Making stuff and finding stuff out April 18, 2018 20:16 1 Comment

During my huge buying binge of paints, thanks to getting a royalty check and some back payments from Social Security, I chose to buy a bunch of linseed-oil based paints (Williamsburg) instead of sticking with the walnut-oil based M. Graham paints I had been using. I like the Williamsburg colors a lot--especially the earths. And I wanted to get in the habit of considering drying time for the pigments I used. So I selected a bunch of earths, iron oxides, mars, and cobalts as the heart of my new palette. (And btw, I totally love the names of pigments)

I also got the book Living Craft by Tad Spurgeon and got very absorbed in making all sorts of versions of linseed oil that should dry more quickly. Hours of reading enjoyment, and more hours of playing with different states of linseed oil. But while waiting for these experiments to become usable or become part of mediums, I decided to experiment with store-bought stuff.

I tried Eco House Damar Painting Medium first, because I read that damar made stuff shiny. Well, it sure did, but it gave me a headache for some reason. I'm thinking the "mild citrus thinner" in it was the problem, even though I have used d-limonene to clean brushes without a problem. The other thing is that it became tacky too quickly. I didn't know that damar dissolved in solvent and then added to oil results in a medium that creates tackiness. This in contrast to if it was melted into an oil--no tackiness. Well, so I tossed the Eco House stuff. Not that it's evil, just not for me.

I decided to stick with using walnut alkyd for the time being. There were three reasons for this: being an alkyd, it dries faster; it doesn't smell like linseed oil (which I don't much like the smell of when it's oxidizing); and it is more slippery than linseed oil. Having come from watercolor, acrylics, and casein, I got used to mediums that not only dry quickly but generally don't drag on the brush. I knew I probably couldn't get the same thing from oils, but I want it anyhow. So I investigated all possibly slippery oil painting mediums and decided to keep using the walnut alkyd until I got to the bottom of them all. I was at the point where, between the fast-drying pigments, painting thin, and using walnut alkyd, my paintings would be dry overnight. Not bad.

Then for the past week my eyes have been burning. I thought this might be allergies to stuff outside because the weather has been warmer, so I can have the windows open more. I've had plenty of allergies before, but they always involved sneezing. No sneezing with this. I wondered about a few posts I'd seen from people who were sensitive to solvents saying they could not even hack Graham's Walnut Alkyd. This stuff does not have any smell to me, and I haven't noticed anything in particular while using it. But I thought perhaps the burning eyes might be from that. Burning eyes and throat were what happened to me when I got sensitized to the ammonia in acrylics. I've never had burning eyes as a result of an allergy to something outside. Or inside, for that matter. Just with the acrylics. 

But here it was again. 

So 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.

When I started painting with oils again, I did everything I could to shorten drying time. But oddly enough, I found that I actually like working on multiple paintings at a time. It gives me time to think about issues in a painting and to imagine possible ways forward. I normally wake up at night and lie there thinking, usually about some image I am working on or just allowing to come into my head. So instead of feeling stifled by not being able to finish a painting right away, I am feeling good about it.

So tonight when I sat down to work on Storm Birds, I put the walnut alkyd aside and decided to use some of the cold-pressed washed walnut oil I got from The Art Treehouse. This place specializes in making low-toxicity mediums and paints. Well, so does Eco House, but I guess their low-toxicity orange solvent was just too much for me.

I usually start working on a touch-dry painting by spreading out a thin layer of walnut alkyd, but this time I decided to see how the paint would act without a "couch," as they call it--a thin layer of paint rubbed into a dry painting to help make the new paint glide in. That method had worked well for me, but this time I added new paint without any couch first. Just to see.

It was great. It was way more slippery than the walnut oil with alkyd in it (which is also a refined walnut oil and not washed). If I had tried to paint on a dry painting without oiling in first using the walnut alkyd, the paint would have been grabbed by the canvas nubs, leaving the little valleys in the canvas empty. I hate that when I'm trying to make the color solid and smooth. But with the washed walnut oil as a medium, I didn't have to oil in first. The paint spread well and was furthermore very spreadable once it was down. Nice and slippery! 

So tonight I went and bought a couple more bottles from The Art Tree House. :) I will update when I find out how long it takes to dry. Right now, the  morning after, it is not dry but it is not sopping wet by any means.

Three days later and the main part of the painting is dry. The titanium patches that are thicker than the rest are still moist. I can live with that span of drying time. 

Next up, try the heat polymerized walnut oil and see how that ranks in terms of slipperiness and drying time.