Den-painting in oil colours is a most fascinating hobby. The utensils required are about one dozen tubes of oil colours, a palette, a palette knife, a penholder, a box of pens (circular pointed, medium, broad), a sheet of blotting-paper, drawing-pins, and a drawing-board, if possible - if not, the lid of a strong cardboard box will do.
Pen-painting is most effective if done on velvet, velveteen, or short-haired plush of a firm texture. Transfer patterns can be put successfully on velvet, with a cool iron and light pressure. Flower or leaf designs look more effective than conventional ones. The transfer designs chosen should be coloured blue for all dark colours, except, of course, for peacock or any shade of blue; then the design should be red.
To work the design, stretch the material tightly on the board and fix it with drawing-pins. Squeeze the oil colours on to the blotting-paper (not on the palette) a few hours before they are to be used - twenty-four hours in winter and about six hours in summer. This is important, since in this way is removed most of the liquid oil, which otherwise would run on the material, and, therefore, spoil the entire work.
A bottle of medium to fix the colours (1s.) should also be procured and mixed with the colours as used. Care should be taken to have too much rather than too little of each colour required on the blotting-paper.
The following oil colours are necessary, and most can be bought in 3d. tubes: Flake white, Prussian blue (all shades of blue, by mixing larger or smaller quantities with flake white, can be produced), lemon chrome, chrome yellow, emerald green, chrome green, crimson lake, rose madder.
The two last named are more expensive than the rest, and are sold in smaller tubes. It will be found that very little of these two colours is, however, required, and once the initial expense of getting the tubes of paint is overcome, little more will be necessary, except that the student will find it useful to add, as she wishes to paint more. burnt sienna, scarlet lake, vermilion, and Vandyke brown to her stock of colours.
Use the palette knife to mix the colours on the palette, after the blotting-paper has absorbed the liquid oil, and to put sufficient for one stroke on the pen. Place the pen firmly on the material, beginning at the edge of a flower or leaf, always emptying the pen with each stroke of its contents of paint. A firm ridge will thus be formed, using the outer or inner edge of the pen, according to which side should have the stronger edge. The strokes of the pen must not be too long, just the length of a crewel-work stitch.
The student will find that if she possesses an eye for colour the work is very quickly learnt, and lends itself to the most surprising decorative effects. It need hardly be emphasised that shading and filling-in of flowers and leaves require both bold and light strokes.
Pen-painting is exceedingly quick work. Illustrated are two bunches of flowers which were worked in two hours and a half only. Painted tables, bellows, photo cases, book-covers, cosies, and other articles on velvet mounting can be made in this way, and, if necessary, an upholstress can be employed to mount the work. Panels for evening gowns, or revers for evening cloaks can be produced with the most astonishing effect once the student has become proficient.
When the painting is dry, which in winter takes about one week, nothing can rub off the colours. The work can be brushed as hard as possible without doing any damage. The colours fade only after years of constant use, though they can be freshened by going lightly over the pattern again with a pen.
The best effect is produced with big patterns on big surfaces, as the strokes of the pen can then be made broader and look more effective. In the illustration, which demonstrates the effect of daffodils, spiked leaves, and feathery grass, it will be seen, however, that each of its kind can be made to look as natural as possible.
The value of the gift of a book-cover, such as the one illustrated, can be enhanced by putting the initials of the recipient slanting across the top left-hand corner of the one side of the cover, painting it in golden colour by using chrome yellow. When monograms or lettering of any kind are painted with the pen, care must be taken not to put the colours on too thick, for it is necessary, in order to produce a good effect, to moderate the use of the paint.