Thursday, July 29, 2010

Day three!

No brushes died - not even close! Just a few more things to do on the final layer and this one will be done.

Strange background for me - but I think it works.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Day two!

Was working on finishing up my Trillium oil painting class for so didn't get to paint day before yesterday. Yesterday was more work on the class and a trip to the store before the cats starved! Was very glad to finally get to paint today!! Yay!!

Still a lot of work to be done, but I'm satisfied with the progress I made today!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

New project

Brushes died and I'm tired! This is another of those "thirsty" canvases do a lot more work is needed to get the paint onto the canvas and where I actually want it!

Just the rough in so far:

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Crystal Balls and Mediums!

I lied about the crystal ball - there isn't one, but there is one heck of a medium so I hope that will make up for my less than truthful title!

I've worked with a number of different mediums for oil painting over the years. There was a time that I was very fond of Stand Oil which is a thicker version of Linseed Oil. It is almost like honey it is so thick! There are mediums meant to increase the fat level of the paint and mediums to increase transparency. There are mediums to decrease the drying time. The most useful medium for oil painting that I have ever found is Liquin by Winsor Newton.

Liquin was original developed for WN's alkyd line of paints. Alkyds work very similarly to oil paints but they dry more quickly. I used to only paint with alkyds. Winsor Newton tried to popularize the alkyd paints, but they never really caught on so WN discontinued the artist grade version. That is when I stopped painting with alkyds.

Liquin is completely compatible with oil paints. It speeds drying time, increases flexibility and it can also be used for glazes. Liquin is not an oil as is Linseed Oil so it doesn't actually add "fat" to the oil paints, but it does increase flexibility which is the same as increasing fat! It's wonderful stuff!!

If you've never tried it, do! Just buy the small jars! Unless you are using huge quantities of Liquin all the time, small jars will last for a long time and won't get "wonky" by being in a jar that has increasing quantities of air every time you use it.

Great stuff - don't paint without it!!

Sunday, July 18, 2010


Yesterday I (once again) spent a lot of time pouring over my notes for the oil painting class that I'm writing/preparing. I'm getting down to the last details and only need to expound about a few more things when the odd thought popped into my head: "Why not do a version in impasto?"

I'd already done two other versions. One which took me several days and layers and is very similar to my normal style of painting. Another which was done in two sessions, one to block in the basic colors and the second to refine the details but not to my normal extent.

Impasto! I can't ever recall doing impasto. I not really a fan of the technique. It uses up a LOT of paint and takes forever to dry. Such paintings cannot be overly detailed, but why not? So I did. I had prepared my canvas with an informational sketch. I went through my brush drawer and managed to locate two bristle hair brushes (much to my own surprise).

I put out twice as much paint as I usually do and mixed fewer colors than normal. I knew with the Impasto and wet into wet technique I would be mixing some of the colors ON the canvas itself. This was another of those "thirsty" canvases so mixing colors on the canvas was a bit difficult. As the quantity of paint on the canvas increased, mixing became a bit easier.

The trillium is too blue but it works. Part of the intent was to do this whole project in a short period of time. I spent perhaps three hours doing this painting. I was more concerned about trying to get that impasto effect than really mastering how to use impasto more effectively.

What I learned (should I ever decide that I should try this again) is that I needed more brushes. Trying to clean the two brushes I had to change color was a real pain. You load the brushes with so much paint that it just seems like it will take forever to get the paint out.

Impasto painting is sloppy! I recall a discussion on the EBSQ forums and "painting clothes" - clothes that have gotten covered with paint. I don't have a set of "painting clothes", but I can see why they would be needed if I were to do some more impasto paintings!

All in all the experience was fun and I hope I can find some meaningful way to include this into my oil painting class for CraftEdu!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Misinformation and the web!

I grew up with artists and I have had various levels of "formal training" but I am primarily a self taught oil painter. I did my homework. I bought and read numerous books on the subject. I did my own tests and analyzed the information I absorbed.

In preparing my "Introduction to Oil Painting" class for CraftEdu, I hauled out some of my old, dog eared tomes of knowledge. I haven't poured over these books in a long time so it was interesting to find the notes I had scrawled into the margins and which sections I had underlined as being particularly important.

I also did some cross checking of various points of information on the web and while there is a lot of good information out there, there is also a lot of misinformation. On one site a chart declared that "all whites are opaque". Not true! Zinc white is transparent and very useful because it is transparent.

Another site, in explaining the  "fat over lean" rule stated that all oil paint that comes from the tube is "fat". Well, yes - sort of. It didn't cover the crucial information that all oil paint that comes from the tube is not "equally" fat and THAT is the important information.

Another site claimed that artist's odorless turpentine was nothing more than odorless mineral spirits, but to my knowledge, turpentine that is refined to be odorless and used by artists has more impurities removed than the odorless turpentine available at the local hardware store. That same article was going on about how none of these (turpentine or distilled mineral spirits) were useful as a medium and that water was much better. Turpentine isn't a medium, it is a solvent and it is meant to be used to clean your brushes. It can be used to thin oil paint for the first layer of a painting, but beyond that turps, in any form, aren't really part of the painting process. Water and oil paint really shouldn't become acquainted unless you've decided to use those horrible oil paints that have been modified to work with water.

Having taught myself oil painting, I really don't know what is actually taught about the science of oil painting in schools. Judging from the information I found on the web, little.

Maybe it sounds a bit strange to be talking about the "science" of oil painting given that it is an art form, but science is most definitely involved. This goes a bit beyond the skilled techniques that are used in other painting mediums. With watercolor skill is required to paint a new wash over an old (dry) wash and not pick up the previous color. That's pure technique. If you happened to pick up some of the color of the previous layer, the painting is still physically sound. Painting layers of oil paint over previous layers of oil paint requires more knowledge of the science involved as well as the qualities of the particular pigments in use.

I'm such a newbie when it comes to blogging. There is some part of me that says I should be including some interesting and wonderful photo with every entry. Am I always supposed to just write about my art work, or can I wonder off topic and blather on about something completely different? Perhaps there are no real rules for blogging and we all can just muddle along.

Latest Netflix gems: Lark Rise to Candleford - a wonderful British TV series that Jack and I have been enjoying! I love period pieces. One of the things that I really like about this series is that I really like almost every single character!

We watched Masterpiece Mystery the other night with David Suche playing Poirot. He really is such an exceptional actor!! When I paint, I listen to music. When I needle felt, I listen to movies on my small DVD player. One movie that played rather frequently over the last year was The Way We Live Now in which Suche plays the mastermind behind a huge Ponze scheme, a character so totally different from Poirot and Suche plays it to perfection!

Well, I've blathered on too long and it is now past the time I should be getting Jack up for the day! May your day, dear readers, be filled with unexpected delights!!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Introduction completed!

I finally got my Introduction to Oil Painting for CraftEdu completed. It still has to be checked by quality control before it will become available, but I hope that won't take too long.

Now I need to get back to work on the oil painting class project. I really thought I would have had that completed by now - well, version 1. I thought that I might try doing different versions to illustrate different techniques. Currently I have two versions in progress.

Jack is off to the VA today for a bone density test. I hope the results will be favorable! The doctors postponed doing any work on his knees and his left hand (he broke two fingers many years ago and those two fingers are locked in a curl - and that is his dominant hand) until his bone density was better.

Why is it that whenever you order art supplies you always forget to order one important item? That must be some variable of Murphy's Law!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Where does time go?

I have in the last couple of weeks been working towards getting an oil painting class together for CraftEdu. I've been trying to balance time actually painting with time spent on writing my notes and narrative and collecting photos appropriate for that narration. What image do you use for "oil absorption ratios"?? I still have no idea!

Yesterday morning I reorganized my notes for the introduction to oil painting class and added in small thumbnails for the images that I decided to use. I decided it was time to try and put this class together. I figured that it would take a couple of hours and then I could get back up to the studio to work on my painting.

Rule of Thumb: The time it takes to do an assigned task will be significantly longer than the time allotted for that task.

What I thought would take a couple of hours took over 12 hours! Yes, there was the trip to Walmart to get my son some drinks and get Jack some Benadryl and another half hour when I took Jack back to the house, got him into bed and got him his dinner, but most of the day was spent at my computer narrating 60+ minutes of an introduction to oil painting.

"Oil paints are made by" BARK (Thanks, Dodger!)

Take two: "Oil paint" PANT PANT PANT (Dodger!)

Take three: "Oil pa" WOOF WOOF (SHY! Be quiet!!)

Take forty two: " Oil Paints are made by suspending ground pigments" RING RING (dang telemarketers)

It did take all day, but I did it!! There may be a couple of pages that I need to re-record (please, no!!) and I have to divide the class into three sections and record transition narration for the different sections. I probably should do that today, but I'm going to go paint! At least in my studio I can put on my head phones, crank the volume up and be blissfully unaware of all the noises in my everyday life!

Time disappears on me when I'm in my studio, but that's an experience I don't mind at all!

Shy Dodger

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Painting at 100 degrees in the light!

While temps climbed to the mid 90s around here, my studio was even warmer thanks to the banks of color corrected lighting that I use to keep my canvas well lit at all times. My paints didn't melt and for the most part, neither did I! Quite honestly for most of my painting session I wasn't really aware of how very hot it was. I was far to busy! It wasn't until I came downstairs that I suddenly realize how very tired I was.

My thirsty canvas is just about tamed. I have at least three layers on most of it and paint is beginning to move as it should. I made myself throw out some older brushes that were in my turps jar. I kept wanting to just get a little more use out of them and I really needed to have nice, new, sharp edged brushes.

Tomorrow I really need to clean my turps jar. It has some impressive sludge in the bottom. Not my favorite job, but pretty managable with some decent dish detergent, one of those coiled metal scrub pads and a lot of elbow grease! Fortunately I have a spare turps jar so I will be able to get back to work!

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Squeeze that tube!!

There always seems to be a certain amount of waste when it comes to oil paints. As carefully as I try to judge how much I might need of any given color, I'm going to be wrong. I prefer to err on the side of having too much paint out than too little. It disrupts the flow of painting if I have to stop to add and mix more paints.

As a result, I always try to get every last bit of oil paint out of every tube! One tool that I use to help me get that paint out is my tube wringer:

I've had this wringer for something like 30 years now and it's still going strong! I once bought a new, plastic version to use with my acrylic paints and it fell apart in less than a year. The metal wringers are a great investment!

As useful as they are, they can only wring a paint of tube so far. They get up to the thicker circular metal around the cap and that's about as much as they can do, but I know there is still good paint in there, so out come the back up tools: Pliers and a small square of plastic canvas!

Oil paint tubes can be cut by the edges of the pliers, but with the addition of a small square of plastic canvas (cardboard will work too), I can squeeze every last bit of paint out of my tubes!

Years ago I used to take the left over paint at the end of a painting session and make abstracts with the paint on canvas boards. The idea was that the canvas boards would be given Velcro strips on the back and the smaller canvas boards could then be grouped and regrouped on some larger backing. I used to have about a dozen of these abstracts on a bulletin board in my studio. Somewhere in my studio there is a large pile of abstract canvas boards. It always struck me as ironic that in the crazy world of art there seemed to be a real possibility that those left over paint abstracts could end up being considered more important than the paintings into which I invest so much work.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Thirsty Canvas

There is a lot to know about canvases. Aside from coming in a wide variety of sizes and shapes, there are differences in the fabric that is used as well as differences in the stretcher bars. There are also differences in the primers used on the canvas fabrics. I've learned to always buy canvas on the thicker, sturdier stretcher bars. There is nothing worse than spending many hours on a painting and then having your stretcher bars warp on you! Gallery wrap canvases may look prettier because of their nice clean, staple free edges but I don't see the point of painting the edges of a canvas. I always hope that my paintings will one day be hung in a beautiful frame and the edges will never be seen.

Many years ago I actually prepared my canvases from scratch. I bought raw fabric, good stretcher bars, rabbit skin glue, powdered gesso, and oil prime. I was so "pure" to the art of making good canvases, I didn't even use a staple gun. I used tacks. Do you have any idea how hard it is to keep a canvas taught, position a tack into place and then hammer it? It is a LOT of hard work making a good canvas from scratch!!

One day I finally decided that I would much rather spend my time painting than making canvases.
Normally I use Fredrix canvases. I have for years. The quality is always good. On  a couple rare occasions I have purchased canvas from other manufactures. I recently purchased five 16x20" canvases from a new source and was pleased when they arrived.

The texture is good. They have the correct type of stretcher bars - those that interlock but can be adjusted. Oil paintings are "breathing" entities so the canvas foundation needs to be able to adjust with the environmental conditions too.

Day before yesterday I finally painted on one of these new canvases. I suspected from the look and feel of the primed canvas that they were going to be "thirsty" canvases and I was right. A "thirsty" canvas drinks paint. It really does!!

One of the nice qualities of oil paint its that you can push is around when it is on the canvas. On a "thirsty" canvas you really cannot indulge your paint bullying tendencies at all. You can almost hear the slurp as the canvas sucks in all the lovely paint and holds it right where you put it.

Don't get the idea that this means it is a bad canvas. It just works differently than most of the canvases I am used to and it will take a couple of layers of paint before it finally decides that I win and I can move the paint as I want to.

I've worked with "thirsty" canvases before and while I will not say that I prefer them, they are an interesting change. I find that I like being forced to reevaluate how I apply my paint and that I need to form a relationship with this individual canvas to make it work for and with me.

The above painting (Half Mushroom) was done on a "thirsty" canvas.

It is my guess that there is more chalk in the gesso used on these canvases. It would seem logical that the adhesion of the oil to the canvas is going to be very secure.