Work in progress 5/5/21 May 5, 2021 11:41
The initial layer of this painting was a bunch of ripples made with some ultramarine pigments, just because I don't usually use them. They are just sitting there in their tubes and maybe hardening. So I figured to use some of them, together with the siccatif I bought. But I used poppy oil as a medium instead of walnut oil, so that layer took a long time to dry compared to the paintings I started with walnut oil, especially because I put a bit of impasto into it.
Finally it dried, and I took it out this morning to work on it. Funny how turning things on their side can show you completely different possibilities for a painting. Began to apply some WN Winsor Yellow (PY74) into the center folds of the painting because the yellow + purple made me think of irises and therefore spring, and it's spring, but also I had just seen a call for a watercolor (NOT oil) competition having to do with spring.
But I also had some lithopone (Williamsburg's Porcelain White) lying on my palette from a previous painting and thought what the hey, might as well use this. And it just growed. I added highlights with titanium.
Right now this is tentatively titled "Between the Waves." It's 16 x 20" oil on canvas with a traditional 7/8" profile. I was a little concerned about this batch of canvases, because in the past I have sometimes found that the thinner profiles on cheaper canvases can be warped, but so far I've had luck with these Blick Premier traditional profile canvases. I do love the Fredrix Pro-Dixie canvases (which I think only come in the traditional profile), but they are almost twice as much as these. I know I want to do a LOT of painting right now, so I am going to use these.
I really like painting watery or cloudlike images. I'm thinking of doing some series along those lines, which someone on Instagram recommended to me. Thanks!
Siccatif de Courtrai May 1, 2021 13:33
I mentioned Siccatif de Courtrai a couple days ago as a 19th-century paint drier containing lead and manganese that I'd bought some time ago and decided to actually try using. I hadn't used it before because I had been spooked by lead and really, I'd found that by using walnut oil and keeping 5 or more paintings in rotation, I always had something dry I could work on and didn't really need it. I had a separate studio then and so I had plenty of room for paintings drying.
But now I don't have a separate studio and have way less space for drying paintings, though I am utilizing the space above my T5 plant lights, which get warm but not hot. Still, I felt like it was a good time to check out the various driers I have. I decided to try Siccatif de Courtrai first, not least of all because only one drop was necessary per paint glob. I thought I could deal with that much lead and manganese.
This stuff is supposed to be problematic on linseed oil, causing it to wrinkle, but it is said to work well on paint using walnut or poppyseed oil. Although I had plenty of paints made with linseed oil, I typically have used walnut oil in a solvent-free painting method. I've used poppyseed oil mostly as a finish and a sun-dried version at that.
But the first painting I tried the siccative with, I decided to try painting with regular, NOT sun-dried poppyseed oil, since I have a bunch from a while ago. Although the siccative is supposed to render a relatively thin layer of paint dry in 8-12 hours, that was not the case with the paints to which I added poppyseed oil. In fact, the paint was still wet two days later. Disappointing. I should say I did NOT put a layer of poppyseed oil with siccative to start the painting. I think this might have made a difference.
Yesterday morning, I decided to try it with a painting where I used walnut oil as the medium. This is not any special walnut oil, not heat-treated or sun-thickened but just out of the bottle from Spectrum (although I also have a gallon jug from Jedwards, although you can get a sun-thickened walnut oil from Kremer). I started with a layer of oil+siccative that I applied and wiped off and then painted into, then added one drop to each paint glob on the palette plus the walnut oil, maybe five drops, which is about as much oil as I usually use.
Amazingly, by the end of the day, the thin parts of the painting were actually dry, and this morning, the whole painting is entirely dry. This is faster than the walnut alkyd I was using, which gives me a headache. This stuff doesn't give me a headache, although it has something of a smell. I'm thinking it has turpentine in it.
The Siccatif de Courtrai I'm using is by James Groves and contains lead and manganese. He makes all sorts of other interesting stuff, some of which I have, like Gentileschi amber medium and the drying walnut heat-bodied oil (which he no longer makes). I will no doubt end up trying these and other of his products, since this siccative has been so successful.
Other companies also make this siccative, but they mostly seem not to include lead and manganese. For instance, I noticed that the version by LeFranc & Bourgeois comes up first in search results, but their "white siccatif de courtrai" doesn't contain manganese, from what I can see, and their newer version of it doesn't contain lead either but instead uses zirconium and calcium. Their brown siccatif de courtrai is/was supposed to contain lead and manganese, but I have not seen it for sale. Sennelier also makes a version, but without either lead nor manganese. In fact, from what I can see, a number of companies make a version of siccatif de courtrai that contain zirconium and calcium instead of lead and manganese. So, not at all the same thing as what I used, despite the name.
I saw one remark out there that said that this size bottle of siccative would be used up in one underpainting, but all I can say is that the canvas in such a case would be the size of a barn. This is for using at one drop per nut of paint. I think it's going to last me a while, and when I use it up, I should be able to get another bottle for twenty bucks, which is reasonable, IMO.
I'm going to slowly push the envelope with this siccative in terms of paint thickness, since I do like to have a certain blobby quality in some paintings. It would be great if this stuff shortened the drying time for that.
Demon Work In Progress April 30, 2021 10:37
A while ago I bought a Sennelier pigment mixture called King's Blue, which is PW6 (zinc white), PB29 (ultramarine blue), and PV16 (manganese violet). I never usually buy convenience mixtures, but I remember that at that time I was beginning to move away from strictly single pigment paints. There were just some color mixtures out there that looked too scrumptious to resist, and this King's Blue was one of them. It's a pinkish blue that makes me think of dusk.
And I thought I'd be using it precisely to paint the "blue hour" in landscape, because I was still painting plenty of landscapes in oil at that time. But I left off doing that when I switched to watercolors, feeling like landscape was trapping me. And I was fascinated by what watercolors could do for abstraction.
Starting back with oils again, I actually did paint a landscape (which is drying so that I can go on and add lots of glazes to it), but since then, it's been abstracts.
When I sat down to paint this morning with a blank canvas, since my other stuff wasn't dry enough to work on, I decided to try painting an abstract image of a demon I'd visualized when I woke up in the middle of the night last night. I knew the face would be some kind of red and perhaps blue for the background.
So I reached for the King's Blue, and for the red, one of my favorites of that tribe, Williamsburg's Italian Pompeii Red. I love all of Williamsburg's Italian colors, but this is my preferred one. I've done various paintings using it. It's really more of a reddish rust color than red, but somehow for me it makes me think of ancient paintings in caves.
I think the combination of the King's Blue and the Pompeii Red really work. I will probably add a more modern, bluish red to this. Lots more to do, but this is the first of these oil paintings I really like.
Back to oil painting April 28, 2021 17:00
I've been thinking about doing oil painting again. I've missed it, especially the ability to blend and to glaze easily. I love working with watercolor on the watercolor ground, but it limits what I can do because it lifts so easily.
OTOH, oil paints take a while to dry. I used to deal with that problem when I had a separate studio by having several paintings going at once, like five. There would always be something ready to work on each day, and it helped me learn how to paint faster.
So this morning, I pulled out my oil painting carts and cleaned off all the tubes, which had gotten quite dusty, and the brushes, which were thick with cat hair (miss you, Blackie!) and dust. I used packing tape to easily clean the brushes and sorted through which ones seemed redeemable and which weren't. I also got rid of some that I knew I would not ever use, like the fan brushes and some grainers. I chose the cleanest ones to work with and put the brushes that had gotten stiff from old oil to soak in some citrus solvent. This is the only time I ever use solvent.
Since I'd forgotten a lot of what I knew when I last used my oils, I decided to use the walnut alkyd. This does speed up drying, and I remembered using it a lot in the past. But I forgot that it gave me a headache. I still have that headache 6 hours after finishing painting. So lesson remembered, and I will throw that stuff out.
I do usually paint oil only, no solvent, and typically have used walnut oil, although I've finished some paintings with a layer of sun-thickened poppy oil instead of varnish. It looks nice, doesn't yellow, is easy, and has no solvents. I've always wanted to try making my own paints with poppyseed oil. Nostalgia for a world I never knew, I guess. But I do own a few tubes of Blockx oil paint, which is made with poppyseed oil instead of linseed oil or walnut oil.
At any rate, I began working on a painting and quickly got frustrated, mainly because I forgot to oil in before starting to paint. Oh well. Another wonderful thing about oil paint is how easy it is to wipe off. I did that three times before I got anything that I thought was worth working further on. It's pretty terrible, but it's a start.
My apartment is a loft, so there isn't a lot of room to store wet oil paintings, but I thought to put them on top of the light fixtures I use for my mandrakes with a little fan blowing on them. The fixtures get warm but not hot, and this is out of the way. I can definitely put four paintings on the fixtures if I want to keep a good rotation of dried paintings going. Just not sure if I will enjoy the smell of the drying oil. It's not toxic or anything. I just don't like the scent. But at least now I not only can have all the windows open but I also bought an air purifier for a different reason, and that should help too.
After I got done, I broke out another canvas and started looking around in my cart to see what I had stored in there, and I came across mediums I'd bought in the past and not used. One of them is Siccatif de Courtrai. This is an 19th-century medium that contains lead and manganese as paint driers. I got spooked by lead in the past, in particular because in the past I often resorted to using my fingertips to blend edges of paint, and I know lead can be absorbed through the skin. So I never used the stuff.
But now I thought it would really help me to give it a try, since it is alleged to dry walnut or poppy-based paint in 8-12 hours without the wrinkling it might cause in the presence of linseed oil. If I could get a painting to dry overnight, that would be great.
I have a ton of walnut oil on hand--I bought a gallon a while ago--but I also have some poppyseed oil. So I'm going to try oiling out with that plus one drop of the siccatif. It's also recommended that one drop be added to each glob of paint the size of a quarter.
AND I ordered some gel finger cots, which I can use instead of my bare fingertips if I can't resist doing that.
I also see Tad Spurgeon has a new edition of his vastly wonderful book on oil painting, and that's on my list now too. I've got an older edition but would enjoy seeing what he's come up with since then. Looking forward to making stuff.
Work in Progress 03/11/21 March 11, 2021 18:21
I also got a bunch of new brushes from The Brush Guys yesterday, some of which I used today in making the lines of light but also the bright areas in this painting. I bought a bunch of different types of small brights, which is a small square brush like a flat but shorter. I find that for me brights are very handy for drybrush and for using side foward to make lines and to lift narrow areas. I actually learned about using them from oil painting, which I hope to get back to this summer. I highly recommend The Brush Guys. They have good prices and ship fast.
Getting into the groove of this ground October 18, 2020 21:57
I'm starting to find my way with these grounds. This is a work in progress on the Daniel Smith Watercolor Ground, which I applied to two 16 x 20" Fredrix Pro Dixie canvases. I have no title for this one yet, although I'll probably finish it tomorrow. This is Dr. Ph. Martin Payne's Grey, cobalt teal, DS Iridescent Gold, and titanium.
I love how this stuff paints. I have been doing a lot of lifting in order to create the light areas and then highlighting what I want with Guerra's titanium pigment dispersion plus either Cheap Joe's gum arabic solution or QoR's watercolor medium. Lifting and then adding white is allowing me to do all sorts of stuff with glow and light. I've focused on that before, but I never realized how helpful lifting could be along those lines. I think I will extend the central part that's extending from the main shape and then do something with the top of the shape along the right-hand side. Not sure yet. This one is taking me quite a while to do.
I guess you can tell I am really liking working with darks. :) Have a lot more dark paintings planned. The other night I lay in bed and had a ton of ideas along those lines.
Light dimensional ground in my work October 10, 2020 08:51
Here's the painting I finished yesterday that was painted over light dimensional ground. It worked as an experiment: I was able to apply three coats of cold wax to protect it, although I had to be careful not to let the wax build up in the creases of the painting. I did rub off two high points of the painting, because the ground is not as hard as the plain watercolor ground, but I was able to fix that easily by just painting on the exposed ground and waxing over it. So that's a win.
However, I think I chose very much the wrong approach with this painting. I put way too much detail into it for the amount of texture it has, so the texture gets lost in the detail. From now on, I will use far less detail in paintings with light dimensional ground. Instead, I will focus on large blocks of color with a few smaller ones here and there for color contrast. I think that will work much better and allow the texture to show to its best advantage.
On this particular painting, I got very much distracted by the texture and followed it too much, which meant that the design of the paint got lost. I am just not pleased with it. I realized after seeing the work in progress in jpg form that I had way more straight lines and chunks of color than is normal for me. I generally use a lot of fluid lines and organic forms instead. I feel like although I began to put them in after I saw how blocky the shapes were that they look pasted on. They don't fit well, and that's what I don't like about the painting.
Finally, I've been working with metallic watercolor paint from Daniel Smith, the Iridescent series. It doesn't show well in this photo, but the light areas are Iridescent Gold. I've been enjoying learning how to work with this stuff, but I was concerned that the cold wax at the end would dislodge the particles of the paint. I am happy to say that didn't happen. So I am going to move forward with using Copper and Silver. Just getting that link to insert here, I saw that DS actually has a bunch of other colors in the Iridescent line, and I am most definitely going to try them! I do love DS paints.
So all in all, I learned a lot from this painting.
But I'm going to take a break from the dimensional ground and go back to the regular Daniel Smith Watercolor Ground. I want to work toward creating larger abstracts, but I also want to use up my supports, so the next two canvases (a couple of nice 16 x 20" Fredrix Pro Dixie with traditional profile) I have prepared with the DS ground. This stuff does show the texture of the brush used to apply it with (although I know there are ways around that), but I like that and it does not interfere with either my design or the application of cold wax.
A nifty discovery October 2, 2020 18:41I recently tried some Light Dimensional Ground from QoR. I prepared two 12 x 12" canvases with it. I made one canvas very textured and the other much less so. The highly textured canvas was a problem when it came to finishing it with cold wax; the buffing tore off a couple of sharp points of texture. But I think the less textured canvas will be a success. There's only one bit that might be too sharp, and I will sand that down if necessary. Or just cut it off.
The texture, though, is gorgeous, IMO, so even though too much texture can be a problem in itself, I really want to find a way to work with it. Because look at this--> This is as good as texture I could get with impasto oil paint or acrylic, but no waiting several days for it to dry, no smells, and watercolor is easy cleanup.
It does act differently than paper. It's very prone to lifting, which I am trying to work with instead of resisting it. And so far I have not seen it run the way some pigments do on paper with misting. That's something I will try on the next painting to see what happens.
Because of the easy lifting, it can be difficult to glaze, but glazing with dry brush is a cinch. You can see that I've used it with the light metallic paint here. What's really nice is getting the pigment caught in all the creases--just magical! And it feels a lot like happy accident time like when doing wet in wet.
So I was all gung ho about this ground, having decided I could work around the excess texture issue, but there was also its price. A 4 oz jar is $11 + shipping and I used up 2/3s of it on those two small canvases. So I wrote to QoR and asked them if they were going to make larger sizes of the Light Dimensional Ground available.
They said that was especially marketed to watercolorists, but they had the same thing by another name: Golden's Light Molding Paste. And that comes in a 32 oz jar for $28. Heck, it comes in a bucket. Hell yeah!
I have plenty of supports lying around that I can apply this stuff to, ranging from 5 x 7" to 40 x 40" canvases and panels and boards. This stuff is so nice to spread with a palette knife too (finally I have a use for them other than mixing paint)--very sensual, like cake frosting. It is so nice not to have to worry about cutting paper to the right size to fit a standard frame and to produce works that can even hang as is, with not only no need for glazing but no need for a frame at all, if people want it (although I personally like a frame and feel like it does its job of protecting especially the corners of a support).
So I've got a ton of this stuff now and am really looking forward to learning to work with it.
The problem with dimensional ground, and stylization September 21, 2020 13:58
I worked on the tree painting for a while the other day, experimenting to see, for instance, how granulation would work on the lightweight dimensional ground. It worked fine. But I knew another challenge would be to see if sealing with cold wax would work on this kind of ground.
Well, it didn't. With so much texture, the wax got caught in the creases. I could have buffed that out, but rubbing the cold wax into the painting removed a couple of the tips of texture, revealing the white ground beneath. So that's out. Which is okay--the light dimensional ground is softer than the other grounds, and I can still create texture with them, just not so much. That is okay.
I've been thinking about doing landscapes again because I find them soothing but also they are another way to connect with nature. In these tumultuous times, I thought maybe people need an escape. But then I realize it might be better to think of them as respite. A peaceful, nourishing place allows for not only a rest but a renewing and regrouping of one's energies so that we can go back out there and do what needs to be done. I feel like I can justify doing landscapes for that purpose.
Yesterday I went for a walk with friends around a marsh nearby. It inspired me, and I took photos I could use for reference. I really like being able to do that with my phone instead of having to lug my DSLR around.
This morning I started on a new painting based on one of them. I had another canvas covered with the lightweight dimensional ground, but I didn't feel like using it; I wanted to use paper. So I pulled out a quarter sheet of Strathmore Gemini 500 and got to work on this, which is just the background so far.
Immediately the urge to make something Naturalist came over me, but I feel my worst landscapes have been the most Naturalist--like a really awful painting of a summer field I did some time ago. I have also resisted an urge to stylization in my landscape paintings in the past, thinking it would make them too decorative, but I'm going to go for it now and try for some more dream-like imagery through its use. I like what some other artists have done with stylization in their landscape paintings. I think it can be a good way to add some abstraction to my landscapes without going the blurry route. I like blurry landscape paintings, but I would like to try something else.
Light Dimensional Ground on Canvas September 19, 2020 12:34
I got some of QoR's Light Dimensional Ground and applied it to a couple of 12 x 12" canvases I had sitting around. The stuff was easy to spread with a big palette knife, but I used up 2/3s of the little jar on two canvases. I don't know if I just used too much or what. I like oil paintings with a lot of texture, and I thought I might be able to capture that effect with this stuff, so I went to town. You can see the amount of texture I ended up with.
This stuff is not as smelly as the regular watercolor ground, but I still let it dry out in the hall during the day, and since we have hooligans coming into our building at night to fuck around, I took the canvases in and put them in my window to complete drying overnight. As long as it doesn't rain or freeze, I think that's going to be a good place to let stuff dry.
Today I could hardly wait to try out these supports. One technique I use a lot in watercolor is apply some paint and then mist with a hair mister to get it to run and to encourage particles of pigment to settle in the texture of the paper. I find a hair mister works many times better than a regular sprayer. You can do tiny puffs of mist just where you want them or quickly mist the whole thing to encourage granulation. I was hoping that I could do that with this ground, but I wasn't sure, since I kept reading about how it was spongy. A spongy surface might just sop up the pigment and not allow it to run. In fact, at least one review said that.
But that's not what happened with my paint. I used Daniel Smith's Green Apatite, Winsor Newtown's Prussian Blue, Daniel Smith's New Gamboge, and Winsor Orange. The apatite settled out a dark purplish brown color different from the green that dominates it. It fell into a lot of the creases and rumples and showed up as wonderful specks. It doesn't photograph well, but the photo above shows a detail.
Here's the whole painting. When you get close to the support, it does have the look of grainy paper, but the texture reminds me of acrylic, like modeling paste. The paint isn't shiny in any way. It's completely matte. I didn't feel much of a difference between this and painting on CP except that it lifts much more easily. I tried using that to my advantage to create limbs and trees in the background, but they ended up being overworked. I also tried some highlights that way, but it looked like too-vigorous lifting. So I think I might try lifting and then painting another color over the lift area, like zinc.
I'm not sure if I will add more to this. It might look better with some blue added, especially my beloved cobalt, but OTOH, I'm eager to go ahead and seal it with cold wax and see what happens. I asked the manufacturer if they thought it would be okay to use cold wax on this, because of the spongy thing. They said they didn't know but sounded kind of doubtful. That might be because no one has tried it yet.
This stuff has a lot of possibilities, but I am not sure how much I am going to use it because it is pretty expensive in terms of how far it goes. They produce it only in a small 4 oz jar. :( However, it might be possible to use Golden's molding paste and then either use watercolor on it or spread some of the regular watercolor ground over it.
However, I did just order some of Golden's Crackle Paste to try for texture as well. I didn't realize it could be used with watercolor, but on a hunch, I thought if light dimensional ground could be used that way, so might crackle paste. I can hardly wait to get my hands on it.
I am sensitive to acrylic, but I did okay with these grounds and I don't anticipate hovering over the stuff like I used to do with my paints. I will also allow the supports to dry out in the hall and/or in the window, so I think I will be okay.
I know some people might say, "Why are you trying to get texture with watercolor?" I know it's not "traditional," although in the 19th century, British watercolorists used aquapasto in their watercolors, which can produce low dimensionality with watercolors and is made from gum arabic and silica gel (that is treated in a way that makes it safe). I've used that in the past. It can give you brushstrokes similar to a not-too-heavy Impressionist style. I still need to play with that more.
But as for why insert texture into a watercolor painting, why not? There is no reason why oils and acrylics should get to have all the fun. Texture really expands watercolor and doesn't change its fundamental nature.
Lots of possibilities!
Experimenting with different grounds September 17, 2020 14:48
I felt a bit stuck with that semi-landscape painting on watercolor ground on canvas. I couldn't get anywhere with it as a landscape and thought maybe it was because starting it as a landscape had been my entry into the box canyon. So I changed it up a lot, trying to push it into something abstract, but still felt like I was getting nowhere. And I thought it was just plain ugly. Bleh.
I think part of the reason was that I just didn't feel well. Had some kind of non-COVID thing for weeks. Plus I have thalassemia, a genetic blood disease, and its accompanying anemia can cause depression and anxiety. I sure was being hit with that. And I can't paint when I'm really down. Wish I could! Instead, I just get kind of paralyzed.
I started up a different painting on another canvas I'd prepared with watercolor ground, but I ended up being stuck in that one as well. So I chose to mess around with some Ampersand Clayboard that I forgot I had bought to experiment with egg tempera (which I once again had learned I do not have the patience for). I found them sitting in the bottom of one of my oil painting supply carts, so I took one out and painted way too many layers of watercolor on it. These are just little 6 x 6" panels, but I did learn that yep, they are totally usable for watercolor as long as you like lifting--that is, removing paint with a wet brush. I actually have been using that as a technique after being frustrated by it for years. I always preferred to glaze, which lifting interferes with, being kind of the anti-glaze. But then when I began using dark paint and white (often not allowed by traditionalists) in watercolor, I began to see how useful lifting can be. I still have a lot to learn along those lines. This is just an experimental mess. Up in the right-hand corner, you can see where I put on so much paint that I ended up with "bronzing," as it is called--a sort of sheen that some watercolor pigments take on when you use them too thick. OTOH, you could think of it as a feature instead of a bug if you had done it on purpose. But I hadn't. However, perhaps next time...
Then I went back to the second one I'd started to see if I could pull it out of the ditch. That was this. I had tentatively named it "Arrival of the Spirits." When I give a painting a title, that usually means that I see possibilities in it--that it might actually turn into a finished painting--although it's not infrequent that I give a work in progress a title only to abandon it and usually paint over it. I am thrifty about my supports. It's only when I can't manage to re-use a support that I just throw it out.
But this wip just kept sitting on my easel not doing anything because I couldn't figure out where to go with it. I like to use contrast in my paintings, and I had been working on that in this one. But there were so many things wrong with it. For one, I had tried to incorporate a blue iridescence that was too green. Etc.
So it sat.
I finally did get back to it yesterday and decided to try some drybrush on it. I first started using that when I was working mostly in casein. You dip the ends of your brush in the paint and then squeeze most of it out--in fact, it feels like you squeeze all of it out, but it turns out there is still a lot left. Then blot it on a towel. Then you kind of sweep the brush on the painting, back and forth like a cartoon house painter. It gets drier and drier but keeps on placing pigment for a long time, and even then, you can still kind of shape what's been laid down. I really like this technique. It's great for adding all sorts of shadowy depth or layers of color to a section but also good for making glow. I mixed a primary yellow with some titanium and ended up with this.
I think it's moving toward something I will finish now. Still needs more contrast and some shaping of the light parts, but it's getting there.
Back to work September 11, 2020 16:32
I've been trying to consolidate all of the different things I do, from art to teaching classes in magic to growing plants to writing books. So I'm going to be posting here again instead of on Wordpress. Trying to keep everything closer to home and decrease the craziness.
In terms of painting, I finally started exploring the watercolor ground I've had for the past couple of years. I applied some QoR Cold Press watercolor ground to a couple of small canvases I got from Blick to do oil experiments with. That was a year ago, and I didn't accomplish much with those experiments, but I found the unused canvases when I moved and sorted all my supports out so everything is in one place and I can find stuff.
I haven't been using my oils since I moved out of my studio back in I think it was November. It was just not an okay place for a studio. Maybe great for a sawmill, due to the noise, dust, flooding, and old lead paint falling out of the ceiling, but not for a painter. But once I was out of there, I didn't feel okay about using oils in my loft. It wasn't that I was using any solvents or other toxic stuff; I use just walnut oil with an occasional foray into walnut oil + alkyd. But the smell of oxidizing vegetable oil is not that pleasant and also I have cats. And cat hair and oil paints don't mix.
So I've been using my watercolors instead, and honestly although I do miss oils and want to get back to them eventually (I would like to move to a 1-2 BR apartment in a more convenient location in spring), I am really enjoying the challenge of watercolors. I forgot how much I love Daniel Smith's Primatek Colors (made out of rocks!) and all sorts of granulating pigments.
But I've also been missing the easy framing of an oil painting. For instance, my loft is plastered with many of my oil (and acrylic paintings), which can be hung without framing--just throw a wire on the back. I haven't even varnished most of them.
But watercolors are another story. NONE of them are hanging on the walls because of the cost of framing them and because, frankly, I don't like framing behind glass. It is heavy and expensive and just aesthetically not the best, IMO.
So I've explored ways to seal watercolor paintings. One of them is just to spray them with acrylic + mineral spirits spray varnish. It works great but holy hell does it STINK. You HAVE to do it outside, even in the depths of winter, and it is, just as it smells, carcinogenic. No thank you cancer.
So instead, what I've been doing on and off with the watercolors is sealing them with Dorland's Cold Wax. This gives the colors a depth and richness plus protects the work from water. I use three coats, letting it dry thoroughly between each coat and then buffing with a soft cloth. It makes a nice satin sheen, really wonderful and not at all plasticky, like the spray varnishes can be. I have seen videos of people applying it with their fingers, but it does contain odorless mineral spirits (almost no smell), so I would not get this on my skin. I use a soft rag or a shop cloth to apply it. You can actually splash water on the thing when you are done and it will just bead up. You can pop your work into a regular frame with a foam backing and you are good to go.
However, this does mean that some competitions will not allow you to enter your work as a watercolor. Instead, you enter it as "mixed media." That is fine with me. I have found that collectors do not seem to give a damn about medium. :) And if one or two watercolor societies don't allow it, well, I don't need to be part of that.
I still felt a bit weird about framing a piece on paper and I know that many people like to get a painting all ready to hang and furthermore, they just don't like works on paper. To many, if it ain't on a canvas, it ain't art. So I decided I would try the watercolor ground on canvas.
It is fabulous. I am still experimenting with it, in particular in terms of achieving some kind of granulation. But it is fab for lifting. I do think it sucks up paint. But so far I have only tried the QoR watercolor ground and not all the other brands and types.
I was concerned because in the past I had tried it and the cold wax seemed to make any use of titanium a bit dingy. But now that does not seem to be an issue. Also, I have tried going over the titanium with a thin layer of zinc and I don't see any dingyness.
I've got tons of canvases and panels from my oil and acrylic painting days, and I am going to cover them all with watercolor ground.
Next up, using the cold wax to finish these things.
I did contact QoR to ask them about whether they thought cold wax would work on their light dimensional ground, which is some cool stuff. It looks like it has really unusual capabilities with respect to watercolor. I can hardly wait to experiment with that. But they seemed a bit doubtful that cold wax would work with that particular ground, because it is a bit spongy, but I am looking forward to giving it a try.
That said, you can do quite a bit of texture with the watercolor ground, as you can see from this photo of something I was messing around with.
And of course, once you are done painting, you can seal the paintings on watercolor ground other than the light weight stuff with cold wax, and you have a painting that is ready to hang. I love it!
Stuff I've learned lately July 10, 2018 19:11
No matter how much I need a good green or a peacock blue, the phthalos are not it. I had a hankering to paint iridescent blue dragonflies and hummingbirds for some reason, so I pawed through my collection of blues and greens and came up with:
1) two versions of terre verte (a dull dark green made of earth)
2) chrome oxide (good color, but very opaque and slow drying)
So I ordered the two blue phthalos (green and red shades) and two green phthalos (yellow and blue shades) in the Winsor Newton oil paint versions. Also got some quinacridone magenta for the halibut.
I got them on Saturday and right away remembered why I had quit using them so long ago--they look like markers to me. In fact, I am sure that the pigments in blue and green markers are phthalos. I am not a fan of colors that reminds me of markers.
Now, I know that the green phthalo blue shade can be a great "mineral" glaze for rocks. So I tried some. Yes, but it also reminded me of markers. So I am glazing over it with other stuff.
In particular, something I found when I was digging through some forgotten tubes of paint: cobalt green.
When I was painting with watercolor in tubes, I really hated cobalt blue. I thought it was just one hell of a dead color. To me, it just looked like something that would give us cancer. Just dead.
Then I switched to making my own watercolor paints
And the incompetent jerks at Shopify lost the rest of my blog post. Because that's the way they are. Stupid, incompetent jerks who absolutely are incapable of providing a blog platform that does not delete one's work at random times.
Screw you, Shopify. You are maroons, as we used to say.
Lines June 30, 2018 11:27Maybe that's why today I noticed something about my paintings. They made heavy use of lines. I think I posted about this a while ago, saying that since I had developed a tremor due to ageing that I was going to be avoiding using lines so much as I usually did. But this morning I could see that nothing of the kind had happened.
Paintings of Sunsets June 28, 2018 09:32Since switching to oils, I have not tried a sunset. I remembered too well how crappy my acrylic sunsets turned out--so crappy, for the most part, that I didn't display them or just painted over them. The closest I could get was a nice lavender dusk.
Avoiding the trap of reference photos June 23, 2018 15:44Some people use reference photos as a sort of sacred text for their painting. They will even project it onto their support and trace over it. For me, a reference photo can be a valuable aid for getting some interesting shapes, but if I start trying to copy the colors, it can easily turn into a trap and the resulting painting just looks dead somehow. So usually I morph my reference photos in some major way.
Just what I need - another medium! June 19, 2018 08:44Right away I can see that I can actually learn to use Photoshop Elements for this purpose. A lot of stuff I have tried to do just messing around is explained in the first chapter or so. So now I am looking forward to making more art, this time digitally.
My new studio June 18, 2018 12:36Back in January, I brought this up to the rental agent here, and he got back to me around March with a basement room for rent in this complex about a two-minute walk away from my loft. It was 300+ square feet with three ten-foot-high north-facing windows. It is partially shaded by a retaining wall and a slope up to the front parking lot (on which a huge mass of Japanese knotweed is now growing).
Abstraction May 26, 2018 13:11One reason why I love abstraction is because of the burningly intense colors some artists use. I love color. I also feel like abstraction is ready-made for the depiction of the spiritual. It hitches up to a different part of our brain than representational painting, IMO. And for me, it more easily and more often attains a mysteriousness that I want my paintings to have as part of my representation of the world.
Sick from OMS: Not as toxic does not equal non-toxic May 21, 2018 11:59This morning I woke up horribly dizzy, nauseated, feeling feverish and just plain sick. I thought I must be getting the flu again. Took my temperature and it was normal. Had a dry mouth although not dehydrated. Drank some spearmint tea for the nausea and debated going to the doctor because of the dizziness.
The mug project May 11, 2018 15:47 2 CommentsOne of the podcaster's recommendations was putting art on mugs. I figured I could make little watercolors of plants and use those. I cranked the numbers and was astounded at how many I would have to sell to make what I am making now from Alchemy Works. I thought it must be a mistake. But it wasn't. The difference was that the cost of my business is 2/3s of my gross, but with this new business, the cost of doing business would be 1/2 the gross, and the boring work--making, packing, and shipping--would all be done for me. Holy carp.
Making stuff and finding stuff out April 18, 2018 20:16So I decided to try painting with straight walnut oil. No alkyd. Even though I knew that this would lengthen drying time a lot. But it was an experiment to see if my eyes would not burn.
Holy fish scales! January 18, 2018 08:16 2 CommentsThere are also the few pigments that have such fine mica particles that they are iridescent in the way that nature is. This is exactly what I am looking for to add to surface layers of abstract paintings. I experimented with mixing these pigments with just casein binder and also added them to some random, low opacity colors (they are supposed to work best with transparent pigments). They worked wonderfully.
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