Paints and Painting Mediums March 26, 2023 11:05
Recently I decided to switch to a different paint brand. I've got a ton of Williamsburg paints, but a year or so ago, I coveted a tube of Michael Harding Scarlet Lake and bought it for myself as a treat. Well, I loved it. And it was not only the color I loved, but the paint consistency--smooshy without it leaking oil all over. It was just so easy to manipulate, especially compared to the Williamsburg paints I have. They are wonderful and come in a jillion colors, but for me they are a bit stiff. I've always had to add things to them to suit me, usually some walnut oil.
Then I discovered Siccatif de Courtrai, which i've written about. This does affect the consistency slightly because it's based on (real) turpentine. Even though you add just a couple drops per blob of paint on your palette, it helps make the paint be a little more spreadable. It still wasn't enough to make it as spreadable as I would like, but a couple years ago I tried oiling in or oiling out--applying a very thin layer of oil on dry paint, then wiping it off so only a whisper of oil is left. This made it much easier for me to paint some details, although with some pigments, like prussian blue, it would make them bleed across the canvas. I had no idea how much it could extend drying time.
I still had the problem of never having a brush that was stiff enough to move the paint around but not so stiff it would leave tracks. Sheesh.
In February, I came into a little money thanks to a crypto gift, and I used $200 of it to buy a bunch of Michael Harding paints. They have completely changed how I paint.
Because yes, they are smooshy, for the most part (except the titanium), and so they really suit how I want to paint. And the colors are drenched. Gorgeous! Yes, they are more expensive than Williamsburg, but they are totally worth it for me.
At the same time, I found some brushes, quite cheap, that I like--Bristlon Silver. I never usually use rounds, but I bought some to do details. They are great for that. They keep their points but aren't so stiff that they feel like a broom. They work great with the Harding paints and I know I will get more of them. I especially want to add some filberts now, as all my filberts are in ragged shape, partly due to me cleaning them in a stupid way.
I started a new painting and after doing the drawing, I started painting without remembering to oil in first. Because of the consistency of the Harding paint, I found that I did not need to. Wow!
I also found that the paint had dried the next day. I was shocked. I checked and found that none of the pigments I had used were fast driers. I thought it might be a one-off, some kind of accident. But it wasn't. This has been the case day after day. Using just the Siccatif de Courtrai and no oiling in or added oil, the Harding paint is very spreadable in use and still dries the next day.
This is life-changing in terms of my painting. And it comes after trying a number of different mediums in an effort to get away from using the Siccatif, since it has turpentine in it and my place is tiny now and has only two windows instead of eight. I need to have the fan on and both windows open when I paint (and for hours afterward) to ensure there is no buildup of turpentine fumes. I actually like the smell of the real thing, unlike the disgusting formaldehyde-ridden crap that I've purchased from reputable art suppliers. But I know it's toxic and it does irritate my lungs. As for other solvents, no need to go there.
In terms of mediums, I tried sun-thickened poppy oil I made years ago (it's really thick now), poppy oil with driers, and heat-treated walnut oil, and none of them really improved drying time at all compared with what would be the case with the untreated oils. I really dislike the smell of oxidizing linseed oil, so I don't consider that an option in medium form, although as a binder in my paints, it doesn't bother me.
I still have a couple more mediums to try (for instance, I bought some cobalt to add to oil), but now I have the possibility of not having to use mediums at all, just paint straight from the tube. As soon as I finish this painting, I will give that a try.
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.
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.