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.
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.