left corner. If I see this, I’ll reload my brush and then continue with the X strokes at the top left side to about the half way point. Then I’ll finish painting the 2nd and 3rd row with the paint getting lighter and lighter as we head to the horizon.

If I see, instead, that the left corner of the canvas is the same value of blue as the right corner, I’ll just continue with the X strokes on row 2 and 3.

For the bottom of the canvas I repeat the entire process with two exceptions.

1) I use a straight, horizontal stroke instead of an X stroke.

2) I start at the bottom of the canvas and stroke horizontally up toward the horizon.

Let me know how this works for you.