Tad Spurgeon oil paintings


about me
the work
the book

sound practice
black & white
putty medium
just oil
putty tutorial

general questions

Questions are an important part of my learning process. If you have purchased Living Craft, have any questions about the Refining Linseed Oil PDF, if you'd like more information about the book or purchasing a painting, have a question about the information on the site, or just want to say hi, please feel free to send me an e-mail. Also, I'm sorry if you've tried to contact me through Facebook and I haven't replied, I'm hopelessly bad at Facebook, find it over-complex and overwhelming most of the time.

technical questions

There is a great deal of technical information on the website, but exponentially more in Living Craft, which was written to tell the story in detail, and comes with free e-support.

If you have general oil painting questions, a great option is the technical support system at Williamsburg. They have a quality selection of technical information online here, a great set of technical bulletins here, and you can also contact them directly here.

There are also now several well-informed and polite forums. Some of these are on Facebook, such as the Rational Painters group, or the group headed by George O'Hanlon of Natural Pigments. A recent self-contained one with an emphasis on reconstructing historical aspects of the craft effectively is MITRA at the University of Delaware. It's great to see an American university take an interest in the craft.


I just want to say, yet again, that, in spite of the disingenuous way it is often marketed, spike lavender is potentially highly toxic and needs to be used with a great deal of ventilation always. It is insanity to imply that spike lavender is safer than turpentine. This advertisement is really misleading: just because a material was used in the Renaissance doesn't mean it was safe. What about white lead, realgar, orpiment? They killed people. Given that it's people's health at issue, this is criminal misrepresentation. First of all, there is no such thing as a safe solvent. Second of all, spike lavender is not natural, it is distilled, producing an essential oil thousands of times stronger than the original flower. Spike lavender has a very high VOC (volatile organic compounds) content, and, as such, needs to be used with maximum ventilation always unless you have a spare central nervous system in the closet. Do you know an older painter with Parkinson's? Yes, so do I, several. Kremer Pigments, one of the more genuinely responsible purveyors on the planet, only sells spike to professional users. The MSDS for spike on the Kremer website is, wait for it, ten pages long. Take a look, they even give you a breakdown of all the hazardous chemicals within it: Camphene 9%, Terpineol 27%, Pine Oil 20%, Limonene 15%. Gee, any of these sound familiar? I'm not saying not to use spike lavender, I'm saying to use it with awareness of what it really is: a powerful and potentially dangerous solvent that happens to smell good.

buying a painting

If you are interested in a painting, please e-mail me, and I'll send you images of finished work in the category you specify (still life, landscape, etc.), along with sizes and prices. You can also download a PDF about the purchasing procedure .


I've found the craft fascinating and rewarding on a number of levels. Below are some links to more information here about how to do this yourself.


You can begin to get aquainted with Living Craft, a unique approach to oil painting based on handmade materials and traditional techniques, here.


The 20th century textbooks became very involved in the use of toxic solvents. Many painters are interested in minimizing or eliminating solvent from the studio. Various strategies for solvent-free painting are covered here.

      For centuries there has been intense speculation about the materials and methods used in older painting. This has often focused on the concept of the "lost secret." Analyzing older painting at the molecular level, modern technical art history has told us a different story. What do the actual secrets of older painting now appear to be? The following PDF of selections from Living Craft is focused on older practice.

      A condensed overview of oil painting technique that sorts out reliable facts from prevailing myths is available here.

      A more detailed look at sound practice can be found here. This explains the fundamentals of the system that has come about through a decade of research into the basic, original materials of oil painting. This is also available as a text-only PDF file here.

       The older craft was different, and technical art history has shown that the oil is the foundation of the older craft, not any resin or secret ingredient. As such, the more you know about the oil, the more informed decisions you can make for your work. This page about the oil will get you started. If you refine the oil yourself, you have the sine qua non and foundation of older practice, a genuinely non-yellowing oil that dries hard in a day or two. This oil makes several techniques available that cannot be done otherwise. No oil even close to this is available commercially, and you will never see this statement directly contradicted by anyone. You can download a pdf file with the latest version of this process and several traditional variations here.

For further information on technique or a specific painting please contact tadspurgeon@gmail.com
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