Time to Experiment January 25, 2023 16:37
I promised myself that if I got into senior housing, I would take advantage of not having to work so much and instead spend more time experimenting with my art rather than trying to paint things that I think will sell. It's not that I dislike anything I've painted. If I do, it never makes it to my site. I probably throw out or paint over about 20% of what I make because it's not good enough or I just plain hate it. But it is much more difficult to take risks with art when you need sales.
But where to start?
One thing I came across that was very helpful was a video by an artist named Chelsea Lang. In this video, she talks about learning what it is that you really want to paint, that you can be passionate about consistently. To discover exactly what that is, she advises gathering images that inspire you. Once you've got a pile, you create a "curated" collection composed of images that you would be proud to have painted yourself; I've posted some of them throughout this page. You then go through the curated collection and make note of the drawing (or not, like with colorfield), the values, the color, the edges, and the composition.
Was I ever surprised what I came up with! I thought I would end up with a lot of landscapes, probably somewhat abstract or subdued. Instead, almost every single one of the 40 images I "curated" were purely abstract and many of them were even monochrome, which I never expected in a million years--get this: even though I often find myself using max 2 colors plus white & black. I marveled at this.
But I also considered it gold in terms of self-discovery.
Chelsea Lang advises that once you've got your curated collection and determined what aspects they most have in common, you have found what you should begin learning how best to paint and start practicing and studying. She also advises worrying about the mechanics of selling once you have worked that out. I think this is the most sensible advice I've heard in a really long time.
So I've begun practicing. It's the best thing I have done for my art in a long time.
Returning to an old medium December 27, 2022 08:17Using colored pencil again!
Redon's Spider--and Mine October 18, 2022 06:55When you dream of painting a spider and it crawls off the canvas
The Dark August 19, 2022 04:52The dark has been taking over my paintings, and that's a good thing.
Tonalism June 18, 2022 13:21I've been painting various landscapes as a break from doing still lifes using the Flemish technique, which got on my nerves. Trying to do fine details with worn-out brushes and essential tremor is difficult. I need to be able to rest my entire arm on the support or right near it. A mahl won't work. I decided that I would have to go without the Flemish technique and instead paint these things in watercolor with a wax finish.
But I needed a break. My landscapes have never called for tons of detail, and I like painting them.
I did a couple using my long canvases (12 x 36"), which sold a print or two but are too large for me to get sales with at this point. I might turn the rest into NFTs when the market comes back up. It would be a good way to use up those canvases but still make some money from them and also get to keep the originals, which I like having around. So I will try that in a bit.
Meanwhile, because my small still life (9 x 12") sold right away, I decided to try some smaller landscapes, especially after I got totally frustrated with the mandrake still life. I have about 10 11 x 14" canvases that I forgot about, so I took one of those out. I intended to add the moon to whatever landscape I made, because me and my people love us a moon.
I started with a reference photo of some trees I've often photographed behind the apartment complex. I just like them as a group. I put those in against a background from another photo of a dawn in bands of gold, pink, and blue. I put the trees in with a combo of black spinel and prussian blue. I made only a few trunks and branches, and the rest was simply blotting a worn small brush around to make leaves. They came out well.
Next up, a moon, using my plastic circles thing. I knew I would touch it up again later.
Then, a group of crows flying towards the trees, and that helped me come up with a title, "Coming Home."
It was okay but to me the colors looked pretty loud after painting with a classical palette for the still lifes. And that's when I got the idea for Tonalism. I thought I might be able to create a Tonalist work simply by adding a glaze.
Some Tonalism is a little drab and depressing to me, but other Tonalist works feature the rich colors of sunset and landscapes made mysterious by darkness or mist. So I decided to try it.
So when the painting was dry, I oiled in and tried a glaze of transparent brown oxide. That made it look really dull. Too dull. I also tried making the moon brighter at that point, but it was too difficult not to mess the glaze up--nowhere to rest my shaky hand. And since the glaze wasn't really the right color anyhow, I wiped it off.
I tried again with transparent red iron oxide. That was a lot better but still too much on the dull side. So I wiped it off too.
I dug around in my red paints, of which I have a LOT. I needed something that was on the blue side of red to make the yellow more orange, the pink more pink, and the blue somewhat purple. But the quins were way too intense, the perylenes too dull, and I have a lot of scarlets.
At the bottom of the pile was a brand new tube of ultramarine pink. I opened it to see a purplish red on the dull side, and it's transparent. So I tried a glaze of that, using a very soft brush, my siccatif de courtrai, and some extra oil.
It worked. I might put another layer on when it gets dry to intensify the colors just a bit more. If I do, I will wait until that is dry and then finally lighten the moon.
I'm pretty happy with this painting so far. It really does look like a Tonalist painting, and it was quite easy and relaxing for me to do. I will make more such paintings, using different colored glazes to get different results. Really looking forward to exploring this farther.
Fast Drying and Painting Into a "Couch" May 3, 2022 07:57With unbleached titanium, you can have a fast-drying warm white that doesn't need any driers.
The Sun and Oil Painting II April 28, 2022 04:39Using light to dry and brighten oil paint
The Sun and Oil Painting April 18, 2022 16:16
Many times I've read that exposing oil paintings to sunlight (in limited amounts) helps to brighten colors as well as helping them dry faster. The windows in my place point east and north, so I don't get a lot of direct sunlight, but it does slant in in the morning. I finished a recently sold painting with sun-thickened poppy oil (<--). Last time I did this, it took more than a week for the thin coating of poppy oil to dry. This time I decided to try using the sun. I exposed the painting to direct sunlight, propping it in an open window during the morning when direct sun shone on it. This has made the poppy oil coating almost dry in only two days. One more day should do it. Pretty cool!
Now that I've tried this, I'm going to use it to encourage faster drying in future paintings. I usually use walnut oil as a medium (if anything), but I would like to use poppy oil and to adopt more poppy-oil based paints, like Blockx. Outside of wishing to have as little yellowing as possible of my paintings, I have spiritual associations with the poppy. Still, even though I made sun-thickened poppy seed oil several years ago, I have not used it as a medium due to fears about its slow drying. In fact, instead I've used a historical lead/manganese drier in the form of siccatif de Courtrai, applying one tiny drop in each blob of paint on my palette. This really helps make the paint dry faster, but since I've been painting on stretched canvas instead of on panels or boards, I'm taking a risk with respect to possible cracking down the road. It would be great if I could get similar results simply from exposing paint to sunlight. Won't work in winter, but it should for the rest of the year. So I'll give it a try and will report back.
I know I haven't been posting much, but I have been hellishly busy with the nft project I created (which will begin to be auctioned this week), with final edits on The Magic of the Sword of Moses, and with the proposal for my third book, which I am presently researching and writing. Yow!
NFTs and me December 25, 2021 21:46
Recently, I painted five oil paintings in nine days, which with the help of a tech bro who bought some art from me years ago were turned into nfts and sold in three days in an auction. And I made more money from that sale than I made for the past couple years from selling my art the usual way.
The blockchain I am using (Solana) is not wasteful of electricity; a transaction on Solana uses as much electricity as two Google searches.. The fees are miniscule, like about 1.5 CENTS.
Yes, people can right-click on my image--they've always been able to--but I have news for you: nfts are more about provenance. You can decide to allow your nft to be used in various ways as part of the contract, but most of the time, the artist keeps copyright. Yes, there is theft of images, but this has happened to me plenty without any of my art being an nft. Unlike with traditional tools, with an nft I can get a royalty every time it is sold.
I'm not going to argue with anyone about nfts. If you want to learn about them, you can. It is not my job to educate people about them, just like it's not my job to educate people about oil paints that contain metals, like cadmium or lead. Instead, I will talk about what making nfts is doing for my art, because so far, I haven't seen anyone address that particular issue.
My next nft project is a big one--48 watercolor landscape paintings which I will use to create 264 composite digital paintings. The image that I've attached to this post is a small slice of one of those composites.
I've never painted so fast in my life. Each of the 48 paintings are 10 x 30", and I am completing a painting about every two days. This is about the size I usually paint, so it's not that I am painting faster due to smaller size. I photograph those paintings and turn them into digital files, which I neaten up and modify in various ways and then layer them together into unique paintings that will become the nfts. The digital cleaning up is what takes me the longest. I don't know Photoshop as well as I should.
I have discovered a bunch of things by working on this project, which I am 1/4 of the way through.
The biggest is that it has broken the back of my perfectionism in painting, which has crippled it for as long as I have painted. When I set out to make nfts, I told myself that the purpose of these paintings was to bring joy to the people who bought them. They didn't have to be perfect--they needed to be competent and to express beauty as best as I could do. I didn't have to emulate O'Keefe, Lautrec, or Monet. I didn't have to be a Great Artist. I just had to do a good job.
And this opened the floodgates.
I have become a much better painter just through the amount of practice I've been getting. But more, I feel I can fully use what I actually do know about painting instead of always holding back due to fear of fucking up.
I can't tell you how many times I have stopped working on a painting because I was afraid I would fuck it up. Probably about 1/3 of my paintings end this way. Another 1/3 are not worth saving. And 1/3 are and I am able to overcome the fear of fucking up with them.
One of the reasons people mock nfts is that they say nft art is lousy and ugly. A lot of it is. But I don't see a higher proportion of crap in nfts than in regular painting. It seems equal. I thought, well, I've got better technique than tons of these people, so I have nothing to fear on that score. But when I realized there was such a strong parallel in terms of the percent of crap art in both nfts and traditional art, I felt like I've been messing myself up all these years by not believing my art is good enough when 95% of any kind of art is crap. Now I see that my art is good enough. It doesn't have to be great to be ahead of the mob. It has to be honest, competent, and original.
Before I had a studio, I felt satisfied if I produced a finished painting every 2-3 weeks. When I rented the studio, I resolved that I had to justify the $350/mo I was paying for it by going over there to paint ever single day. Before I knew it, I was painting faster than I'd ever painted before--2-3 paintings a week, and most of these in oil.
The faster I painted, the more I learned about painting. The more I learned, the more issues I could solve. And that gave me more confidence in myself as an artist. I experimented more, took more risks, solved more problems, and sold some art.
The speed with which I am making the paintings that will become nfts is even greater. I have learned a ton already--about technique, yes, but more, about my art and what I am capable of doing. And once again, my confidence has increased. Even just drawing for the underpainting has made me realize I am competent at rendering things.
So painting fast and painting for nfts shattered my perfectionism in art and massively boosted my confidence, such that fear of fucking up is no longer stopping me from trying things in my paintings. I never expected this to happen.
I fully expect my skills to improve a great deal. And to make some money while doing it.
Landscapes November 3, 2021 19:15
Lately I've been wanting to paint landscapes, so I went through my reference photos looking for likely suspects. I have tons of photos I've taken over the years, but every once in a while, I find a photo that I'd like to use as a reference that isn't mine. I collected all the landscape photos I wanted to try painting, all of them my own, except for this one photo that featured an abandoned church where rough, thick boards had been nailed across the windows. This hadn't stopped someone from ripping off one of the front doors, which was lying in the long grass out front, and the cross from the steeple was missing. It reminded me of cults, which so often arise, create havoc, and disappear. So I thought it would be good to paint.
This morning I got back to it. It is much improved, I think, even though it is far from finished.
I did a couple of other different things with this painting. For one, I decided to give the Classical Landscape Palette that Tad Spurgeon outlines in his book. "The Living Craft." This is a terrific book, by the way, for all sorts of reasons. But one of the things that have inspired me is his list of different sorts of palettes.
I've always had problems with choosing colors. In the past, I wanted everything, and that meant that my paintings were often jumbled. I discovered limited palettes in watercolor, and I learned a ton from that and felt like I did find more image cohesion that way, but I also kind of went overboard and got to the point where I was using just 2-3 colors (including white) for my paintings. Only recently did I decide to go back to trying a lot of colors.
But even so, I still felt I hadn't conquered the color chaos. I considered trying some of the palettes in the book in the past, but never got around to it. Lately, though, I've been feeling more serious about how I paint, so I decided to actually try one of the palettes. I chose the Classical Landscape Palette because it offered a lot of choice without being overwhelming and it includes a lot of fast driers, always a consideration for me:
Nickel Titanium Yellow
Yellow Ochre, Golden Ochre, or a mix
Raw Sienna Dark or Transparent Mars Yellow
Venetian Red, Vermillion, or a mix (lost my vermillion, so I am using pyrrole scarlet PR170 instead)
Burnt Sienna Light or Dark, Transparent Mars Brown, or a mix
Pyrrole Crimson (pyrrole rubine PR264), Mars Red, or a mix
Green Earth, Viridian, or a mix
Ultramarine Blue, Prussian Blue, or a mix
Ivory black (but I decided to use Italian Roman Black Earth instead because it is much faster and I have good blues)
Just for starters, I've always had issues with viridian, felt like it was a fish out of water type of color, but it seems to go well with these others. I'm using williamsburg's Italian Terre Verte and their French Terre Verte for the green earth; they are great greens. I love the two pyrrole reds, so that's cool, and the crimson one made a decent purple with the ultramarine today. The only issue I see is the selection of yellow. The earth yellows are kind of murky and the nickel yellow is pale. I'll have to see how they go with the other colors. I have a jillion yellows, but my favorite is a strontium yellow I got from a Ukrainian seller on Ebay.
At any rate, I am ready for adventure.
Oil painting November 3, 2021 12:26
I've been doing watercolors exclusively for quite a while but began to miss oils, despite their inconveniences and because I still felt weird about using a lead-manganese drier in my paints to hurry them up. Then I came across mention of the King in Yellow in a horror novel I was reading, "Southern Gods" by John Horner Jacobs, who named a madness-causing bluesman Ramblin' John Hastur (Hastur being the King's other name). This reminded me of reading about the King in Yellow when I was a teenager and read the collection by Robert W. Chambers of the same name and then came across this name in various stories part of the Cthulhu Mythos. I always thought this was a scary figure, described with no more than a line about the tattered scalloped edges of his yellow silk robe..We are told that a play with the same name caused its audience to go mad in the second act. And I got a hankering to paint him.
I asked my friends on Facebook what did they favor for this task? Almost all recommended oils. Okay.
I had a lot of brush cleaning to do, since it had been so long since I'd used my oil paints that the oil in the brushes had hardened. I had to clean them by soaking them in orange solvent and then scrubbing them with mild soap. Whew! But once I started, the painting just flowed. I was surprised.
I had to take a break to do a project with a deadline, which I will be posting about this weekend or early next week, but when I finished that, I immediately went to finish the King painting. I'm happy with it.
Meanwhile, I had been working on a watercolor still life that had taken me a couple of weeks already. I still haven't finished that. Not much is left to do. I had anticipated doing a series of still lifes, but having dipped back into oil painting, I remembered how much more forgiving it is than watercolors. Yes, oils are smelly, messy, have an involved cleanup, and there is the drying issue, which has been big for me because there are a lot of components of traditional oil painting that I can't tolerate.
One of them has been lead, and I posted before about using a lead-manganese drier, Siccatif de Courtrai. I had this product for a few years before I actually used it, gingerly, and then I got hooked on it. There were a couple of things I noticed about this stuff. While it didn't always work as quickly as I'd like, I actually didn't mind the smell. I realized it must have some refined turpentine in it, not the cheap stuff I had smelled in the past. Also, using the drier meant, for some reason, I no longer smelled the oxidizing oil. Maybe there is some chemical reason for that, but I don't know what it is. All I know is that having the window cracked a bit makes it so I can paint with this stuff no problem and the speedier drying has been a game-changer for me. So much so that I bought some "English distilled turpentine," which is supposed to be the best quality turpentine and less anoying than its cheaper siblings. I haven't tried it yet. I look forward to it.
Another change of horses September 7, 2021 20:14 1 Comment
Once again I thought I'd found just what I wanted to do in terms of my art, and I decided it totally isn't.
I thought I had settled on painting opaque watercolor with aquapasto and aiming for texture and painting on watercolor ground on canvas and finishing my paintings with cold wax so they could be displayed without glass. And then I got to thinking.
Why was I letting someone's desire for less expensive framing determine how I paint? People who buy my paintings know that if they want cheap art, there are all sorts of places to find it. And if they want something that is more expensive, they can afford to get it framed, no?
I got to thinking about that, especially after reading a quote from a guy who was forming a new gallery with three other gallerists. He said that the days of 50/50 split with the artist were over. And it was clear that he did not mean he was going to ensure that his artists got more than 50%. On the contrary. The greed of the precious little parasite.
Galleries are a deforming force on art. I have thought this for a long time. I have looked at a lot of gallery art and have felt that way too much of it was only called "art" because money-laundering was involved. Money-laundering art is pretty much crap. But it's not important what it looks like. It's important how much drug money it can launder.
Now sure. All galleries are not involved in this by any means. But there is also the issue of galleries not paying artists for what is sold and even not returning their work. This is the case with 30% of galleries, from what I've read in different sources over the years.
And then they have the balls to whine about how they're not making any money. They have the balls to demand that artists do the vast majority of the marketing, yet they won't share their collectors list with artists. They have the balls to switch frames on people's paintings, to store paintings without care, to not carry any insurance, to hire people who couldn't sell their grandma some chicken soup.
But to me the most deforming aspect is that they want the artist to create a brand--"consistency." Because in our industrial-product, chain-store, franchise-restaurant world, standardization is vital for sales. The art an artist produces has to be identifiable as their brand. If they paint Realist Rocky Mountain landscapes, they better keep on doing it. If they paint misty pictures of a vase of pink flowers. they can't decide to turn out some nightscapes or portraits with shredded faces. Stay in your lane!!!
I often have looked at my own art and known it is not consistent in terms of style or subject, which for a long time made me think I was a lousy artist. I've regularly weeded out my work on this website to impose some sort of consistency on my art, even though I know I deviate from consistency time and again.
Thing is, this site doesn't get a lot of traffic. Not as much as I'd like, anyhow. And I thought it would help to widen my connection to collectors if my work was picked up by a gallery, even though I was well aware of all the many, many pitfalls.
But reading that quote by that precious bitch of a gallerist who informs the world that the days of the 50/50 split with the artist are over because galleries have bills to pay made me absolutely despise the whole system far more than I ever did before. I wonder what the average gallerist makes compared to the average artist.
So, slowly I am going to populate my site with my paintings that don't contribute to my "brand." That are inconsistent. It's going to take me a while, because I have a lot of them.
Now to circle around back to my shift in painting technique and how it relates to galleries. I am not the first painter who tried to make their watercolors more of a brand, more marketable in a gallery. Even leaving aside 19th-century British watercolorists who did their best to make their paintings resemble oils so they could raise their prices, I know watercolorists today who attach their watercolors to stretched canvas with a gallery wrap and add a cold wax finish because galleries don't want to sell watercolors, especially displayed behind glass. These folks sell their paintings through galleries by doing this. I have nothing against them doing this. In fact, I say go for it.
Obviously, because basically that's what I was building up to do by painting with aquapasto on watercolor ground on canvas and finishing it with cold wax. All about the marketing through galleries that don't know how to sell watercolors.
The only problem with that is that it changes what I can do with the paint. Watercolor ground is neat, but it's not paper. It has taught me that lifting can be a tool instead of a bug, which is fab, but it still allows for way too much inadvertent lifting. And you cannot really do a wash with it or the usual sort of watercolor glaze. And the paint just kind of sits there; it's difficult to get it to move. Kind of defeats the whole purpose of watercolor, so why use watercolor at all? Just use oils. Feh.
In contrast, the traditional tools of watercolor are right there when painting on paper.
So if I think that I won't be selling through galleries in the future no matter how good of a painter I become. I would rather paint on paper. If I really get a hankering to paint on canvas, I can do it with my oil paints.
So here we are--back to my oldest painting practice: using transparent pigments to paint on paper with no mediums or cold wax finish. They will have to be framed behind glass (or that snazzy "museum" glass/acrylic, which is so cool and so expensive).
Oddly enough, this has meant a return also to a pigment that was my favorite when I began art school in 1971--phthalocyanine blue red shade. I just loved that stuff, which can go from an intense indigo to a delicate peacock wash. But I dumped it decades later because it felt too synthetic. I got sucked into the Daniel Smith granulated rocks with fancy names. And they are beautiful. I still have a bunch.
But when I got my royalty check for The Witching Herbs back in August, I bought a ton of Winsor Newton transparent watercolors, which is what I began serious painting with way back when I started art school and got my first set of tube paints. Part of my switching to WN was nostalgia, but another was wanting to explore all those luscious colors I never got a chance to learn how to use years ago. I forgot how beautiful they are, how luminous, and their sense of stillness. They invite to dip into them, like a pool.
I need this stillness just as much now as I did back then, when I began serious painting. It's a very unstill world.
19th-Century Watercolor Style Really Works September 2, 2021 12:37
Years ago I read how some of the 19th-century British watercolorists did various things to make their paintings look more like oil so they could charge more for them. After all, why should oil painters get all the money? :) I read about their use of aquapasto and tried it a few years ago but didn't get oil-painting results.
Then I tried it again recently and started getting ideas. I did an experimental painting where I saw how I could get a buildup of texture in a painting thanks to aquapasto, so I set out to use it in earnest.
In this painting, I always mixed the tube paint 50/50 with aquapasto and used only a tiny bit of water. It makes for sticky stuff, but it is still easier for me to paint with than a sticky oil paint. Feels lighter somehow too. I didn't have too many issues with unwanted lifting with layers of paint, only when the brush was too wet.
The stickiness means I will need some stiffer brushes than I have, which are mostly Dynasty Black Gold, made of nylon. The way I've been scrubbing, they will get ruined. For oil paints, I like synthetic hog bristle, so I ordered some Mimik Hog brushes, which are synthetic.
I really like how I can do oil type painting but not have to deal with how long it takes oil paint to dry. Because of slow drying, I had even begun to use a lead/manganese drier and bought some lead white because I couldn't deal with it anymore. My oil paints take 3-5 days to dry, and with the drier, 1-2 days, but this stuff takes more like 3-5 minutes, faster if I use the blow drier. So nice! And no smell of oxidizing oil or cleanup with solvent.
For me, tube watercolor with aquapasto is also easier to use than gouache or casein. Both of them have issues with unwanted lifting that are way worse than this.
I've been using cold wax to finish my watercolor paintings, and it works just as well with this. It removes a very tiny amount of paint, I'm thinking from the highest areas of texture. It's not visible on the painting, but the towel showed a small amount of pigment.
Someone mentioned in a comment elsewhere that they were using shoe polish brushes to apply the cold wax. I think that would be good if I weren't using the aquapasto. I am going to stick with the flour sack towel pieces I use.
Aquapasto II August 27, 2021 20:19 1 Comment
Back in early 2018, I wrote a blog post about aquapasto. It's been my most popular blog post. People still come to read it.
I hadn't done much with aquapasto until recently, when I began experimenting with it again.
I first tried adding some to some paint to see if I could get lines to stand up. That didn't work.
I thought maybe I didn't add enough. Thing is that I noticed the more I added, the less brilliance the paint had--because, of course, there was less pigment per inch. It was spread out. What to do? Layers.
So I thought maybe it might be usable as some kind of transparent glaze, and I added much more aquapasto to each glob of paint, so that they were 50/50. I mixed them up with a very small palette knife I use with my watercolors, usually just to mix some tube paint with a bit of water and end up with something creamy. After mixing the paint and aquapasto, I added one spray of water so it wasn't so sticky.
For most of this painting, I used a type of brush I discovered through oil painting. It's usually used for painting grasses in landscapes and is called a grainer. It doesn't work that well for painting grass, but it's really interesting for building up texture. They are pretty cheap, but you could just as easily use an old flat brush in bad condition that's gotten splayed.
I've experimented on and off with using watercolor paint almost straight from the tube to do drybrush work. This is the kind of painting that leaves a thick (for watercolor) layer of paint on the support, rather than the kind of scratchy drybrush you often see used for depicting Western or desert scenes--at least, that's what I associate that type of drybrush with. The kind of drybrush that leaves a thick, brilliant layer that never has the chance to sink into the paper and thus dilute its brilliance by coloring paper fibers below the surface is very rarely done, from my experience. One thing that seems to prevent watercolorists is the expense of the paint. But you really don't need to use that much, in my experience.
Drybrush does allow for glazing if you really careful to have very little water on the brush, use brights instead of rounds (which tend to dig up the lower layer of any kind of paint), and hold the brush at an angle quite close to the surface of the support, so you are basically skimming along. Adding aquapasto to the mix means not only can you do a drybrush glaze more easily, but you can build multiple layers and you can create texture that is unobtainable any other way.
You can see how thick the buildup of paint and aquapasto is here--thick enough to fill the dips in the canvas weave. This has about 7 layers of paint/aquapasto to it. It will seem even more filled when I finish the painting with cold wax, which I have been doing for the past couple of years. This will make it very water-resistant (I have tested it with a kitchen sink sprayer--beads right up). The painting can then be hung not only without glass but without a frame. If you do use cold wax, you might have to call it mixed media if you enter shows. But if you don't use cold wax and only the aquapasto, you are still allowed to call it watercolor, no matter how much texture you achieve with it, because aquapasto is a gel made from water, gum arabic, and some fumed (safe) silica and has been used by watercolorists for more than a century.
When I first tried aquapasto back in 2018 and posted about my experiences on a now mostly defunct art forum, I thught other painters would be glad to hear how you could add texture to watercolor. Not so much. And worse, another poster scolded me for not sticking to "real" watercolor. Why didn't I just use acrylics or something, they asked with a sniff, the implication being that then the "real" watercolorists wouldn't have to deal with misfits such as myself.
Thing is I wanted to paint with watercolor, but I wanted to push the envelope, to see how much it could actually do. And what's more, aquapasto was invented by 19th-century British watercolorists, and you don't get much more "real" watercolorists than them.
So give it a try. Play with it and see what it can do for you. We need more misfits in the art world.
Fresh Horses July 29, 2021 12:59
I've been mulling my next steps in painting because of the issue with fumes from gouache burning my eyes. I started another painting with just plain watercolor, but I disliked it a great deal (<--). I could not get it to look even close to what I had imagined. I guess I would have to use oil paints to do that. I just kept looking at it and hating it, even though folks on Instagram were very supportive about it. Maybe it just looks better online than it does in person.
One problem was that I have never been able to draw a straight line. So I've got that issue throughout the painting. I decided to use painter's tape to remedy that, and it helped, but it was still an issue (I will say that Frog tape is much better than masking tape for that purpose). I bought some tools like a metal ruler (couldn't find my old metal ruler) and a ruling pen to do that, but I just didn't want to work on it anymore. They are just sitting in front of the easel.
So this morning I took the painting off the gatorbord and put the line-drawing tools away. And frankly, I was relieved. I am not cut out to be precise.
I haven't been happy with my art lately. Nothing I've been doing has been good, in my opinion, and it certainly hasn't seemed like me. I have felt very cut off from it.
Some time ago, I gave myself 10 years to become a successful painter. "Successful" for me meant that my art income would be sufficient for me to scrape by when combined with my Social Security benefits. I have not even come close with that. For the past couple of years I've made only about enough during the entire year to support myself for one single month. And that's the gross, not the net. Sheesh.
I chose ten years on account of hearing Renato Muccillo talk about how it took him that long to become a successful painter. He inspired me, even though I paint nothing like him. I like how he paints landscapes with detail but without becoming photographic. His painting is always painterly. I also like how he often uses cheap brushes. :) And I admire how productive he is. I feel like being productive is one key to becoming successful and hopefully, a good painter.
The thing is that one problem I've always had with art is that I want to do too much. I'm greedy. I want to learn how to paint everything in almost every style and in all mediums. So that results in jack of all trades, master of none syndrome. It also means my paintings have no cohesiveness as a body of work, and I feel like that should be there. I have little style of my own because I am always careening around from one thing to the next.
This is quite the contrast to how I am as a writer. I realized recently that I'm a better writer than I am an artist. Kind of a disappointing realization. Writing is work, but it's easy work for me. I never really thought about why. But I started thinking about that why. Maybe I could apply that info to my art.
It isn't just plenty of practice with expository writing that makes me a good writer. It's because when I write about something, I dig deep. I research the crap out of a topic, I read everything I can find on it, I make notes on the best info, rearrange it, write that up, and when I do that, I have gained enough knowledge and experience on whatever it is so I can come up with original ideas on the topic. So IOW, my writing is good because it's about depth, not breadth. Depth is the the environment for my writing.
I thought, how can I do that with art when I'm always all over the place? I can't. And I think that's why my art is not anywhere near as good as my writing.
So okay: concentrate on one thing. I paint three kinds of things: landscapes, abstracts, and surrealism. Which one should I concentrate on?
At first I thought landscapes. I've always loved landscapes, and I still do. George Inniss is one of my favorite painters. I've got tons of books on landscape painting, and I've already signed up for Mitchell Albala's forthcoming landscape workbook (I highly recommend his first book for landscape painters--and Suzanne Brooker's and John Carlson's). And landscapes are popular. People love them, right?
They do, but they don't love mine. I looked over the past couple of years to see what had sold. One landscape, and it was small. Most of the rest were abstracts.
I have to admit that I like painting abstracts best--better than landscapes or surreal stuff. I feel very connected to my brush when I paint them. I like that abstraction helps me dig down deep into myself and my connection with the material and spiritual worlds. Of the three focuses of my painting, abstracts feel like the most me.
And I don't have to make any straight lines if I don't want to. In fact, I usually default to curving lines and biomorphic shapes, because that's what I like to look at in life. They have a special meaning to me that I can't put into words.
Plenty of folks paint very colorful landscapes, but I have often felt constrained by local color. Conversely, with abstracts I've often painted with only two or three colors because I've been wary of jamming too many colors into one painting and losing all unity.
I want my colors to have a reason to be on the support, even if that reason is only their relationship to the other colors there. But I also want to become less wary about using them, as in this little work in progress (-->). In the past, I never would have added that pyrrole red.
So I'm going to focus on the abstract stuff for the next three years. I'm going to learn about a ton of abstract painters and go see abstract works in museums and galleries and listen to lectures about abstraction. And I'm going to paint a lot more than I have been, because for one thing, in three years I'll be 70 years old.
Gouache problem July 23, 2021 11:45
I enjoyed doing the underdrawing for my next painting. I've been wanting to work with a public domain reference photo of two Victorian women sitting on the porch for a long time. I decided to include just one of the women and modified the photo quite a bit. I looked forward to not having to worry about the pencil marks smudging into the paint because they are so opaque that they just cover the pencil marks no problem.
Once I got the drawing done, I hesitated for a few days trying to solve some background issues. I wanted more detail in the background, but none of the things I tried felt right. So I just left it as is and started on the floor.
First thing I noticed was that the perspective was off, but that was not too difficult to fix due to the opacity. However, I was sitting there thinking how much easier the floor would be if I were using transparent paints. Hmm...
I really hated how the floor came out. The color was very hard looking, even though it was ultramarine, which is one of my favorites. It just looked cheap and garish.
So I tried to tone it down and give some modeling to the floor with other colors. This took me a lot of painting thin lines up close to the paper.
I went to bed satisfied that I had improved it somewhat but still bothered by how ugly it was.
Had a lot of interesting dreams and woke up late, around 8:30. My eyes were burning like hell.
How reminiscent that was of the end of my using acrylics. I was loving using Golden's Open Acrylics, but after each painting session, my eyes and throat burned. I had gotten sensitized to the small amount of ammonia in the paints. I was really upset by this. I felt like I had finally gotten somewhere with acrylics.
I had to switch paints and diddled around with M. Graham gouache, which to me smelled absolutely horrible, and home-made casein, which worked okay but it was a pain to make the casein binder all the time. Eventually I went back to watercolors because they don't smell and don't give off any fumes. I also had a much more informed perspective about pigments and painting in general, so I did better with them.
I also got into oils at that time, thinking that would satisfy my opacity jones. I really miss the ability one has in acrylics to just paint over whatever you don't like.
I never could get oils to be as thin as I wanted them because I cannot use solvents and have had problems doing detail on account of it. I also had problems with space. Without having a separate studio space anymore, I couldn't have five paintings going at the same time, which helped me deal with the slow drying.
Recently I even started using lead driers in my oil paints just so I could get the stuff to dry faster. I even bought some lead white and put other lead-based paints on my wish list, all because they would speed drying.
Then I got the idea of gouache. Solution to all problems, right?
I went and looked up the MSDS for WN gouache, and sure enough, they may cause eye irritation. Luckily, I haven't spent TOO much money on gouache paints.
My experience with acrylics was that once I got sensitized, that was it. I tried other types of acrylics, used a fan, wore eye protection, waited weeks to see if the sensitization would disappear. Nothing worked. And I ended up with some serious eye problems, which I concluded had been caused by the ammonia fumes. I never want to have that experience again. I have one good eye; I can't afford any damage to it. So I am not going to persist with gouache.
That means that unless I want to start making casein again, which I guess is possible, I am back to using watercolors. I could try painting opaquely with them. There are some pigments that are naturally opaque. But maybe I just have to suck it up and deal with the issue of drawing underneath paint.
I could use india ink and thin lines. To me, though, that looks more like illustration.
I could also try using the grey watercolor pencils I have.
Or I could start making casein again. I still have the powder somewhere and the pigment dispersions, which I use nowadays with gum arabic. Lifting was a big problem I had with casein, but I have learned how to deal with that in watercolors and to turn a bug into a feature, so maybe that would work.
I think, though, that I just have to stick to watercolors.
Gouache and Lifting July 14, 2021 13:43Painting with gouache
New medium: paper May 26, 2021 10:55 2 Comments
It all started with some old clocks.
I love clocks, especially the wind-up kind, and most especially of all, wind-up mantle clocks. For years I have prowled ebay just looking at the things and not buying one because really, I could not justify the expense when there are electronic clocks all over the place.
Because I've felt pretty depressed since last summer, and especially so after the death of my buddy, Blackie, in January, I decided that maybe it was a good idea to do something completely different, something that didn't qualify as sophisticated art (so, no pressure) but that would take my mind off things. I thought I might not be able to afford to collect vintage wind-up clocks, but I could afford old clock cases and maybe I could "do something" with them. Something creative but not too demanding. So I started looking. I knew what I was looking for, but I couldn't articulate it. So I just looked.
I saw an inexpensive clock case on ebay and said to myself that I would like to monkey with it and turn it into something else--some kind of ritual container or cabinet or reliquary, but for witches rather than for devotees of Catholic saints (cool as their props are). So I broke down and bought the thing.
It sat in its box for weeks before I opened it. Maybe it was just a foolish moment.
Eventually, I unboxed the clock case, removed the nasty little plastic clock inside, and started thinking about what I could put in there. I began with a small dried mandrake root, which fit inside perfectly. But it wasn't quite right. Not quite what I wanted to do.
Meanwhile, thanks to Instagram (where I have discovered tons of different types of art--anyone who pisses and moans about IG being evil on account of "influencers" and all their fake shit hasn't really utilized the thing to its full extent), I ran across people doing some incredible paper art. Lots of them made paper flowers, which attracted me due to my long-time interest in plants, although no one was making the kind of paper flowers that represented my plant favorites. One of the paper-flower peopole made something that especially amazed me: a paper fish. As soon as I saw that, I knew I wanted to try making stuff with paper. When I saw a monkey's paw and a dead canary she'd made, I was sold. I just had never realized how much could be done with it.
I got an excellent book on making "uncommon" flowers, and the first example in there was foxgloves. Hell yes!
So when we got the most recent stimulus check, I bought a ton of paper and associated supplies. But me being at the bottom of a well of grief, I didn't get around to using that paper until a couple days ago.
I started with making a mandrake flower, which was okay. Then I tried making a belladonna flower, which looked more like a bellflower. And then today I managed to make a belladonna flower that is passable, although the sepals need to be greener.
I've always wanted to learn how to create 3D objects, but kept thinking well, maybe some day I might get back to pottery, but so much equipment was involved. And I knew I'd probably never be able to afford to make "real" sculptures out of metal or stone.
But I can afford paper and scissors and glue. I can learn the capabilities of paper by making these flowers and then take those techniques farther.
Looking forward to doing something, finally.
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 to store paintings drying.
But now I don't have a separate studio and have way less room 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 of siccative 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 or 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 likewise without either lead nor manganese. In fact, from what I can see, a number of companies make a version of siccatif de courtrai that contains zirconium and calcium instead of lead and manganese. So, not at all the same thing as what I am using, 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.
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