Friday, September 24, 2010

Empty Packaging

We now stock empty bottles, jars, paint tubes, ink bottles, boxes and delicate glassware. Liberate and decant the Alchemist inside.

Custom Stretching

That Marrimekko fabric sitting in the closet could hang on the wall. St Luke can custom-cut stretchers and re-stretch most things. Any size. Nanna’s tea towel perhaps? Show us what you’ve got and we can give you a quote.

Of course we can stretch any cotton or linen on to the best heavy duty, farmed hard wood stretcher bars. Our stock sizes start at 10" and go up to 84".
In the photo above Merryn is stretching a 3 metre beauty with the flick of a wrist. All in a days work for the magical St. Lukettes, is there anything we can't do?
No, no there isn't.

St. Luke Vernissage

ORIGIN French, literally ‘varnishing,’ originally referring to the day prior to an exhibition when artists were allowed to retouch and varnish hung work.

Why Varnish?

-To protect the underlying painting from damage, dust and dirt.

-To uniform the surface and give an even optical reflection.

What you want from a varnish

-All varnishes should be removable.

-The varnish should be flexible enough to move with the support.

-Varnishes should provide a non-tacky surface so as to resist imbibing dirt.

-Wether Gloss, Semi-Gloss or Matte the finish should be even, enhance the artwork and provide resistance to discolouration caused by heat and humidity.

Types of Varnish

Retouch Varnish- the only varnish that can be applied to oil paintings younger than 6 months. We know you want to use other varnishes before the painting is dry but really, control yourself or risk having cracks in the surface.

Damar Varnish- the most traditional natural varnish still in use. It takes about 50 years for this varnish to turn yellowish brown. It is removable so you don’t have to freak out.

Gloss Varnish- super shiny and lustrous. Hard to walk past as a superior finish to most paintings.

Satin Varnish- somewhere between matte and shiny, Satin Varnish is world wide the most popular finish to artworks

Wax Varnish- with a wax finish this varnish is to be applied with a lint free cloth. The Matte look can be softly buffed to subtle sheen.

How to Apply Varnish


Take your time.

Move away from the dusty areas of your house or studio, those squiggly floating pieces of fluff will and can attach themselves to your freshly varnished masterpiece.

For liquid varnishes estimate how much varnish you will need and pour into a flat-bottomed container to avoid spillage.

Use a soft, wide, flat brush dedicated to the task.

Put only the tip of the brush in the varnish so as not to overload it and flood the painting.

Work your way across the middle of the painting and then oppose you next stroke at a 90 degree angle to the first. Work your way to the outer edges.

Leave the painting to set for 10 minutes before moving.

For an amazing overview of Varnishing Check out an article by Golden Artist Colours here.

Colours for a Seasonal Palette


To play your colours by eye is worse than playing the piano by ear. –John Sloan (1875-1951)

CAPUT MORTUUM. Pigment Red 101. A velvety purple earth colour, it is also known as Mars Violet or Indian Red. St Lukettes love the intensity and warm radiance of this pigment. Its unusual name is Latin for 'dead head'. Caput Mortuum is a beautiful opaque pigment with excellent permanency. This Prepared Iron Oxide is unbelievably opaque and when used in most media dries to ultra flatness with a matt finish.

YELLOW OXIDE. Pigment Yellow 42. This is an opaque pigment with excellent permanency. This is another prepared Iron oxide pigment known as Mars Yellow, Mars orange, Iron yellow or Ochre. Yellow oxide is very bright and pure with a medium tinting strength; this colour makes a useful companion for landscape and portrait painting.

CADMIUM YELLOW DEEP. Pigment yellow 37. Not many pigments compare to the cadmium family. They are renown for their extraordinary opacity and high tinting strength. This deep warm yellow has a beautiful luminous and radiant quality. Cadmium yellow deep is an inorganic synthetic pigment with a fast drying rate, as tough as it is delicate, never underestimate a great cadmium colour.

MARS BROWN. Pigment Brown 6. Mmmmmm chocolate……… This rich deep brown has a strong red undertone and is very close to natural Burnt Umber. Very opaque, it gives excellent recession of space for shadows. Indispensable to portrait, landscape and still life painters, Mars Brown is seductively rich. Just like chocolate, Mars Brown is hard to resist.

GOLD OXIDE. Pigment 42. This prepared iron oxide has richer tones of gold than Yellow Oxide pigment and matches its natural ochre counterpart, Raw Sienna. Sitting between Yellow Oxide and Mars Orange this luxurious pigment is rich and brilliant.

This selection of pigments are part of the new range of 32 oil paints available from Langridge Artists Oil Colours.


Sable brushes are not made from sable (Martes zibellina) but hairs from the weasel family. These hairs are less expensive. Kolinsky sable is the best hair, valued for its length, thick belly, fine point, softness and strength. Kolinsky is usually made from Mink and only the tail is used.

If you are buying a Kolinsky brush, first ask to dip it in water. Flick the brush aggressively in one sharp movement. The point should snap back into shape, if it doesn’t, it means that the brush does not contain enough male hairs, (The male hairs are very springy and snap into shape).

Bristle brushes are made from hog hair produced in china. The best hairs come from Chungking. These hairs are valued highly because of the long length of the split in the tip of the hair, known as flag. Without this flag, hogs hair brushes would drag and split when applying paint to a surface.

The flag also enables the paintbrush to load up and hold more paint. Brush makers will always imprint the handle, letting the consumer know if it is a top quality bristle. Cheap hogs hair brushes are cut into shape and don’t have any flag, this is easy to see if you look closely at the ends of the hairs.

If a brush is described as interlocked it means that the hairs have been worked into a curve. Each hair slightly bends inward helping the brush to keep its shape. The best bristle brush will be interlocked and titled Chungking.

Camel hair brushes are not made of camel. Camel has never been used as a material for brushes. The title signifies the brush is made of ox, pony, squirrel or a mixture of all of these. A nineteenth century brush manufacturer named Camel stamped his name on the brushes he produced because he did not want anyone to know what type of hair was in the brush. This practise continues today.

New Langridge Product

Isolating Medium

Created to even out the reflective finish of oil paintings. Similar to retouch Varnish in its function Isolating Medium is not a varnish and does not have the same glittery reflection as Varnish. This medium when applied to an entire painting will dry to beautiful gloss finish, increasing the depth and lustor of the painting. Isolating medium can be worked back into making it a useful tool to create beautiful oil painted surfaces.

Langridge Isolating Medium is available in 100ml, 500ml,1 Litre & 4 Litres.

Fully Loaded

When buying professional artist paint, find brands that have single pigments and are highly loaded with colour.

The cheaper the paint the less pigment you are buying. Paint manufacturers that have a high loading of pigment will want you to know. Look for the pigment number on the back of the tube and a light fastness rating. Desirable paint will have few blends of pigments and will only have one or two pigment identification numbers listed. Cheaper paints are full of fillers such as opacifiers barium and surfactants. Next time you are buying paint go for something different and spend a couple of dollars extra on a paint that will treat you well, make painting easier and use paint that goes further!

St. Luke recommends Langridge, Golden Acrylic Colours, Williamsburg, Blockx, Schmincke and Old Holland. Check out the links to see the product range.

Find the right surface to suit your practice

Sometimes not just anything will do!

If you are an oil painter try an oil primed surface as it is less absorbent and your oil paint is more likely to glide along the surface. Don’t go for cheap canvases from the two dollar shop, they feel like paper and are so absorbent you may as well re-prime them, beware they warp with moisture! If you like a smooth surface for fine detailed work, build up successive layers of primer and sand in between, or buy a fine weave cotton or linen. If you are more thick and chunky go for a pronounced weave, it grabs hold of paint and won’t let go!

St Luke stocks Fine and Medium weaved primed cotton, a variety of loomstate and primed linen and beautiful Gesso from Langridge and Golden

Use products with less harmful solvents

Leaving painting mediums and solvents open while you are painting is a hazardous occupation. Langridge keeps coming up with the goods and has just released Low Toxic Gel Medium a medium with 89% less toxicity than any other product on the market. The gel medium gives body and holds flag marks without increasing paint transparency. It’s a fast dryer too!

The Low Toxic range includes a Low Toxic Painting Medium and Low Toxic Solvent.

Stop using turps to wash your brushes

Using solvents to clean your brushes strips moisture from the hair filaments.
Liquids tend to send pigment into the ferrel of your brush where they become lodged and cause the brush to lose its shape.
Using an oil or waxed based brush cleaner moisturises and conditions brushes increasing their longevity. These products can also re-wet and restore brushes left to dry by the artist with better things to do than clean up!

St. Luke recommends Langridge Safe-Clean