Friday, November 5, 2010

Annual Exhibition

Well, it's that time of year again. Each November I participate in a group exhibition of works from my weekly art class.  We're a good group who have been working together for three or four years now, and the skill level is quite strong.  This year we are in a new display location, and have planned a more elaborate setup.  I think it will be a wonderful exhibition. :)

Monday, October 11, 2010

Still Life - WIP

Well, I decided to stop procrastinating and just get on with it.  Last night I started a painting from a basic still life scene I setup in my office.  The lighting wasn't great (not hard enough), but it should suffice.

The underpainting - lights and darks blocked in:

Stage 2
Stage 3
Initial colour layer.  Hopefully I'll be able to put some more time into this today.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Oil Paints Incoming

I placed a large order with Blick this week for the following delicious oil paints: -

Blockx: Crimson Lake · Venetian Red
Holbein: Nickel Yellow
M. Graham & Co.: Anthraquinone Red · Cadmium Orange · Cobalt Blue
Michael Harding: Crimson Lake · Genuine Naples Yellow Light · Naples Yellow · Permanent Sap Green · Yellow Ochre Deep
Maimeri Puro: Cadmium Yellow Lemon · Kings Blue Light · Sandal Red
Old Holland: Burnt Umber · Violet Grey · Persian Red
Gamblin: Perylene Maroon · Quinacridone Orange
Schmincke Mussini: Atrament Black · Bluish Grey #2 · Brownish Grey #2 · Caput Mortuum · Natural Bohemian Green Earth · Translucent Yellow · Vermilion Red Tone
Shiva Signature: Raw Umber
Williamsburg: Brilliant Yellow Pale · Italian Raw Umber · Turkey Umber.

(Hooray for the overvalued Australian Dollar!)

I ♥ Paint

Oils in Progress

I have a couple of new Qiang Huang studies in progress this week, but firstly, an update on my copy of Huang's Moon with Clouds:

Oil on panel, 6.5 x 9"
Next is Huang's Color Behind Light (which is proving most challenging). More work needs to go into my shape modeling and values.

Oil on panel, 9 x 9"
Finally, we have What a Pair.  I have been struggling with the apple here, but I like the background.

Oil on panel, 7 x 9"
It may seem odd that I'm copying Qiang Huang's work, but, confidence is always a problem, so when I get more adept at simplifying subjects and handling paint, I'll post my own works.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Rublev Eighteenth Century Watercolor Palette

Browsing the Natural Pigments website recently, I noticed that they have made considerable changes to their "18th Century Watercolor Palette" product since I purchased it in May, 2008.

The lists below compare the old and new paint choices:

2008 Palette 2010 Palette
Lazurite (B29)
Nicosia Green Earth (G23)
Verona Green Earth (G23)
Italian Yellow Earth (Y43)
Gold Ochre (Y43)
Italian Dark Ochre (Y43)
Venetian Red (R102)
Ercolano Red (R102)
Italian Burnt Sienna (Br7)
Cyprus Burnt Umber Warm (Br7)
French Raw Umber (Br7)
German Vine Black (Bk8)
Prussian Blue (B27)
Green Earth (G23)
Olive Green (G23)
Yellow Ochre (Y43)
Gamboge (NY24)
Vermilion (R106)
Madder Lake (NR9)
Indian Red (R102)
Burnt Sienna (Br7)
Burnt Umber (Br7)
Payne's Grey (Bk9)
Bone Black (Bk9)

Because I do not have the updated palette on hand, I can only approximate the paint choices based on my own knowledge. Rublev make three Burnt Umber paints, and two Burnt Sienna paints (all of which I own) - so while I can make an educated guess, it is still a guess.  With a nod to Bruce MacEvoy, I have provided two small diagrams to help visualise the paint differences and their approximate place on the colour wheel:

C18th Palette, 2008
C18th Palette, 2010
As you can see, this is quite a radical shift in terms of palette colour and mixing range.  The main improvement of the new palette is that the paints chosen are better spaced within the colour wheel.  The two yellow paints were originally quite interchangeable unless applied full strength, and their mixing capability was similar. The addition of Gamboge (fugitive NY24) should make for sweeter yellow tints.  With the introduction of Madder Lake (fugitive NR9) and Prussian Blue, purple becomes possible - the previous mixture of Lazurite and Venetian Red could only produce a greyed violet-brown colour. However, the loss of subtle Lazurite is a sad one, as it is a lovely and highly textural paint.  Gone are Ercolano and Venetian Red, instead we have Indian Red (a favourite paint of mine) and bright Vermilion - the pretty but toxic PR106.

Original C18th Palette
(A comparison image of the updated C18th Palette will be added shortly.) 

I have tested almost every watercolour paint in the Rublev line, and all have delightful textural properties.  I use these paints mostly for small works or field sketches, as the paints are best applied and then left alone. Re-wetting them and brushing over them lifts them and destroys the texture.  The updated palette introduces mostly staining paints - this will reduce lifting with the brush in mixtures and help to make the paints a little easier to use.  While the updated choices are a good introduction to historical paint, I do wish strident Prussian Blue was not the only blue choice.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Rublev Nineteenth Century Palette


Earlier this year I treated myself to a Rublev "19th Century Watercolor Palette".  The main attraction for me was the presence of real Vermilion (Mercuric Sulfide PR106) and a lead yellow, Chrome Yellow Primrose (Lead Chromate PY34). While both of these toxic historical pigments are readily replaced with a cadmium paint, I was curious about the originals all the same.

C19th Palette (click to enlarge).

As you can see, this is palette devoid of green paint. Because colour wheels are interesting, below is a diagram which shows the approximate location of these paints on the colour wheel:


From the website:

"Due to the large particles of this color, we recommend using this watercolor only with rough watercolor paper or with additional watercolor medium to aid the large particles to adhere to the paper."
This is good advice. These paints disturb easily and do not accept re-work, put it down and leave it. :)

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Review: Brush Cleaners

A couple of years ago, I was at a product event and saw a Chroma liquid soap brush cleaning product being demonstrated.  It was quite impressive.  From Chroma:
"Chroma Incredible Brush Cleaner is a superb soap for cleaning and maintaining all your fine brushes. It cleans and preserves natural or synthetic brushes, easily removes acrylic, oil or lacquer and even removes dried paint that is years old."
I can attest that all of the above is true - especially the years-old paint bit. For dried paint, make a slightly dilute solution of soap by adding water, and then coat the brush head. Best results are achieved if you leave the brush for a few hours.

The only other soap I have tried is Da Vinci All Natural Brush Soap with Conditioner (Kernseife). This curd soap is also an excellent cleaner, and seems kinder - not a lot of lather is produced from this bar of soap. The Da Vinci is not effective at removing old paint, but for normal use either cleaner will leave your brushes soft and squeaky clean. :)

After oil painting, my normal cleaning process is as follows: First, I use oil and then odourless solvent to clean my brushes, then I wash them with soap.  I swish my brushes in a few drops of the soap cleaner, and then 'comb' out the paint with a soft toothbrush to loosen it. I rinse then repeat this process a couple of times.  If you don't use any solvents to clean brushes your brushes first, the Chroma or Da Vinci will still do a brilliant job - it just takes a little longer.


Usually a watercolourist has no need for brush soap, but once a year or so I do like to clean my most used brushes. The heavily staining pigments like phthalocyanine blue/green and dioxazine purple do build up.  After cleaning a watercolour brush, make sure the brush is rinsed thoroughly.

Chroma Incredible Brush Cleaner - 250ml (~$12AU)
Da Vinci All Natural Brush Soap - 100g (~$9AU)

Monday, September 27, 2010

Knife Painting


Well, I had great fun at the Marie Green oil painting workshop I attended yesterday! We had just started painting the still life when Marie began to observe me, and after a moment suggested that I try the subject using only a painting knife, and not my brushes - she said it would be a good challenge for me.

I had never done a knife painting before. I have used the knife here and there, but for the first time I painted everything with the knife and learned a heck of a lot. The painting is not great, but given that I only used four tubes of paint and one knife, I think it's OK.

Fish and Fruit 
Oil on paper, 11 x 14"

Friday, September 24, 2010

Preparing Panels - Take 2

I sealed the last of my masonite panels today - I prepped eighteen in total. Half are quite small at ~6x8 or so, while the rest are assorted larger sizes. The first coat of gesso is on, and drying, so I should be able to do a second coat this evening. The good thing about preparing a large batch of panels is that by the time I finished applying a thin coat of gesso to the eighteenth panel, the first panel was nearly dry.

I have three new jars of Art Spectrum Colourfix Primer to try out - I ended up buying Rose Grey, Soft Umber and Raw Sienna. The Raw Sienna is especially beautiful!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Fourth WIP

None of my paintings were dry enough to go on with in class tonight, so I started another Huang copy.  This time it is Moon with Clouds.  Here are the first layers:

 Oil on panel, 6.5 x 9"

For me, the most educational aspect of these studies is value and colour mixing.  I often work with a very large palette, but completing these studies has seen me work with only four or five paints.

Two paints which I have been enjoying today are Michael Harding's Unbleached Titanium Dioxide and Maimeri's D'Italia Green Earth from Verona.

Oils in Progress

I started two oil paintings on the weekend, and then began a third last night. The first WIP (work in progress) is a copy of Huang's A Pair of Pears. I have blocked in the lights and darks, but still need to add some interest to the background and shadows, and define the fruit further.

Oil on board, 6 x 8"


The second WIP is a copy of a soft pastel painting I found online some time ago.  I have no idea who the artist is - the image is one of hundreds of references files I have saved on my computer.  If you are the artist, or know the artist, please contact me.

This was a particularly interesting painting to copy because of the delicate yet effective shadow colours. The vibrant background just sings, but because I used Cadmium Orange, I'm still waiting for it to dry three days later.

Oil on panel, 6.5 x 9"


The third WIP is a copy of another unknown pastel painting. If you are the artist, or know the artist, please contact me.

This is the least complete of the three paintings I am working on, and is a more complex subject than the previous two paintings. I am enjoying this one immensely. It is an excellent study in colour and value.

Oil on panel, 6.5 x 9"

Hopefully I'll make some good progress on these tonight in class.

Currently I am the only person working in oils in my weekly art class.  We all tend to work independently on our own projects, with the instructor visiting us throughout the lesson to assist and answer questions.  Since I have begun painting with oils in class (something I do on and off during the year), the medium has gathered a lot of interest in our group. (We are mostly a group of watercolour and mixed media artists.) There is a one-day oil painting workshop coming up this weekend, so I hope to encounter a few local oil painters to talk with, and maybe find someone willing to join me on plein air trips. :)

Monday, September 20, 2010

Preparing Panels

Today I prepared a batch of small masonite panels for my oil painting.  The masonite is a little thicker than I like at about 6mm, but at least I won't have to worry about it warping.  I sealed the panels, and then brushed 3 coats of gesso on to all sides and edges.  Later, I used a roller to apply some thinned Art Spectrum Colourfix Primer to some of the panels.  From AS:
"Art Spectrum Colourfix™ Primer is a fine tooth, quick drying acrylic primer which bonds aggressively to practically any clean, dry surface - all types of papers (300 gsm or heavier recommended), canvas, card, ply, plastic, glass, timber, ceramic and metal. Art Spectrum Colourfix™ Primer can be applied with brushes, sponges, rollers etc."
Primarily used as a fine tooth surface for pastelists, Colourfix Primer is actually a multimedia product.  It can be used as a base for pastel, conté, acrylic, or oil.

I'm very happy with the Colourfix Primer painting surface.  Thinned down with a little water, it dried to a beautifully fine tooth, and then I lightly sanded the surface with some 600 grit sandpaper just before painting.  This has produced a perfect painting surface for me so far.

The Colourfix Primer doesn't need to be thinned, but the more you thin it, the smoother it applies.  Visible roller patterns and brush strokes will be visible if you use it straight. This can always be sanded down, but I prefer thinner coats.



Because I have sanded the Colourfix surface, I don't feel the surface tooth will be damaging to my brushes.  So far I have tried Rich Beige and Storm Blue Colourfix, and I plan to try Raw Sienna, Soft Umber and Terra Cotta next.

Art Spectrum Colourfix Primer - 250ml (~$14AU)

Friday, September 17, 2010

Arts Centre - Major Update

Woohoo!

Our community arts centre project is off the ground! This month we have received three fantastic pieces of news:
  1. Our local council has promised us a building. It is the building we had hoped for, and in an ideal location - right in the heart of our town. It will be ours in approximately two years.
  2. Our submission to a state arts department was accepted, and they will soon begin helping us establish ourselves as a robust not-for-profit group.
  3. A local industry giant has granted us almost $100,000.00 in funding!  This will cover our rent in a short-term location until we can move into our own building.
Not bad for less than six months worth of work!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Copying Huang

I have been following Qiang Huang's painting blog for some time now. His expressive brush strokes and strong colour contrasts are something I would love to be able to achieve. My own oil paintings of late have been improving, but I seem to have a fear of bold colour (which is something I struggle with in my watercolours, too).

This week I selected two paintings from Huang's blog and was determined to copy them. It was difficult, but I persevered and am happy with the result. I learnt a lot about colour and value, but especially colour! The colours I was mixing initially were nowhere near as strong as they needed to be. Completing this colour study exercise was very rewarding and enlightening. You can see my efforts and their details below.

After Huang's Warm Up:

Oil on board, 6x8

After Huang's Vibrant:

Oil on board, 6x8

There are a few problems with my paintings, but overall they work.  One paint I found particularly nice during this exercise was Michael Harding's Lemon Yellow. I never thought I would come to love the Lemon Yellow as much as I have - it's a wonderfully useful paint! :)

Monday, September 13, 2010

Introducing Alexander

Alexander will be two months old at the end of this week. :)