Oil Painting: Ken Auster's Technique in a Nutshell

In the October 2006 issue of American Artist, California artist Ken Auster explained how he pursues an aggressive, take-no-prisoners approach to plein air painting.  Here, we offer further insight into his technique.

by  John A. Parks

Canvas.  Cotton duck primed with acrylic gesso and then covered with a layer of laytex house paint. This keeps the surface slick and lets the paint sit up on it.

Paint.  Auster creates "Classic" paint from San Francisco. This is a very workable safflower oil based paint. Auster never adds any medium to it so that the consistency is always the same.

Brushes.  Auster never bothers to clean them — just soaks them in turpentine over night and keeps going the next day.

Palette.  Sheets of freezer wrap which can be discarded throughout the day.

Approach.  Auster uses "a big angry brush" and puts the paint on thick from the beginning. He bases the composition on a clear, bold design and gets everything down fast. He does some mixing on the palette but likes to mix the color right on the canvas where possible.

Color.  "Greys are wonderful. I tell my students that it's a grey world." say Auster. "The fun of painting is following the nuances and subtleties." But the artist also likes to pitch small areas of brilliantly saturated color against his filed of quiet  greys.

To read the feature article on this artist, click here.

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