Moazzam's Ramblings


My latest painting

Lately, I have been painting a lot of 8x10 paintings on canvas panels. They don't take much time and you can keep the panel on your lap, or wherever you feel comfortable.

Another advantage of doing an 8x10 inch painting is that you can experiment different with different techniques and see the result fairly quickly.

Anyway, here is my latest painting done for a study on rocks. I call it Sticks and Stones.

Sticks and stones


Beware of the pouring medium

Beware of the pouring medium mixed with water as it can destroy your painting. I had a painting I had been meaning to varnish for a few months and finally decided to do it 3 days ago. For isolation coat, I figured I would use the pouring medium sold by Liquitex. It levels itself and doesn't leave brush marks making it perfect for an isolation coat. What could go wrong? Right?

Wrong. I mixed the pouring medium with quite a bit of water to get it to flow easily (which was a mistake). It did flow very easily and had the same consistency as water. However, the medium was taking too long to dry so after waiting 2-3 minutes, I started to brush off the excess medium (which was another mistake). After the painting dried, I noticed that sections of it had gone white. The medium dissolved the acrylic paint and probably took the paint with it while I was trying to get excess medium off the canvas.

Needless to say, I redid parts of the painting that had gone white and varnished it again. This time I was very careful and the painting came out looking better than it did before.

Another thing I noticed while painting on top of pouring medium layer is that my paint stayed wet for longer than usual. Not as long as as oil paints do, but long enough that I could blend very easily. I am going to experiment with this new knowledge and see what it goes.

Lessons learned:
- Don't mix too much water into the pouring medium when using it as an isolation coat for varnish.

- Don't be impatient after you have varnished or put on an isolation coat. Give it as much time as it needs to dry off. The painting probably would have been ok if I had not tried to brush off excess medium after waiting a few minutes.

- Acrylic mediums can liquify acrylic paint even after it has dried completely.

- High gloss finish looks very good on some paintings.

Here is the painting that almost got destroyed by the pouring medium on the wall of the person who asked me to paint it.


Oil vs Acrylic – What’s easier to clean?

Acrylics are much easier to clean than oils (and cheaper).


With acrylics, you can get away with using just water to clean your brushes (depending on how thick you laid your paint). Most of the times, this is true even for impasto techniques. For oils, you have to use turpentine (as oil paints don't dissolve in water). It is, however, not enough to just use turpentine to clean your brushes.

With oils, you have to first, soak your brushes in turpentine, get most of the paint out, then use soap and water to make sure there is no oil reside in the brush. If you just use turpentine to clean the brush (especially your liners) then the brush will get stiff over time and you won't be able to paint with it anymore. I learned this lesson the hard way.

Stephan Baumann, an artist who videos I watched on Youtube, recommends using turpentine, then soak brushes in "Awesome" cleaning liquid, then use soap and water. Apparently, turpentine will damage your pipes (even I didn't know that).


Acrylics dry fast. So fast that it is sometimes annoying while painting. This, however, is very good for cleaning up. You can dry your hands with soap and water, scrape the paint off your hands, etc.

Oil paints take a while to dry out but they are not that much harder to get off your hands. You should be okay with soap and water, just make sure you do a thorough job of cleaning your hands. You don't want to get cancer or any such diseases.


If you use glass palettes, then both of them are easy to clean. Just use a glass scraper and you are good to go. Although I have found acrylics to take less effort when removing paint off pallettes.

One issue I have had when painting smaller paintings (with less paint) is acrylics drying on the palette before I am done painting. So, I have had to use a make-shift stay-wet palette, which is use-and-throw. This means no cleaning at all. You could use the same sheets for oil painting too. So overall there is little to no difference between them.

I haven't used wooden palettes so I can't talk about them but removing acrylic paint from acrylic palettes is a nightmare. I have heard it is much easier to remove oil paints from it. So, in the end the ease of cleaning depends on the type of palette you use.

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Sunlit Garden

I have been painting landscapes mostly so I wanted to try something different this time. Another reason I wanted to do this painting is to experiment with sunlight (and little details like the gate) change how the viewer feels when he/she looks at the painting. Thankfully, my experiment was successful. Here is the painting:

Sunlit Garden

I added the sun rays by mixing titanium white with fluid medium, then painting straight lines. After that, lightly brushing over the white lines in the direction of the light and blending it with the object it is falling on. If you use water to thin the paint, the paint dries up too fast to do any blending.

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An unconventional painting

Unconventional for me, anyway. This was the first time I painted on a wood plank. I think it came out alright. Here it is:


Hyper-realistic beaky beans

While going through my books, I came across this painting/drawing/whatever-it's-called I did quite some time ago. I was trying to paint a can of beans but I got the name wrong and a new type of beans were invented - the beaky beans. Here is the painting:

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My misadventures with paint brushes and pig hair

When I started painting about a year ago, I knew that I was not allowed to use any brush made of human hair (Islam forbids it to the best of my knowledge). Human hair was very common for soft brushes a few years ago so I took extra pre-cautions and made sure I didn't buy anything that contained human hair.

Until recently, what I did not know was that brushes made of pig hair are just as common and sought after by professional artists. Whenever an artist referred to a "hog bristle brush" I thought hedgehog hair was used in making that brush (don't ask me why). You can imagine how disturbed I was when I realized hog bristle actually made of pig hair. "Hog" actually referred to pig.

Anything that says "bristle brush", "natural bristle brush", "hog bristle brush", "china bristle", "chungking", etc is made from pig hair

After having learned this, I began to wonder what else is made of pig hair. My investigation surprised me even more. All cheap brushes that claim to be made of "natural bristles" are made from pig hair. Same goes for "bristle" brush. Even more shocking to me was that food brushes are also made of (you guessed it) pig hair. We don't use brushes to glaze anything in my home but I wonder if there are other Muslims who do (and if they know what their brush is made out of).

We all know eating pork is haram. However, after going through some Islamic sites, I found out that using brushes made of pig hair is actually allowed but it is disliked. There is, however, a minority of scholars who consider it to be haram (I leave it up to you - the reader - to do your own research and come to a conclusion on the matter).

Even if using brushes made of pig hair is allowed for external purposes (painting, combing hair, etc) I would not want to use a food brush made made of "natural bristles" to glaze my food. I have learned how to identify if a brush is made of natural bristles so I can avoid them (maybe I will make another post with details) but for the masses that don't - be careful :). Use synthetic brushes as much as you can.

Hog bristle food brush
(Natural bristle food brush)

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Synthetic alternative to hog bristle brushes

I will add more brushes as I come across them but here is a line of brushes I have fallen in love with :

I bought a few of these brushes and had a chance to try the fan brush. It has become my favorite. Their fan brush is almost as stiff as a hog bristle brush and retains its shape well. I, mostly, paint sceneries with a lot of grass and this brush covered a lot of area in a very short time.

One thing to keep in mind when using their fan brush (like all synthetic fan brushes) is to make sure the paint is not very thick. The brush bristles tend to clump up (more than natural bristle brushes) when there is not enough water in the paint.

The next line of brushes I am going to try (specifically fan and round brushes) are these: The Princeton 6300 series of brushes is supposed to be as stiff as the natural hog bristle brushes.


A big $1.00 peel off palette for acrylic paints

I took up painting as a hobby about a year ago which is when my search for the perfect palette began. After having searched for an easy to clean but inexpensive palette, I came across this at my local Walmart:


I got 2 of these plates and have been using them. They require no effort to clean (like you would expect from a peel off palette).

I have come across artists who use use-and-throw plastic plates as palettes. However, I find these plates are better as they are more durable.

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Some very cool features in PHP7

I played around with PHP7 over the weekend and I have to admit it has some very cool things I have wanted PHP to have for a while, and then some. Here are some of them (in no particular order):

  • Performance

    PHP7 will increase the performance of PHP scripts by 50-60%. Nuff said.

  • Anonymous Classes

    I have always been able to do this in Java where I can just define a required object and pass it along.
    Now, you can do the same in PHP (I know that it is a double-edged sword and can leave your code un-organized
    if not used wisely). Here is an example:

    // Let's say we want to log db inserts for whatever reason
    $db->addInsertListener(new Class implements DbInsertObserver {
    	public function log($sql)
    		// log here 

    This can be pretty useful if all you are troubleshooting a production-only issue. Ideally, your testing
    environment will be exactly like your production environment. And, you are able to re-produce every production
    bug in QA but real world is rarely meets ideal standards. We, now, have anonymous classes to help.

  • Scalar type-hinting and Return type hinting

    Ever since PHP introduced type-hinting, I have been using it everywhere I can. It helps with static analysis of code
    and helps prevent bugs (although I love the freedom that comes with PHP not being a statically typed language).

    Note: like previous versions of PHP, PHP7 will not force its user (the PHP developer) to type-hint anything. So, old scripts
    will still work.

    // The : int is how you declare the type that will be returned
    function doSomething(int $num) : int
    	return $num + 10; 
  • Removal of date.timezone warning

    Every time you use a date method, PHP would throw a warning if you didn't have a default timezone set in php.ini
    or in your code (using date_timezone_default_set()). PHP would default to UTC and throw the warning. This warning
    has been removed in PHP7. Good riddance.

  • Null Coalesce Operator

    Also called the isset ternary operator, gives you a more convenient way of ... doing this:

    // Before PHP7
    $someVar = isset($someArray['some_key']) ? $someArray['some_key'] : 'default value';
    // In PHP7
    $someVar = $someArray['some_key'] ?? 'default value';

There are more cool and useful features I have not mentioned here. You can read about them here:

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