Monday, September 30, 2013

Six Ways I Use Oleogel

Posted by: Kate

I push Oleogel on all my friends and I've even done time for selling it in a schoolyard.  After using it regularly for the past year and half I've come up with a variety of uses for it and I thought I might share them:  

Oiling in:  First of all, oiling in is bad.  Extra oil equals extra yellowing, and layers of pure oil and no pigment are not structurally sound, so the only place where excess oil is welcome is at a cheap massage parlour.  If you do oil in you should pull your blinds so the neighbours don't see.  But sometimes a girl's gotta do what a girl's gotta do.  Sometimes I just have to oil in the damn painting, take a look, and then noodle at my edges and shadows.  I apply Oleogel with a make up sponge very sparingly.  When it dries, the silica in the oleogel give the painting surface some tooth, compared with the slick nasty surface pure oil would leave behind.

I oiled out this head study to restore all my colours before deciding that instead of a purplish background, I really out to have a greenish background.
Laying down a couche: For those who haven't come across this term before, "couche" is French for "paint layer," and in the context of classical technique, a couche is a thin layer of oil that you spread over an area that you are about to work on, usually an area that you are going to bring to a finish with fine detail and blending.  The oil makes the fresh paint flow onto the surface better (great if you're working with tiny amounts of paint on little itty bitty brushes) and at the same time saturates the old paint layer so that you can match your colours perfectly.  Snort.  As if anyone manages that.  I used to use linseed oil cut with Gamsol in a 1:1 ratio for my couches.  But now I've seen the light and I've found that Oleogel serves this purpose better because it is a gel.  My paint doesn't thin out or go runny when I paint into it.  It's not as slippery and my brush strokes stay in place, meaning a completely new "look" for my finishing layer is at my disposal.

I applied a couche to her hair before doing my final pass.  If you look closely you will see that there is a slight halo around her head where the green background is more saturated.  This is the Oleogel.  The brushy quality of her hair is something that would have been difficult to accomplish with a runny couche of oil.
Cleaning up a surface: I have bad mahl stick hygiene, meaning I rest my fat hand on my paintings a lot.  Paint smears are an unpleasant fact of life.  I used to clean up with a bit of OMS, but that always leaves a streak somewhere and makes the paint surface look milky and hideous, and besides, if the paint isn't completely dry, you might just ruin the area you're trying to clean.  Been there, done that more times than I care to count.  I've found that a little Oleogel applied to a make up sponge will clean an area perfectly without lifting off the paint, even if the area is only just barely dry to the touch.  Sometimes I do one better: if I know an area is going to get a smear on it, I will put some Oleogel down first and then wipe it off later when I'm done.

If you can't tell where a giant gob of flesh tint hitched a ride on the heel of my hand and landed square on my six hour old black coat, I'm not going to tell you.  Bone Black doesn't dry very hard, and since it was so fresh, it would have come right off if I had used OMS to clean it.  Olegel saved the day.
Softening out a penumbra: I try to paint wet into wet as much as possible, meaning that my shadows are completely worked into my lights.  But sometimes you will get the job done faster and dare I say better by just glazing the damn shadow.  Case in point, any area with texture should have a shadow glazed over top.  Oleogel, because it's a gel, makes it easy for me to manipulate transparent colour without streaks.

See the shadow her hat casts on her hair?  I totally painted that hair without a cast shadow, let it dry, and then Oloegeled that bastard and glazed a shadow over top.  And then I learned Russian with all the time I saved.
Cleaning an edge: For when you paint outside the lines.  I usually use Gamsol on a sharp-edged brush to clean up a bad edge in my early stages of a painting, but in the later stages it can be a right pain in the ass to put Gamsol down adjacent to an area of fresh, delicately modelled paint.  It tends to seep over farther than you want, or make an edge too hard.  It's especially bad if you're trying to clean an edge above the area you're working on, because then gravity is working against you and that Gamsol will trickle down no matter how sparing your application.  In these cases, I will use a little Oleogel on a chisel brush (or a soft or ratty brush if I want a really soft edge) to clean up edges.

Branches are one of those tricky things.  You want them to be crisp, and yet if they're too hard edged, they look graphic.  I used Oleogel quite a bit to clean my edges with a soft touch.
Mixing directly with paint: This lends the paint transparency and flow, but it still handles like regular paint.  It will make you brushstrokes longer without the paint turning runny or drying any faster than usual.  I often opt to use Liquin to make my paint flow better (mostly because I have a bottle of it sitting on my taboret.  If it was hidden in a drawer I would probably forget it existed), or straight up oil (Natural Pigments makes a bunch of different oils that are a pleasure to use), but one nice thing about the Oleogel is it doesn't turn your palette into a runny mess when you premix it into all your paints.  The paints stay put in their respective spots, thank you very much.

NOTE: Please do not use Oleogel to paint big goobery brushstrokes, a la maroger medium.  Some people see the word "gel" tacked on the end and they get the wrong idea.  Oleogel is simply linseed oil plus fumed silica.  A lot of linseed oil.  (I think George said something like 95% oil and 5% silica?)  So when you add it to your paints or your painting surface, you need to remember that you are adding oil, and we all know that oil is the devil's plaything.  Be sparing.  If you wouldn't normally cut your paint 50/50 with linseed oil, don't start now, and if you do want to add it to your paints for that special occasion that you need the right effect, keep the rules of fat over lean in mind.  Someone has pointed out to me that Oleogel will dry gummy and yellow.  Only if you're applying it like you're icing a cake.  If you want to apply juicy fat brush strokes, there are better mediums you can try.  I would recommend anything with an alkyd drier, or better yet, see if some Impasto or Venetian Medium will work for you.  The latter two are technically paints because they are composed of oil plus a colourless pigment.  This means that you can add as much of them to your paint as you want without upsetting the ideal pigment to oil ratio.  Impasto medium will chunk up your paint slightly and make impastoes occur more easily.  Velazquez medium will make your paint goopier and stringier.  I prefer the latter.

So that's my spiel.  Please consider welcoming Oleogel into your life, because if we keep buying it, they'll keep making it.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Dorrie's Hands--SOLD

Posted by: Kate

Dorrie has beautiful hands.

And now you can have a pair of beautiful hands too.  This is another not-quite-alla-prima for sale.  Dimensions are 8x10, and it is oil on dibond.  Please get in touch in the comments section.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Women Painting Women: (R)evolution

Posted by: Kate
This Friday, on September 20th, the "Women Painting Women: (R)evolution" show opens at Principle Gallery in Alexandria, VA.  So if you're around, make sure to hightail it to the opening sometime between 6:30 and 9pm.  It'll be a fancy occasion, so wear pants.

If I were a better person, I would do a comprehensive post about the history of the group and what we're all about.  But I'm just a middling sort of person, the kind who doesn't fold her laundry or drink eight glasses of water a day, so please take a look at the work that will be hanging here, and then wander over here to read more about tour background.
If you read through the information that the second link above takes you to, you'll see that the objectives of this show range from demarginalizing women artists, to exploring the female subject, to countering centuries of male gaze bias in western art.  There are as many objectives in this show as there are artists, because each of us has made the show her own and is particpating for her own reasons.  But for me it begins and ends with the exploration of my own personal gaze.

Personally, I participate each year because it means something to me to be part of this group.  Before I was invited to participate, I was isolated in my creativity.  I had Dave, but it takes more than one person to help you mentally place yourself.  But then I was invited to be in this show, and suddenly I had a dozen new friends, all of whom were ahead of me in their art careers, and each of whom carried a vivid awareness that they were female artists and that their careers had filled the negative space around this fact.  And what's more, for the first time I actually realized I was a woman painter.  I had never thought of it before.  It had never occurred to me that by being female I was part of a sorority, by dint of the fact that all of my paintings are inescapably tinted by the filter that is the female gaze.  And so it was that by being part of this group, I suddenly found myself standing on a starting point of self-discovery in my art.  I had been so focused on the easel in front of me that I had barely stopped to really think about the real source of my art--my own two eyes, and their unique biases, limitations, and insights.
When I was first invited to participate I refused.  I felt I was unqualified to be a representative of such an important and sophisticated theme.  I still feel that way.  But being part of the group has taught me a lot.  It has challenged me as an artist.  It has made me try to live up to the expectations of the group; as a result I have painted more and more paintings of women.  I'm searching for what makes my perspective of women, and the world, unique.

And for all of you who think that women don't have a unique gaze, I would like to close with a painting that was most definitely not painted by a woman.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Some Nice Photos

Posted by: Kate

Forgive me for dedicating an entire post to showing off some pretty shots of my paintings all glammed up with a flattering coat of varnish.  I love posting my in-progress shots, but the flip side is that I have a lot of rough looking images out there on Google.

Craft or Sullen Art

Shadow of My Hand

The title "Shadow of My Hand" comes from another one of Dylan Thomas's poems, "Fern Hill."  "Fern Hill" is about a childhood immersed in nature, in the rhythms of the seasons, in the heart of farm life.  Biblical allusions abound and the childhood home, a farm called Fern Hill, is likened to Eden; coming of age is likened to Adam and Eve's fall from grace.  This poem speaks to me personally because my extended family has its own Fernhill/little bit of paradise.  All 40+ of us cousins, aunts, and uncles take it by turns to share a summer place called Fernhill.  I have no idea if my grandfather, who had Welsh immigrants for parents (Dylan Thomas was Welsh), consciously picked the name because of the poem, or if it was already called that when he bought it, or if the name was a just an astute observation that the property is on a slope and is covered in ferns.

Somehow all of us have managed to share it as a summer vacation place without killing each other, which I think says a lot about how cool the people in my family are, and also the supreme importance my family places on having a place to go swimming after work.

The third generation of my clan's children are spending summers at Fernhill now, and it's to this wave of kids that Allie, my model, belongs.  She had just turned thirteen when she modeled for me--passing right through the door between childhood and adulthood.  The line that inspired the title comes near the end of the poem:

Nothing I cared, in the lamb white days, that time would take me
Up to the swallow thronged loft by the shadow of my hand,
       In the moon that is always rising...