Category Archives: art making process

2017 Workshop Schedule and…DVD!

Hi Everyone! I just wanted to announce that my new tutorial DVD on painting the portrait is now available from Bella Muse Productions. You can purchase a physical DVD or if you prefer you can download it.

In this 6 hour tutorial I cover every step of my typical process from the initial underdrawing to final glazes. My palette is visible on the screen while I’m painting, so you can see what I’m mixing. Of course, I discuss my colors and other factors that go into my color mixes. I hope you’ll be pleased with it. I don’t hide anything.

If you buy now you can save about $50 off the normal purchase price (NOTE: This deal is now expired). Click HERE to purchase.

Also — my 2017 workshop schedule is now available. I’ll be in Europe several times as well as on both coasts of the US. View my schedule HERE.

Happy painting!


Preparing Dibond Panels with Shana Levenson

Sibling Bond, 36×24, Oil on Dibond panel by Shana Levenson

What is Dibond? Dibond is one of several trade names of aluminum composite consisting of two thin sheets of aluminum enclosing a polyethylene core. Suitable for a huge range of applications, Dibond is lightweight but strong and the extremely flat surface is great for printing high quality graphics or text. More and more painters seem to have found this material ideal as a painting substrate. The prevailing argument for the use of Dibond is it’s presumed stability over a long period of time. With Dibond you don’t have to worry about the organic fibers rotting (as with cotton and linen), and you don’t have to worry about warpage (as you do with any kind of wood panel). The expansion and contraction of these organic materials, which over many years may compromise the integrity of the paint film, also becomes a non-issue with Dibond.

As with any other substrate, Dibond needs to be prepared to accept oil paint (or any other traditional media, I suppose). As I am a total Dibond newbie I have asked my friend, artist Shana Levenson, to outline the process she uses to prep the surface. Thank you, Shana, for providing the following instructions and photos:


Dibond or Aluminum Panel
Exacto Blade
Straight Edge
Liquitex Acrylic Grey Gesso
Spray bottle
Sponge brush
Electric Hand Sander
200 and 400 girt Sand Paper



Sand the bare aluminum with the hand sander and 200 grit sand paper
Spray the surface with water to help the gesso brush out evenly
Squeeze gray gesso onto panel
Spread with the sponge brush with even brush strokes
Let dry


Repeat these steps twice more, brushing the gesso in opposite directions each time.


By spraying water for each new layer, it allows the gesso to go on more evenly to avoid line texture.
Once the last layer is dry, take a fine grit sand paper and either hand sand it in circles, or with a sander, until you reach your desired smoothness.



Measure the size wanted and make marks where to cut.
Lay a straight edge firmly down where the desired measurement is.
Make sure when doing this, you are using a flat surface to avoid bending the aluminum panel.
Continuously score the dibond against the straight edge with a razor blade. Depending on the size, you can either stand it while bending it back and forth to snap off, or put the dibond on a table and push down the cut piece on the edge of the table.
Once cut, the sides can be sharp so use a tool to shave down those sharp sides.


To obtain some Dibond panels, Shana recommends getting in touch with a local commercial sign maker. They may even cut and deliver for a nominal charge.

Thank you Shana! I look forward to using this technique to prep my first batch of Dibond panels.

Shana Levenson is a representational painter from Albuquerque, NM. Shana’s work focuses on portraiture and the figure. Her inspiration comes from painting people that are important in her life, and her goal is to capture each person’s story in an honest and meaningful way. Shana draws inspiration from her own experiences and uses specific series as a way to illustrate chapters in her life. Her works can be seen in regular exhibitions across the United States and abroad.

Find out more about Shana and see her work at Shana is also a co-developer of Art Crit Academy, an online mentorship program for serious art students and those seeking a career in art. Find out more at


Defining Your Path


The other day a fairly well-known artist posed a question on Facebook. The way I understood it, it went something like this, “Should we expend energies finding new ways of expressing ourselves, or merely refining an artistic dialect?”. You can see from the wording (which is my paraphrase) that this artist puts more value on pushing boundaries and exploring new frontiers. I don’t deny that this is indeed valuable in its proper place and time. But for where I am at this point in my life with my art I’m still enjoying the process of further refining my particular mode of expression. I believe there are rewards still to be had both for my audience and for me.

Today I want to deal with this aspect of the craft. Not so much with what we want to say, but with the finer points of how we want to say it. For me this how has been a very interesting and essential part of my journey. Defining my stylistic path (the how) has been helped by a particular type of study of other artists. I touched on this in the past with Dave’s Tips to Becoming a Better Artist. Point number four reads:

“Pick three artists (minimum) that you want to emulate in your work. Study everything you can about them. Try to identify what it is about their work that you like. Do some master copies of their work.”

Using a single painting by a particular artist, I want to give a practical example of how point 4 played out in my own artistic development.

Some years ago I started making lists of my favorite artists — the artists I wanted to emulate in some way. These were the ones that made me say “I want to paint like THAT!”. One day I wrote down about 15 names, give or take. A few days or a week later I did the same thing. Interestingly, the lists were not identical. But as the lists piled up I realized that there were 6 or 8 names that made the “cut” every time. These were my Masters. These were the artists whose pictures I was really going to meditate on and learn from.

Joseph DeCamp is one of the artists who made the list nearly every time. In 1908 he painted The Guitar Player (above) which has become one of my very favorite paintings of all time.  As I have studied this painting I have tried to identify its qualities I hope to infuse into my own work.  My theory has been that the better I can describe to myself what it is about a painting that really turns me on, the more it can influence the way I compose my pictures. Over time The Guitar Player has become key in defining, and refining, my pictorial language.

A few characteristics of this painting that I really like are the division of space. the quality of the light, and the seeming simplicity of the composition. I love DeCamp’s use of subdued color here (he didn’t always do that). The neutral tones balance the red notes perfectly. Even though the subject is playing a guitar, to me this painting feels quiet. It’s meditative. I like to think that maybe she has just plucked the last note of her song, and I hear it sustained but slowly dying away. A single perfect note expressing a delicate and delicious moment of solitude. These kinds of musing about a painting (or any other inspirational material) are my “…[identifying what it is about the work that I like]”.

Below are some images of my paintings that I feel may share some of the same qualities as The Guitar Player. I hope this illustrates how this kind of study can help define, and indeed refine, how you express your subjects in paint.

Best wishes

— DG

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Blue and Gray


Jessica with Ingres


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