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.
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.