Bill struggled to make money at the beginning of his art career. Traditional methods of oil painting required days or weeks to create an oil painting. Bill could not charge a price for his paintings that compensated him for the time it took to create one. Bill needed a way to speed up the painting process. He could then sell a painting at a price people could afford. He would also be able to earn a “happy buck.”
Bill’s solution was a centuries old method of oil painting called wet-on-wet. Bill, though, took wet-on-wet one step further. He modified and innovated it. We’re going to focus on just one of Bill’s innovations right now — Magic White™. In a video posted on our website, Bill explained how he came up with the idea of Magic White™.
Why did Bill invent Magic White™?
Bill realized that he spent a lot of time mixing colors on his palette. Most of his color mixing used white paint. Bill wondered, What if there was a way to mix on the canvas rather than on the palette? What if he could cover the canvas with a thin, wet coat of white paint? He could speed up, at least, one part of the painting process. So the concept of Magic White™ was born.
Bill’s autobiography recounts his development of Magic White™. He began by using an oil based primer from the hardware store. He worried, though, that the primer would crack and yellow with age. He began to experiment first by adding more oil to regular oil paint. Then he combined extra additives to the paint including solvents. It took him a number of years of trial and error until he developed a formula he liked. Satisfied with the result, he began selling it to his students.
Magic White™ sped up Bill’s ability to create a painting. In the “Paint with Bill” Art Course, Bill creates a detailed cloudscape in less than five minutes. Later when Bill began painting on television, Magic White™ was a big time saver. Bill only had 27 minutes to create a completed painting and every minute counted.
Bill used Magic White™ for his entire career. It has been the standard for much of the wet-on-wet painting done since Bill’s death. Many paint manufacturers copied Bill’s Magic White™ formula. But there is a problem!
The problem with Magic White™ was that it contained solvents to keep the paint thin. Wet-on-wet involves a process of stacking layers of paint one on top of another. The first layer must be thin. Solvents, though, are toxic to many people. In fact, a lot of people do not take up oil painting because of unhealthy reactions to solvents. Paint manufacturers have tried to get around this problem by creating odorless products. Unfortunately, odorless does not mean they are no longer harmful. Just because you can’t smell fumes doesn’t mean they are safe to breathe.
Alexander Art has a commitment to creating a safer oil painting environment. A few years ago we introduced an environmentally friendly brush cleaner. “How,” we wondered, “could we make Magic White™ safer?”
Next Week: The Search For A Solution