The Alexander Wet-on-Wet Technique revolutionized the art of oil painting. Bill Alexander spent years developing and refining this special technique to make it possible for anyone to create a painting with a minimum of instruction. With traditional oil painting, it often takes weeks, or even longer, to finish one painting. With the Alexander Method™, you can complete your painting in an afternoon.
Bill arrived in North America after emigrating from Germany at the end of World War II. He brought with him a box of rusty nails and a hammer to build a home for his family in the new world. The nails weren’t rusty when Bill embarked on his voyage. Ocean moisture and salt air made short work of those nails by the time he arrived at customs.
Bill’s dream was to be an artist. He was also practical enough to realize that he had to make a “happy buck.” Once he got a job, he began to pursue his dream of becoming an artist.
Traditional methods of oil painting required months (or longer) to complete a painting. The realities of the market for art also limited the price tag Bill could attach to a painting. He had to figure out a way to speed up the painting process. That way he could afford to sell a painting at a price people could afford.
Although Bill did not have a formal art education as we think of it today, he knew art history and the Old Masters. He knew about the technique of wet-on-wet painting. For some reason, wet-on-wet fell out of favor over the years. You know how it is. A new generation of artists come along with their own ideas and methods. They tend to throw out the old without regard to the lessons that age and experience offer.
As Bill says in many of his videos, wet-on-wet is a “dangerous technique.” What he means is that there are certain principles you must learn to be successful with wet-on-wet. He also knew that one of the secrets of the method was the paint he; and, in time, his students would use.
There was too much oil in the paint he could buy. Since Bill was painting by himself, he could accommodate that deficiency. All he needed to do was lay out his oil paint on newsprint the night before. By morning the paper absorbed the excess oil. It was then thick enough to work with his style of painting.
When Bill began to teach, it was a different story. He now had to go through this process for a dozen or more students at a time. Thus began a decades-long period in Bill’s life as he developed and then perfected a thick oil paint. He knew a thick paint would not only work on his paintings but help his students succeed in his classes.
Bill tried to find an existing paint manufacturer to help him. They refused. He knew that if he were to create this paint, he would have to do it himself. He would have to find a paint manufacturer and pay them to make a special batch of paint only for him. It would be like self-publishing a book — an expensive process.
Bill would discover it was, indeed, an expensive process. It would cost him his home.
We’ll finish our story about Bill’s journey to create the perfect paint next time. Until then…
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