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.
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!
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.