Originally Posted by Scott Gellatly
While I do not wish to be seen contradicting Scott, who is my friend, or confuse any other reader, I would like to point out one unassailable fact: that oil painting as a media is over 500 years old and most of it predates the use of odorless mineral spirits – or the excessive use of turpentine.
So here's a question: how did those early painters get by without using lots of solvent?
1. By using earth colors, which are innately oil absorptive and were more coarse and varied in their grind.(Sure, that may be what they had to work with, but this objection doesn't change my point.)
2. By using grounds which were also more absorptive. A condition which would tend to draw down oil content out of a paint layer after it is applied.
3. By the use of scumbling and/or thin dry-brushed application of paint in the early stages, and not quick washes of paint thinned with an oil or solvent. Nor did Ye Olde Masters immediately launch into a premiere coup application of paint. (Meaning, start off from the git-go by laying down thick juicy layers of color, which is a relatively modern way to paint that first made its appearance in the early to mid-19th century.)
I am not championing any of the points I've expressed above as being superior to how the majority of oil painters work today. That would require making a subjective judgement and we don't do that here. I am just saying the Old Dead Guys didn't use anywhere as much solvent as we splash around today. And sure, how those dead artists may have used their paints did tend to dictate a certain look and feel, but then, the same holds true for how most of us work today.
So here is something to think about: One doesn't HAVE to thin one's paint with a solvent to follow the fat over lean principle. Other factors can be exploited. It all becomes an informed choice once you learn more about it.
Thomas Jefferson Kitts