Saturday, October 16, 2010

3 hour study

Hello all. I don't think I've mentioned it before on the blog, but over the summer I undertook a time consuming process to cleanse and sun-thicken my own linseed oil directly from cold pressed, unrefined flax oil. The benefits, you may ask? Well commercially sold linseed oils dry slower than snails crawl, they're chemically refined, and they just don't really compare. The home-made sun-thickened oil I made dries within 30 hours and is completely pure and simply a delight. My step-father has joked countless times that it's "organic" linseed oil, since it is untainted by any alkali and other stuff.

All this is thanks to my friend Louis Velasquez, an art teacher and artist from San Diego, who took it upon himself to find out what the old master's used. He doesn't claim that his medium is THE Old Master's "secret" medium, he can only guess at that himself and as we have both said, they really were just amazingly knowledgeable with their craft. But his research is extensive and has taken up the better part of 10 years or so. And if you look at some of their paintings, in particular the works of Van Eyk, Rembrandt, Rubens, Velazquez, just to name a few, their work show an incredible freshness and preservation considering they're 100s of years old. Rembrandt's in particular look like they just came out of his studio. Bastard!

For my part, I have read a few books specifically on Rembrandt and Velazquez (the two old masters I admire the most) and I can say that Louis's research comes pretty close to what cross-sections of their paint samples show is in their paint. For the most part, oil, calcium, and proteins are the most common ingredients (Rembrandt was ahead of his time in using sand, glass, and God knows what else to achieve his desired effects). Its completely archival and non-detrimental to one's health, as well. Bonus!

So that said, mixing some of the oil with calcium carbonate leads to a thick, viscous medium that when mixed with paints adds transparency to the colors and gives it more body. Oiling out, you take an egg white/oil mixture, called an emulsion, and rub that on the surface and then work into that. NOW... all this is for the sake of permanency and working without any solvents and resins, which in the long run and if in an unventilated room is pretty bad for your health. And as I mentioned, its completely archival.

I've experimented with the medium and emulsion and initially I was not a fan. Particularly of the emulsion. The oil itself is friggin awesome, and those I have given samples to attest to said awesomeness. Having painted for many years using various mixtures of solvents and resins with oils and what not, I became used to the soft, washy effects that I could achieve early on. That was not possible when using this stuff. In effect, I was discouraged. But last night I slowed down and worked a tad more methodically than I'm used to working. But the end result blew my mind. So here is a nice step-by-step progress of last night's painting.

I worked how I normally worked, except I was more careful in my application. My color mixing remained spontaneous so that a lot of random bits of colors and happy accidents still occurred. To those who read my blog and may not be painters, and even for those who are painters and just like seeing how others work:

My palette is arranged as follows: Chinese Vermillion, Cad Red Light (sometimes just Cadmium Red instead of those two), Quinacridone Red, Permanent Rose, Cad Orange, Winsor Yellow, Lemon Yellow, Greenish Yellow, Viridian, Cobalt Blue, Manganese Pthalo Blue, Magenta, Transparent Red Oxide, and a Titanium White/Flake White mixture enhanced with extra Titanium white ground pigment (its a really bright white)

I first lightly drew in the skull with a mix of transparent red oxide and cobalt blue. Once finished, I began blocking in the major shapes of light and dark working from top to bottom. At this point I'm concerned with exaggerating the colors I see so that as I layer over that, it shows thru and enhances the overlaying color. Working slowly and patiently, I study the shapes and redraw as I see fit. I keep the shadows transparent and the lights opaque. The main colors used for the warm light areas are different mixtures of white, cad red light, quinacridone, all the yellows, greenish yellow and magenta. To cool areas down I used manganese pthalo blue and viridian.

The nature of this medium allows for literally glazing wet into wet. So once some of the colors were pretty set, I began glazing warm and cool tones over some areas and worked into those glazes. I just continued pushing and pulling the lights and the darks, the warms and the cools. Certain colors were exaggerated, for instance the blues in the shadow and some of the reddish shadows turning the form. The finishing touches were added by dipping my brush into the emulsion and mixing a puddle of syrupy color on my palette and applying that in thicker, juicier strokes. By the end of the 3 hours, this is the result.
As of this writing, the paint is tacky, but doesn't rub off on the skin if touched.

For anyone who wants to read more about the whole process and if you have questions for my friend Louis, I suggest visiting his website I really can't wait to start working larger with this stuff!