Order with Care and If You Dare

by Lisa


Portrait of Jennifer by Adrian Gottlieb

Inspired by the beauty of Adrian Gottlieb’s portraits per his slide show presentation two Sunday’s ago, I decided to look into purchasing some paint from his source in New York, Robert Doak.  Doak has a site, but you cannot order directly online, so I called. I had questions about the variety of flake whites he offers.

I could tell by about word two that Mr. Doak was your typical New Yorker and that my questions had better be good. I started by ordering his “Flake and Glass”. It states in the description that it can be “extended” with “leaded glass medium”. My question was: Can it be thinned with anything else. He said, “You want Flake and Glass, what else?”. I thought perhaps he had a plan in place to take the order and get back to the questions. I certainly intended to stick with his plan. He took my next product order, and then the next. I had already done my homework, and knew that my order would reach the required $50 minimum, but he claimed it had not, and I needed another tube. I settled on something I didn’t really need but who was arguing? Then he abruptly told me he would have to call me back to get my credit card info. (I’ll bet nature was calling.) An hour went by (nature calling slowly), and I needed to leave my house, so I called back. Gee, I hope I wasn’t bothering him.

This time I was determined to get my questions answered. As we began to talk, it became apparent that I had made egregious errors in the first order. He convinced me to change my whole order, and as the dollar figure began to climb I tried to plead starving artist. That was when he took to hollering. “WE’RE TALKING ABOUT  CHANGING YOUR LIFE. WHAT STARVING ARTIST?” he shouted at me.  “YOU SPEND $75 ON DINNER, AND YOU WON’T BUY THE ART SUPPLIES YOU NEED???” I thought to myself well that would be dinner withOUT alcohol, so I had to agree with him. Needless to say, he won.

Now, I am no weany. I have often been told I should have been a lawyer. I argue really well, and I can be completely obnoxious. (Easy Bill.) But I wanted this man’s product, so I had to put up with the lashing he was dishing out. So, the tip for the day is, if you order from Mr. Doak, know EXACTLY what you want, do not ask a question, and do not make a single mistake, and you will get along just fine with him.

I am never going to New York again. Those people are scary.

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11 Responses to Order with Care and If You Dare

  1. Carol King says:

    I could tell by about word two that Mr. Doak was your typical New Yorker and that my questions had better be good.

    Sounds like Mr. Doak was a typical idiot not a typical New Yorker. We are mostly very nice. :)

  2. wrjones says:

    Wow. Did you order me a tube of that paint?

  3. lbtowers says:

    Carol, send me some good canolis from Brooklyn there, and you just might restore my faith in New Yorkers.

  4. 01varvara says:

    Wait a minute… I am from New York… Oh, your post got me thinking of lunch at Veselka’s at 10th and Second, Easter at St Nick’s on 97th between Fifth and Mad, and the fish sculptures (I kid you NOT) in the window at Cittarella’s on Broadway around 72nd. How about a “dirty-water dog”? Or, real knishes in Brighton Beach… not those indigestible phonies to be found in pushcarts all about town.

    As for art… the Cloisters in the spring or fall… the concerts in the garden at the Frick… a tea at the Morgan Library… al fresco in the Park… the Gugenheim (the BOSS of all art museums, I say, the Met notwithstanding) hung in red for a Chinese exhibition… giggling at the mistakes on the placards in the special Russian exhibitions at the Met.

    Lisa, so many thoughts of HOME. Thanks for evoking them.

    Vara, who is not only Russian, but, from New York (isn’t that a scary combination?)

  5. I too have ordered from Mr. Doak. He sent me the paints – about $250 worth of fluid watercolors – and asked that I send him a check when I received them. THAT says a lot for New Yorkers! I was stunned that he’d ship stuff to a total stranger (I’d said that I knew Mary Ann Beckwith, as she’d said to do.) Your work is exquisite! I love stopping here and checking it out.

  6. Spookie Levine says:

    Robert Doak is a character. He’s idiosyncratic but it goes beyond being a New Yorker. I think you’re focusing on the accent. You could run into someone like him anywhere but he’s probably one of the most knowledgeable colormen alive.

    He has dedicated his life to his knowledge and production of pigments and mediums and I don’t think he’s being greedy, his prices are actually very reasonable; he won’t sell you the wrong stuff. He just won’t. I think he feels it will reflect on his reputation.

    Also you should know that he lost his wife quite recently and is coming out of a very difficult period when he was convinced he was finished. He couldn’t go on at all.

    I think time and some major recognition are coming together to just starting to heal the wounds because I just noticed he has a website for the first time. An article about the painter John Currin appeared in last month’s New Yorker Magazine and in it, Currin called Doak the greatest colorman in the world.


    Adrian Gottlieb has been grinding his pigments and using his materials since he was a student and had to have the stuff shipped to him in Italy. Today, Gottlieb is in England for the unveiling of his portrait of William Herbert, the 18th Earl of Pembroke. He’s giving a presentation to the Earl, extended members of the peerage, Sotheby’s and Vogue Magazine, and he is once again a finalist in this year’s Portrait Society of America competition. Adrian Gottlieb is known for his use of only archival grade materials.

    Robert Doak is a Ludite when it comes to computers; he won’t even read his own email. It has to be printed by his assistants before he’ll read it. So its amazing that he’s finally given in a put up a website.


    Bear with his idiosyncrasies if you can. I know you can end up with a headache after a phone conversation but if you have questions and he thinks you’re serious, he has always been willing to explain (lecture) in depth. It just requires patience and recognition of what’s important on your part.

    Some of the top name painters in the world swear by his materials and he’s elderly. May not be around for all that long, and there are painters, including Currin and Gottlieb who have purchased a near life-long supply of some of his materials. Although a keen knowledge of how to apply them properly is of paramount importance to the end result.


  7. lbtowers says:

    OMGosh Spookie, thank you for that informative comment. I really do believe Mr. Doak is an expert (Adrian himself raved about his paints at his slide presentation), and I really am just poking fun at his brashness (here at onpainting we are dedicated to presenting the lighter side of painting). I ordered his Flemish white and his sun thickened oil, and I already swear I will never use anything else again. Now you have me interested in ordering more colors from him. I am very sad to hear about his wife. Again, thank you so much for your comment.

  8. Spookie Levine says:

    You’re welcome. I hope that my post sheds a little more light on the value of the guy vs “personality.”

    I came across your site totally by accident when I Googled “Adrian Gottlieb.” I heard about his unveiling and lecture series in England. I was told that from the 19th to the 21st Gottlieb will be staying as a guest of the Earl at Wilton House http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wilton_House/ and the unveiling ceremony will be on March 20th. Thought there might be something in the British newspapers.

    That’s when I came across a link to his name on your site. I read your post about Doak and thought I might be of some assistance.

    I know he’s a difficult man at the best of times let alone now, but it’s better than a couple month’s ago when he was so despondent he could hardly speak.

    If you buy tubed, the pigments are ground in walnut oil.

    You might enjoy reading about another painter’s experience with Doak’s products.

    There’s a blog online called “All the Strange Hours” http://rourkevisualart.com/wordpress/2008/02/20/robert-doak-2/


  9. lbtowers says:

    Well you are just a wealth of information. I logged on to “All the Strange Hours”, and read for about an hour! Really great blog for technical information that I will add to our blogroll. And thank you for clearing up why Adrian has not responded to an email I sent him. Sounds like he is a tad busy.

    • Concerned Artist says:

      I had called Robert Doak to order several hundred dollars of materials, bit I had a few questions first. After 10 minutes on the phone with him, it was clear that he was ill informed and arrogant.

      If you seriously study pigments and oil painting materials in general, you’ll see right through Robert Doak. He cannot address simple questions like “What is the weight of your Twill weave linen?”. Instead he will say, “I don’t have time to educate you on the entire history of art”. He will continue to drop names like Odd Nerdrum and John Curran…Anyone know about the law suit against Odd and the paintings that he had to buy back because they were literally falling apart due to poor craftsmanship?

      Other basic issues like giving single pigment names to mixtures of several pigments, and giving names to paints like “Fra Angelico Blue”- which he makes using cobalt and Pthalo…pigments NEVER available to Fra Angelico. This is sloppy marketing and perpetuates the kind of misinformation so prevalent in art schools. He will not want to disclose the actual pigment color index numbers to you, as any reputable paint company should and will gladly do, often because he has no idea, and doesn’t care. Ask him about his Verdaccio and he’ll rant about the Florence Academy…with no awareness that verdaccio has nothing to do with his mixture at all. If fact, he will try to convince you that verdaccio is a single pigment in itself!

      He becomes at first defensive when asked basic questions regarding the materials he sells, then hostile and aggressive. Coming to the subject with any education in the chemistry of colorants, and you’ll realize that Doak is only well regarded by some because he plows over the uninformed, and got some kids to make decent paint for him, in a climate of atrocious craftsmanship.

  10. lbtowers says:

    Wow. Thank you ‘Concerned Artist’. That was very interesting. Sounds like you have totally blown Mr. Doak’s big bad cover. BUSTED! Next time I need to order something from him, can I call you and have you phone it in?

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