Frequently Asked Questions

These are the most common questions I'm asked via both comment and private message. I have tried my best to cover everything. If you have additional questions, please leave them in the comments section below.

Last updated: June 22, 2016

How old are you? Where are you from?
I'm from Vancouver, Canada. I'm currently 29.

Where did you go to school? What kind of degree(s) do you have?
I went to school at Emily Carr University of Art + Design as well as Vancouver Island University. Both universities are located in British Columbia, Canada. I have a Bachelor of Fine Arts and a Bachelor of Arts.

Are you a full time artist? Do you have a day job?
Yes, and yes. I work in my studio an average of six days a week, usually from 9PM to 2AM, Tuesday to Friday, and then I pull 12-16 hour days on Sundays and Mondays. That would qualify me as a full time artist. I do supplement my income as a barista. It's flexible and allows me to dedicate extensive amounts of time to the studio. I do not have a full time desk job or non-art career. 

Where else are you online?
On Snapchat, Facebook, and Twitter, I use @sarajmolcan just like Instagram. My Patreon subscription page is here. My YouTube channel is here.

How do I hear about work first? Or prints?
The first people I share new work with are my patrons on Patreon. After that, in no particular order: Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. I notify my mailing list of new work bi-monthly. As for prints, paintings, and other products listed in the shop, again Patreon subscribers always hear first. Next, my mailing list gets notified. Finally, Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter are informed. If you can't subscribe to Patreon, your next best bet is the mailing list.

What kind of paint do you use? What brands?
I use oil paint. I have brand loyalty to Holbein, Williamsburg, and KAMA. I have bought other paints in the past, but these are my favourites.

What kind of brushes do you use? What brands?
I use long handle brushes made from either synthetic material or hog hair. I buy my brushes from Opus, Deserres, and a local Vancouver shop, Rath. I don't have loyalty to brush brands at this time.

What do you mix on?
Glass palette.

You should [enter video request for Instagram here]!
I don't take requests. This is a project for my art practice. It's not a dj booth. Requesting videos is disrespectful and repeated requests will get you blocked because I assume you don't have manners. Colour related, reverse video, timelapse, I get them all. If I want to make one, I will. Please, for the love of art, stop asking.

How do you start a painting? 
There's a wonderful video in my about page that showcases the early stages of one of my paintings along with how they end up. From a basic standpoint, I start with a figure painting and then abstract it. I use my instinct to decide where those brushstrokes go and what areas still show. 

How do you know when it's done? 
It's hard to explain. I just do, on some instinctual level. I've spent years overworking paintings and going too far - essentially, wrecking it. You start to learn when to stop.

How long does a painting take?
An average of 2-4 weeks, depending on size and layer drying times. The shortest has been 1 week, and the longest was 12. 

What inspires you?
Psychology, identity, personality, and neurological findings about memory and the brain. I find it fascinating how we recall faces, and how our memories can rewrite our own personal histories. I read Psychology Today and Scientific American along with following other neurological journals to learn about some of the latest findings.

I don't know how to find inspiration, can you help me?
You need to seek out your own. Take what you love outside of painting and translate it into painting. Only you can figure out what that is.

Do you have any advice for young/aspiring/hopeful/new/just starting/beginning artists?
Plenty! I have written three major posts: surfaces, brushes, and paint that each have advice for beginners. There is also my tips for beginners post.

What do you use your palette knives for?
For both mixing paint and applying paint to my surfaces. Different knives have different uses. Size matters for mixing different quantities of paint. Shape changes the way the paint is applied on the surface.

Where do you buy your supplies?
I buy most of my paint and other supplies from Rath, here in Vancouver. I also frequent Opus and Deserres. If I purchase online, it's from Blick.

Why oil paints? 
The first paints I ever worked with were acrylic and watercolour for my portfolio submission for art school. In my first painting class, I was trained to use oils. I have dabbled in using acrylics, watercolours, and gouache since, but always gravitate back to oils. During my fourth year panel review (a private critique with three professors), I was told that my work demanded to be in oil based on the layering I was doing and the luminescence I was trying to achieve. I haven't looked back since.

Are oils easier than _______ paint?
Yes, and no. It really depends on your experience with the other paint. Also, not all paintings need to be in oil. There's a lustre about oil paint that is really enticing, but some works are much better suited to be in another medium. You can also do mixed media work. I just happen to use strictly oil, which is easiest for me. I've been painting my whole life, and definitely worked with other paints long before oils. I even briefly deviated from oils and tried out liquid acrylics for awhile. Find what works for your own work and is easy for you to master. If you're having problems blending your acrylic paint, I suggest trying to mix in retarder medium or try using open acrylics. 

What kind of easel do you have? How much?
An h-frame easel and it was a gift from my parents.

Can I see your paintings in person?
I share my upcoming shows and open studios through my mailing list. If you're interested in setting up a private studio visit to discuss a show or artwork acquisition, please contact me directly via the contact page.

Where do you sell your work? Originals or just prints?
I sell my work through the shop page here on my website. I also sell prints. I only do limited edition print runs at this time. 

You sold out of ________ print. Will/can you make more?
I could make more, but the edition is closed, so I will not. I'm truly sorry that you missed out! I recommend joining my mailing list so you can be one of the first groups notified when my prints or paintings are listed for sale. The reason I don't print extras outside of the edition is that they are numbered (i.e.: 1/50) and printing extras is not only false advertising, but lessens the value of the print for existing collectors.

Do you offer wholesale on originals or prints?
Not at this time.

What about merchandise?
I've previously done runs of shirts with my art on it. I'm currently looking into the following merchandise: canvas bags, sublimation all-over print t-shirts and tank tops, iPhone cases, and throw pillows. If you're wanting one of these products if I launch them, sign up for my mailing list.

Will you sell your work on _________?
At this time, I do not sell my work on Etsy, Society6, Threadless, RedBubble, DesignsByHumans, Casetify, SaatchiArt. Amazon, eBay, or otherwise. If you see my work there, it is a knockoff and not authorized by me.

How do you make your prints? Who is your printer?
I don't get my prints done at any big box store. For a long time, I had my prints done at a small print shop in Fresno, California (I knew one of the owners). After they closed, I found a small printer in Vancouver. I was lucky. As for the quality of the prints, aside from finding a good printer, it's essential that your digital image be flawless. You should either scan the work or take a high resolution image of the work with a DSLR. Colour correction, resizing, and cropping all need to be done prior to print. I use Adobe Lightroom and Adobe Photoshop to prepare my images for print. If you can't do this yourself, I recommend searching for a local printer who can. My prints are made with archival inks and printed on rag paper.

Do you just mix paint for fun? What do you use it for?
I find this question troubling. A quick glance at my profile makes it evident that I am a painter. 

Why do people even like your paint mixing videos?
That's up to the interpretation of the viewer. For me, I mix paint out of necessity, but the act of mixing it is calming to me. It allows me to relieve stress and feel more relaxed. 

Can you please do tutorials or start a YouTube channel?
In a surprise turn of events, I now have a YouTube channel. The link is above in the social media question. I haven't decided if I'll be doing any painting tutorials at this time, but I may do a couple demos of some of the supplies I have.

Can I repost your content?
I generally don't mind as long as you credit me via comment or tag so people can find the original artist. If you neglect to credit me, and instead take credit yourself, I will file an intellectual property claim and block you. I have yet to have a claim declined, and I'm sure you'd rather reposted content didn't get taken down.

You didn't respond to my message/comment. Why?
If you direct messaged me a heart or a smily face, I likely didn't respond. If the answer to your question is in my profile, a few comments before yours, or the image caption, I assume you're smart enough to find it. I think you'll have no issue finding that I'm fairly open and most of your questions have already been answered. There is also the possibility that I missed your question. In that case, please request a direct message with me. I will often redirect you to this very blog, as I often get repeat questions. The best way to get my attention in comments is to ask your question on the most recent three posts, as they are the ones I usually scan for questions. Even if your question is "on _____ post, you did ______ blank colour and I was wondering ________" it's more likely I will see it.

Will you promote me/give me a shout out/tell people to follow me?
No. That's not what I do or what my page is about. I am grateful for those who have found solace in my paint mixing, but I don't message people asking them to promote me and I would appreciate the same consideration. If you're looking for promotion, there are plenty of accounts that handle that. I also block people for self-promotion. 

For Beginners

Please note that I am not an expert in painting, but rather speak from my own experience and training.

I've already left some tips for beginners in Surfaces, Paint, and Brushes. There will be a tiny overlap in reminding you to experiment. If you're new to painting, that's fine and I'm excited for your journey, but I am not here to explain the basics of colour mixing, how to compose a painting, or how to paint. There are plenty of classes available either at your local community centre or college, or through private instruction. Trust me, they will be much better instructors than I. Google will be your friend in finding classes geared towards colour theory, how to paint, and what makes a great composition. There are also countless YouTube tutorials on the topic, and those painters are really quite proficient in explaining their techniques.

Don't be precious
The hardest thing when you're learning about painting is fear. Fear that you'll make a mistake, wreck a painting that you're happy with the progress on, mess up your expensive canvas, or waste paint as you're navigate through colour mixing. Try to avoid seeing preciousness in everything you do. When you make mistakes, you'll learn from them. You'll learn what works, what doesn't, and why that is. You'll see the next piece with more experienced eyes and a better grasp on how to control the paint.

Experiment
Don't feel constrained by the rules of painting with oils or acrylics (or even watercolours and gouache). Instead, experiment with paint application, tools, colour pairing, composition, and even mediums that are frowned upon. During my first time in art school, I was told that metallics and fluorescents were garish and should be never be used under any circumstances. For years, I avoided them. Now I use them liberally and without fear. Don't let arbitrary rules you'll find in certain art forums that are based more on personal taste stop you from finding your own way.

Paint like you
I often get asked about developing your own style. That happens naturally. Instead of worrying about painting like someone you admire, focus on painting like YOU and your style will develop naturally. The work I admire and love is often much different in style and technique than my own. I love hyperrealism but it's never something I would pursue as an artist, even though I deeply admire the artists who accomplish that. 

Do a reproduction
One of the ways I learned colour theory was using the books Color Mixing Recipes for Oils and Acrylics and Color Mixing Recipes for Portraits to create a reproduction of a painting in art school. To do this, you choose a painting that is considered part of the public domain (to avoid copyright infringement, so think dead masters like the early impressionists) and try to create a reproduction with both colour and brushstroke. This is how you begin to understand what pigments will create what colours when mixed together. It's a wonderful challenge and worth attempting when you're learning. I have to stress, do not reproduce a living artist's work without explicit permission. You have a high chance of copyright infringement, and no one wants a lawsuit on their hands.

If you have other questions, please leave them in the comments below.

Surfaces

Please note that I am not an expert in painting, but rather speak from my own experience and training.

Types of Surfaces
You can paint on countless surfaces when they are prepped accordingly. If you're ambivalent towards the longevity of your work, you can skip preparing your surface. The most popular surfaces for oil painters are panel, canvas, and linen. 

Priming
The preprimed canvasses at places like Blick, Michaels, and Opus are perfectly adequate to experiment on and even create great work on. The biggest issue with preprimed canvasses is that the quality of the canvas itself is quite low, the frame is sometimes not square, and may have other imperfections. You can battle these issues by carefully choosing your surfaces, making sure they are square and to your own standard. I've painting on these surfaces, but I've also done my own priming on top to reduce the canvas texture that is often so prominent on store-bought surfaces. Some artists will buy the preprimed canvases only for the premade frame, and stretched their own canvas or linen over top.

Other surfaces should always be primed when working with oils - whether with clear or white acrylic or traditional gesso. For wood panels, it's best to also size them first to prevent yellowing. Painting on untreated canvas, linen, or wood can eventually cause the surface to decay as oils seep in between the fibres, weakening the surface. How much effort you put in to preparing your surface is entirely up to you and how long you envision your work lasting. 

You can also purchase handmade stretchers and panels from those who specialize in creating surfaces for artists. I recommend asking your local art supply store if they have a contact for you. If you're a Vancouver, Canada local, try Rath Art Supplies on Main. He's phenomenal.

Finally, you can build your own surfaces - either wood panels with frames (often called cradled wood panels at art supply stores) or frames for stretching canvas over. Access to the tools required for building these are much easier in art school. Don't take it for granted if you're going to pursue an art degree.

What I Use
I'm a huge fan of canvas and linen, but as of late I have gravitated back towards wood panels. I generally use Gotrick wood panels, not preprimed with gesso. Panels can withstand heavier paint and scraping than stretched canvas can, and I don't have the wall space or storage to paint on canvas stapled to the wall and stretch it after it dries. I prepare my panels with PVA size and then a simple acrylic primer. 

For Beginners
Totally take advantage of sales at places like Michaels to grab some preprimed canvas. It's perfect for experimenting on and fairly inexpensive so you don't worry about "wrecking" your canvas. 

If you have other questions, please leave them in the comments below.

Paint

Please note that I am not an expert in painting, but rather speak from my own experience and training.

First off, let me remind you that I'm an oil painter. I don't actively use acrylics, and there are people who are much better equipped to explain acrylic paints to beginners. I recommend looking at forums like Wet Canvas to get tips for acrylic paint.

Types of Paint
There are two types of oil paints: water-miscible (also known as water-based, water-soluble, aqua oils, etc) and traditional oil paints. The biggest difference between these paints is their binders, making one easier to clean up with and thin (with water) while the other requires turpentine (or other solvents) to clean up/thin out. You can mix water-miscible paint with traditional, but more than 30% of traditional oils mixed in will make the paint no longer soluble by water.

Brands of Paint
There are many brands of oil paint on the market. My advice is only to find what you're comfortable with and brands that have the pigmentation and lightfastness that you desire in your work.

What I Use
I typically use traditional oil paint, although I have a handful of water-miscible paints as that's what I learned on. Brands I favour include: Williamsburg Oils, Holbein, KAMA, Michael Harding, and the occasional tube from Gamblin. 

For Beginners
When I first learned how to paint with oils, I used water-miscible paint. I loved it for many reasons: clean up was easy, it was easy to learn with, and fumes were minimal due to the lack of solvents required. It allowed me to work in spaces with less ventilation. It won't be for everyone, but it's worth a shot if you don't have a place to work with proper ventilation. It is still used by professional artists, such as Camilla d'Errico. I believe she uses Holbein Aqua Duo (which has some fluorescent pigments I've used).

If you have other questions, please leave them in the comments below.

Brushes

Please note that I am not an expert in painting, but rather speak from my own experience and training.

Types of Brushes
There are many varieties of brushes out there that you can use for painting. Handles come in long and short, there are synthetic and animal hair bristles, and a number of shapes to choose from, including: filbert, round, flat, bright, angle, and fan. There are a couple others I'm not as familiar with that are more typically used in watercolour or gouache painting, or for hyperrealistic detail work. 

Cleaning Brushes
There are many ways to clean oil brushes. Of course, if you're using water based oil paint and mediums, you can simply use water. For traditional oil paint, soap and water won't work. To avoid using solvents if you lack proper ventilation, use vegetable oil to clean your brushes. Another solvent free option is "the Masters" brush cleaner pads. Finally, there are paint thinners (solvents) or odourless mineral spirits. I have found that using oil to clean my brushes, followed my mineral spirits works quite well, but for certain pigments I will still use turpentine. In any method, the important part is to wipe excess paint from the bristles before attempting to clean them.

What I Use
My favourite brushes are filberts, hands down. I use long handled brushes and while I do own a few flats and rounds, I always gravitate towards filberts. 

For Beginners
Find out what kind of brushes you like. Look for both synthetic and animal hair brushes. Until you come up with the type of brush you like, or cleaning method you prefer, don't invest a ton of money. The beginning is where you make mistakes, and no reason to clog a $40 brush with paint because it wasn't cleaned properly. Art supplies will be an investment, but look for student grade materials when you are first learning.

If you have other questions, please leave them in the comments below.