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I have been taking Victor Wang’s Oil Painting Techniques class this semester. In the class we go through the painting methods of three master painters;  Jan Van Eyck, Titian, and Peter Paul Rubens. These three painters exemplify the three central methods of traditional oil painting.

Since I have been learning about traditional painting methods, I have been wondering what it was like for a painter back then. They painted when an artist couldn’t go to the store and browse through a shelf full of synthetic oil paints, nicely pre-packaged in little tubes for convenience. This led me to the question, “Where DID they get their paints?”

So, I have begun to research how to make paints. I started by purchasing pigments, which are colored powders that are mixed with oil to make paint. Still, this seemed too commercial. I wanted to know what it is really like to make paint from start to finish. I begun with the easiest pigments to make, which are earth tones. I searched out colored earth of different colors, looking for reds and yellows. I found two that I really like in Des Peres. One is yellow rock, and the other is a reddish colored dirt. I brought them back to my studio, and began grinding…and grinding…and grinding. Grinding it down until I had a powder fine enough to go through a metal coffee filter. The next step is to mix the pigment with linseed oil, and then grind it together. This step takes about 3 hours of grinding for a small tube of paint. Then, when the pigment is ground into the oil, I put the paste into tubes, and voila! Oil paint!

I thought that this project would just be about how it felt for the masters to make their own paint from raw materials, but now I’ve started using them and I can really tell the difference! My own paints don’t have fillers or preservatives, they are pure pigment and oil. I’m hooked.

The amount of time and energy that goes into making paint probably makes buying it end up being a little bit cheaper. However, it is not nearly as rewarding. Now I have started working on a bluish-green pigment made by suspending copper over vinegar(the masters used urine instead, but I thought I would spare my classmates from the smell). The result is a teal rust that I can’t wait to make paint out of.

I plan to slowly replace all of the paints on my palette, one color at a time.



Visiting Artists

by Doug on April 19, 2012

in Academics

Every few months the art department invites a visiting artist to come and do a critique with the graduate students. Most of them are professors from nearby schools, but sometimes they are more prominent painters. For the last two days we have been spending time with Jerome Witkin. He is a phenomenal painter with works in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, and in the Hirshhorn Museum in D.C.

Getting a fresh perspective on our work is always helpful. It is easy to get stuck in a rut talking to the same teacher about my paintings all the time. Having someone new to discuss my work with gives me a fresh start, even if they say all of the same things that my professors do (which is usually the case).

Now that the two days of critiques are over, it is time to apply what was discussed. The visiting artists always leave me with ideas that I need to get down quickly so they don’t fall to the wayside.

The visit with Mr. Witkin was very educational. It is always an honor and a privilege to meet such a high caliber of artist, and I look forward to whoever they find for our next critique.


My wife and I started running in January. We decided we wanted to run a marathon, so we signed up for a half-marathon in Cincinnati in May, and we signed up for a full marathon in St. Louis in October! The marathon is a rock ‘n’ roll marathon, so it will have live bands playing while we run.

So… in the mean time, we have been running. Always running. We have found a lot of nice places in St. Louis to run. The obvious nice place to run is in Forest Park, especially in the winter since its trails are the best kept in St. Louis. In South St. Louis we sometimes run on the Katy Trail. More recently we have started running on the St. Vincent Greenway Trail and the Ted Jones Trail. These two trails are up in North County by UMSL. There are plans in the future to connect the two trails, and the Greenway trail will eventually run all the way down to Forest Park. Since we live in Normandy, it will be really nice to be able to run or bike all the way down to the park without running on busy roads!

For now, we’ll just keep running everywhere we can.

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This has been a great week! The weather is finally starting to look like Spring, so my wife and I started off the week by going to the zoo. We visited all of our favorite animals, like the new baby lion who was chomping on a big bone. Kenzi, the baby elephant was adorable as ever. Bert, the majestic grizzly bear was out. They were throwing rolled up bread balls at Bert, and he would sit up on his hind legs and beg for them… so awesome!

Later, we visited the grave of William Clark in Bellefontaine Cemetery just off of I-70. It is one of the largest cemeteries I have ever been to.

On Friday, we went to two art openings. The Varsity Art show at Art St. Louis was great, with paintings by two Fontbonne students, Albert Kuo and Julie Deken! The other opening was the faculty show at Fontbonne! I really think every Fontbonne student should get over to the gallery and check it out!

Today we went to the Fabulous Fox theater for a taping of America’s Got Talent! We got to be in the audience and cheer for the good acts and boo the bad ones! Best of all, we got to see Howie Mandel, Sharon Osborn, and Howard Stern!

Now my wife is out latin dancing with one of her girlfriends while I am at the graduate art studios for some late night painting. I just started the final painting in a series of 12!

It has been a long, but awesome week!


Fun history of St. Louis

by Doug March 5, 2012

What I love most about living in a new place is learning fun and strange new history about the city. St. Louis has a lot of very fascinating history. Many people consider the Wainwright building to be the first skyscraper! The Wainwright building is located in downtown St. Louis, only a few blocks from the [...]

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Friday at the St. Louis Art Museum

by Doug February 27, 2012

One of the greatest things about St. Louis, in my opinion, is the St. Louis Art Museum (SLAM). The museum is free to the public and hosts a great collection of paintings, drawings, prints, photographs, and sculptures. I go there quite a bit since it is located in Forest Park which is right by Fontbonne! [...]

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My Valentine’s Day!

by Doug February 16, 2012

There are a lot of mixed emotions about Valentine’s Day. I, personally, think Valentine’s Day is wonderful! My wife and I have been married for 3 and a half years. Even though we love each other every other day, it is always fun to celebrate our love for each other. This year we made a [...]

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Homelessness in St. Louis: What you can do about it!

by Doug February 10, 2012

One thing I’ve noticed since moving to St. Louis is that there is a large homeless population here. In the January 2010 census, there were 1,305 counted homeless persons in the St. Louis area. Almost every day on my way to school I pass at least one homeless man holding a cardboard sign. My heart [...]

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Life in the Studio!

by Doug January 31, 2012

Hello everyone! My name is Doug Weaver and this is my first blog post at Fontbonne. This is my second semester at Fontbonne as a graduate student in painting and drawing. I live in an apartment in North County with my beautiful wife. As I write this, I am sitting in my new studio space [...]

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Students writing for Real Life at Fontbonne are paid a small fee for each post by the university.