Thursday, October 29, 2015

Dealing with "Sinking In"

I got a lot of questions from my last post about Rublesol Light, oiling out, and sinking in.  I thought I'd treat you all to some off the cuff verbal diarrhea about my opinions on the matter.

Sinking in is just awful.  You put all this work in to making your painting a shining gem, and then twenty-four hours later it looks like complete crap and there's not enough wine in the house to convince you your art career isn't a lost cause.  I can think of four ways to deal with sinking in:
  1. Oiling out: Not a great idea (whether your "oiling out" layer is oil or any other painting medium).  Applying isolated layers of oil to your painting, which then become sandwiched between paint layers, is not great practice.  It will lead to problems that get art conservators' panties in a bunch, like yellowing and delamination.  I have to point out that in my vocabulary, oiling out is different from laying down an oil couche (French for "layer" and pronounced "koosh" in civilized parts of the world, "couch" in America, and "chesterfield" in Canada).  Oiling out is when you saturate the surface of the painting with oil so that you can take a look at it.  This oil then dries, and the next paint layer goes over top.  Painting into a couche is when you oil out the specific area that you are going to paint overtop of that day.  This brings back the colours so that you can see them and match them correctly (very important, especially around the perimeter of the area you are working on so that there is a seamless transition between today's work and the rest of the painting) and makes blending and fine detail easier.  The oil that is laid down in a couche ends up being incorporated into this new paint layer and does not dry as an isolated oil layer, but helps make this new paint layer fatter than the previous layer.
  2. Retouch Varnish:  During a studio visit once I saw a gorgeous portrait painting that had been retouched with spray Dammar retouch varnish in between each of about a dozen paint layers.  The beautiful thing was cracking and flaking right off the canvas before the painting had even been completed.  Similar to having isolated oil layers in between your paint layers, having isolated varnish layers is also a bad idea, and probably a worse idea, since varnish/resin doesn't have as much tensile strength/flexibility as oil.  Hence the flaking and cracking in the beautiful portrait painting.
  3. Tackling sinking in before it happens: Using a painting support with a very low-absorbency surface or painting very fat will help prevent sinking in.  Personally, I don't worry about sinking in enough to bother preventing it, but if, for example, I'm working on a painting in which a dark background is a very important element visually (ie, all my values have to be gauged off of that background) then I will mix stand oil into my paint on the palette before I apply it at a ratio of about 1:4 or 1:3 stand oil to paint (do not add OMS to the mixture to increase flow.  This will make it sink in).  This works really well.  The only thing is that subsequent layers of stand oil-y paint need more and more oil added, as per the rule of painting fat over lean.  There are other mediums on the market that seem to help prevent sinking in if you mix them with your paint.  Like I said, I don't really care enough to bother and I don't like adding mediums to my paint if I can help it.
  4. Rublesol Light/Essential Oil of Petroleum: This is a zero-repercussion way to saturate the surface of your painting and make it look like it will when varnished, if only for about fifteen minutes.  It gives you a chance to take a look at your painting, photograph it, restrain yourself from throwing it in the fireplace, or show it to a studio visitor.  You can use it at any stage of the painting so long as the paint is dry.  It will not leave any residue.  It is also not a silver bullet.  It's just a really useful tool to have in your arsenal.  If you have some handy in your studio, you will eventually get to the point where you are using it almost everyday for one thing or another.
My parting advice on sinking in is, let's not let it ruin our day.  Make the painting read right the day you're working on it with fresh paint, and don't panic when you come back the next morning and you have a coyote ugly moment.  Just get to work on the next section of your painting and don't lose time chasing around the sinking in and trying to fix it every day.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Rublesol Lite

Posted by: Kate

I have a studio elf.  His name is Justin and he helps me make movie films.  I'm going to be a star.

I'm demonstrating the use of a new product just about to hit the market.  Dave and I have a pet product called Essential Oil of Petroleum, which always makes me think of Essence of Gelfling.  It's kind of similar, because Essence of Gelfling makes Skekses look youthful and healthy, and Essential Oil of Petroleum makes paintings look fresh and sexy.

Essential Oil of Petroleum has always been tricky for us to find.  Something about being in socialist Canada where we only have one brand of paint and you have to get on a wait list to qualify for brushes.  So we've been heckling Natural Pigments to start making something comparable and I've even told workshop students to send harassing emails to George and Tania.  Harassment works.  I received a little phial labeled "Sample 142," which can only mean there were 141 inferior samples before they found the perfect one, and I've given it a trial.  Love it.

Here's my super sophisticated first video:

Notice how I kept emphasizing the need to make sure the painting is dry?  That's because this is take two.  During take one, I used a painting that wasn't dry and I smeared paint all over the place.  Don't worry, it was Dave's painting, so it was hilarious.


Edit: Questions coming in so I'll answer them here.  

Why not use oil or retouch varnish?  This product acts to "oil out" or saturate the surface of your painting when it's sunken in, but it completely evaporates leaving no residue after about twenty minutes.  If, like me, you are leery of oiling out and of retouch varnish, this is a very useful product.  If I use it on a painting and realize, "oh hey, this eye needs more work," I will wait until it evaporates, oil out just the eye and paint into that oiled out area.

Why not just use mineral spirits?  I find that mineral spirits usually evaporates faster, is streakier, is more likely to lift up paint that's only moderately dry, and turns the surface of the painting milky.  You can use mineral spirits, but this stuff's better.

Is this like Oleogel?  Nope.  Oleogel is an oil.  This is a solvent.  Don't be confused by the "oil" in "Essential Oil of Petroleum."

Where can we buy Essence of Gelfling?  As far as I know it's still a restricted product, but I'm sure Natural Pigments is working hard to bring it to us.


Tuesday, October 20, 2015

The Working Vacation

Posted by: Kate

Dave and I have been perfecting the art of the working vacation.  We'd planned ages ago to go on a nice, clichéd, sugar sand beach vacation somewhere, preferably one of those places where people go to be gorgeous and suntanned so that we can pretend to ourselves that we blend in.  Not a chance with my pasty, potato-spud-sprouting-in-a-dark-cupboard skin, though.  When Dave first started dating me I used to slather zinc sunscreen like it was a full body suit, wear sunglasses and a drapey voile shawl to keep off the sun, and I would scuttle around with a parasol between islands of shadow like an earwig.  He started calling me Dr. Moreau.

When I first googled Dr Moreau, I was all like, "Who's been putting pictures of me on the internets?"

This is where we stayed.  Awesome, right?

Sometime between watching a dolphin surface in the distance and trying not to be weirded out by being surrounded by more natural blonds than we had ever seen in our lives, our eyes met and we both knew: we'd outgrown our art student days.  Hopping on a plane was no longer about seeing an art museum.  It was about getting the f*** out of our studios and away from painting, period.

I taught two workshops on either end of this vacation, both of them fantastic fun.  The first was hosted by the Southern Atelier in Sarasota, Florida.  Charles Miano is the man behind the plan there.  I was stunned to walk in and find out that my ten students had multiplied furiously in the night and become 21 students.  Thank goodness I had brought Dave along as my lovely teaching assistant.  People always tell me I'm really lucky to have married another artist that I have so much in common with.  Yep.  I know.

Charles took some pictures of me looking all intense and teachery.

That person in the foreground is performing my patented finder goggle technique.  When trying to match a colour, put a dab of the colour you think is correct on your painting, then isolate that dab and the corresponding colour on the subject.  SO EASY.

Above is the demo I did in between rounds with students.  To keep things simple, we used a limited, low-chroma palette.  It forces students to think about skin tones in a very basic, common sense kind of way.  Flesh colour can either go redder, yellower, lighter, darker, greyer or more chromatic.  That's it.  And when a student says something like, "But don't you see kind of a purplish green with a hint of Payne's Grey in it?"  I stare at them and say, "I didn't know you wrote poetry.  But no.  That's a low chroma orange.  All of it's a low chroma orange.  Now get back to work."

I snapped some pictures of Charles' awesome school and the stunning work he demos for his students.  I've visited quite a few schools and this one's facilities are dreamy.  I don't think there was a poorly lit easel in the entire group.  It's a fantastic place to take a workshop, so get thee onto his mailing list if you are local to Florida.  I myself would love to take a charcoal workshop with him.  Can you believe the demo work he has on display for his students?

Dave and Charles and I were able to hit up the Ringling Art Museum while we were there and bond deeply over some Rubens.  My favourite was this Judith et al painting by Francesco del Cairo.  I love how matter of fact Judith and her maid are always depicted with a bleeding, decapitated head.  It's just something that happens everyday, apparently.

The second workshop was in Tuscaloosa, Alabama and was hosted by Thomas Rosenstiel.  Fantastic studio space again.  North light!  Waxed hardwood floors!  Exposed brick!  A fully functional kitchen with a constant stream of baked goods pouring out of it like a veritable cornucopia of empty carbohydrates!  Consider my artistic engine primed and whirring!

I got some alone time in at the studio before the workshop started.  A good studio is one where you completely forget your surroundings while you work.

Yes, Dave is always this thrilled when he watches me paint.

I keep my still life workshops small so that I can do what I love best--eating the cherries off of other people's sundaes!  Or rather, painting the fun parts of their paintings to demo specific techniques and painting strategies.  It doesn't really work with a class of more than eight people.  This was a great group.  The fun part about traveling to do workshops out of private studios is that you wind up teaching a tightly knit little friend-group of artists, sometimes with a few out of towners who cozy into the friendly vibe.  The atmosphere is always supportive and fun.

I don't know if Tom is planning on hosting anymore workshops (apart from my next one, that is!), but his studio is just a fantastic space and he really knows how to host a workshop.  Every single contingency had been planned for.  So if you see a workshop listing in Tuscaloosa hosted by one Tom Rosenstiel, give it a closer look.  And if you're an artist being invited to stay with Tom and teach, dear lord, say yes.  You should see this guy's liquor cabinet.  Cough.  I mean.  He's a conscientious host and you will enjoy your stay.

In short, this whole trip to the Southeast was so much fun that Dave and I have decided to do it all over again next year, with different workshops on offer.  A workshop at Townsend Atelier in Chattanooga, Tennessee will be added to the line up.  All information will be posted on my website, Facebook, and here on the blog, by Spring 2016.