The Baffling Attributes of White Paints

There are several versions of white paints and their attributes can be a bit confounding. Warm, cool, tinted, leaded, non-leaded…..How does one choose?

Let’s start with the reason most painters use white and what it does. Simply, most painters use white to lighten a color’s value. It’s not the only way to do it, and not necessarily the best way to do it, but it is the most direct and basic method. It also will dull and cool the color you want to lighten because white is actually the lightest version of grey.

That being said, here are some of the properties of whites.

Titanium White is the most opaque and is non-toxic. Some see it as a replacement for Lead White. To my eye Titanium White is the coolest white.

Zinc White is the least opaque, slow drying, and creamy. This, too, has been used to replace Lead White. To my eye it is a warmer white.

Some companies make whites using a combination of both Titanium and Zinc in the hopes of getting the best of both. Jack Richeson’s Shiva line of paints uses both whites in their Titanium White and Ultra White though I’m pretty sure the ratios of the two colors are different for each color as they look and interact differently with paint hues.

To my eye Lead White is the the cleanest of the whites and the warmest. It is also far and away the most expensive. It handles very differently than other whites in that it’s ‘ropy’. It’s more fluid. Think of the Rembrandt ‘drippiness’ in some of his paintings.

Cremnitz White is also a leaded white, as is Flake White.

I wanted to visually see the difference of each of the whites and then see how they reacted with Jack Richeson Shiva paint. I will be writing another blog on Shiva, but for now let’s focus on this.

Below you can see the whites and the companies I used. JRS is Jack Richeson Shiva, W/N is Windsor Newton, and M. Hard is Michael Harding. I noted the pigments of each of the paints as well. The only one not listed is Michael Harding, but it is a PW1, the same as W/N Cremnitz.

White the whites do not show up well at all in the photo below, you an see how they are interacting with each of the colors I used. For each hue I took the color to about its middle value using each of the different whites. To my eye, Lead White allowed the color to maintain its hue the best. You can see that there is much more integrity in the colors all the way down the line especially when compared to the Titanium Whites. It also dried the fastest and glossiest. Remember when I said that white will dull and cool a color? It’s most obvious in the Titanium band.

shiva-1

The next whites that allowed the integrity of the colors to stay truer were W/N Cremnitz, and that makes sense as it is also a Lead White, and JRS Zinc White. In my tests, even in the violets the color stayed truer though Zinc has a warm bias to it which I thought might have dulled the violets due to its creamy/yellow/warm bias. In fact, there is a glow that is maintained, especially in the JRS Ultra White. Cremnitz did not dry glossy which makes me wonder what else might be in the M. Harding Stack Lead White?

shiva-1

Finally, I want to mention Gamblin’s Warm and Cool whites. These whites are made using Titanium and Zinc as the base and then adding other colors to tint the white. Just as an FYI, you can do this yourself with the colors on your palette.

I hope this helps. Let me know what your tests show!

Pastels and Oil Painting

Did you know that you can draw and mass in an oil painting with pastels and use that to guide your through your painting? I don’t remember where I learned this great tool, but I use it a lot as it keeps me on track.

Pastels have the same pigments as oil paints. The difference is in the binder. So it makes sense that you can use pastels with oil paints and have everything work well. In my YouTube demo I show the start to finish painting but I want to share a bit about how and why using a pastel base to create an underpainting and keep you on track.

How: Take your hard pastel (I use NuPastels) and lightly mass in the areas you want. In the photo below I’m starting to lay in my light and dark pattern using pastel.

peonie pastel small

You can use any color(s) you want but when I choose colors I’m thinking about (1)how they will work with the overall finished painting, and (2) Do I want a simple lay in of just lights and darks using just 2 colors, or (3) Do I want to give more detail to the lights and darks and use maybe 2-3 values of light pastels – leaves on trees tend to be dark in color, but if they are in the light area I might use a darker light pastel to indicate the masses of this dark light value -and 1 or 2 values for the darks?

Once the pastel has been applied I take a clean brush and dip it in Turpenoid or Gamsol and then lightly blot the brush. Beginning with the lightest colors I use my brush to paint over the pastel. Don’t let it drip, unless you like that effect, and keep your brush clean. Once you’ve done all the light area go to the next lightest area and continue working until you have completed all the lights. Do the same in the darks.

Peonie Gamsol small

When I’ve done all the painting I then take a soft brush and soften the whole thing. This will need to set up for about 10-15 minutes and I will set out my paints while waiting for the Gamsol to evaporate. It doesn’t need to be dry, but if it’s too wet it just is slippery and it’s easy to loose what you’ve just done. Plus the pastel mixes with the paint and will affect the color.

Peonie Gamsol Softened

This the painting after softening with a brush. You can see it’s a really cool abstract version of what’s to come.

When and Why: (1) You can use pastels to quickly tone a canvas. (2) It’s a great way to set your plein air painting as it will keep you from chasing shadows and light. After you do a thumbnail and decide on the design, transfer it to your canvas using pastel and set it with your Gamsol or Turp. You will have saved so much time that even taking the 10-15 minutes for the abstract to set up you will still be ahead of the pack. 3) Use this to start a really large canvas and this will save you HOURS!! I painted a 6 foot painting using this method and it saved me days of work.

Here is the finished painting:

Peony Finished

Let me know your thoughts and if you’ve ever tried this.

 

 

Simple Changes for Better Composition

I want to talk/write a little bit about composition and how it can help or hurt a work. There are so many things to consider when designing a work that it can often feel like 3 dimensional chess…..finished size, focus of interest and how to get the viewer to look where you want them to, the supporting players, color, edges, even the type of support you are painting on.

I was commissioned to paint some hawks for a collector who live near Hawk Mountain in Pennsylvania and wanted an homage to that part of their world. I chose some images and did several thumbnail sketches to hone in on a design. Once I chose the design that I thought was best I drew the painting completely ignoring what I had chosen. And then I continued to paint, never once going back to look at my original design. Big mistake. A fixable one, but none-the-less, what a silly thing to do, right? After the work was completed I showed it to a friend as it felt so off. Wisely, she asked if I had done a thumbnail as the painting was weighted to one side of the canvas with no balance. Duh…..

hawk bad small

If you think how your eye is moving (or rather barely moving) around this painting you can feel yourself hanging out on the left side of this work. There is nothing helping you to move around the the scene. Even if you want to look at the hawk that’s eating his prey, too quickly your eye is pulled back to the left side and, for me, I barely notice the hawk but am focused on the mountain.

Here it is after repainting the background.

Hawk small

You can see that the design elements are much stronger now. Not only is it better balanced, but the sky is a nice foil for the standing hawk on the left side of the painting. The verticality of the hawk moves the eye up and down the canvas where the tails of both hawks are on an internal horizontal design line leading the eye across the canvas. The fence further supports movement to the right helping our eye to rest on the hawk that is eating. Then the vertical line of the eating hawk’s prey, beak, and head move us up to where the mountain will direct us back to the left to the standing hawk. The sky is a resting spot and the clouds mimic the horizontal line where the ground plain meets the mountain. Nothing was changed from the horizon line down. But change at the top 1/3 of the painting made a huge difference to the whole piece.

hawk bad very small  hawk very small

So some notes……Make thumbnails. Try different formats-square, rectangle. Design where your lights and darks will be to see what will be best to get your idea across. Using your thumbnails play with how the work is weighted. You can ask your friends which design they like better. If in doubt, paint a small study. And finally don’t be afraid to change your work if it doesn’t work.

 

 

Art is Even in Your Latte

Art is never ever cancelled in the home-schooling community. Home school teachers, whether they be parents or other types of teachers, know that the arts is not only valued, but seen as completely relevant and especially important part of a well educated person. As a teacher, painter and draftsperson,  who has taught art for the last 8 years and who also lives with an architect, I can tell you the importance of art instruction in one’s life. And I can show you by example how my own grown children benefited from exposure to the arts.

The creation of art in any form, whether it be 2 dimensional such as drawing, painting, collage, or 3 dimensional such as pottery, sculpture, or architecture, forces us to slow down. In a world that runs on nano-seconds, it’s hard to slow down and find the quiet where listening, experimentation, and creativity come from. It, slowing down to listen and create, is an important a skill as any other.

Art (and music as well) teaches us to not only look but to see. It gives us permission, in fact forces us, to see things from more than one view point. It allows for multiple mistakes and encourages multiple corrections.

Art is, 100%, in EVERYTHING we buy, touch, wear, sit on, travel in, and walk through. Art is in science and math. As an example look at the Fibonacci sequence, a conch or nautilus shell, and design concepts. Or Sacred Geometry. Or map-making. And why is a picture worth a thousand words? Because of the feelings evoked which are sometimes harder to express in words. Art works with the rhythm of music and the rhythm of words because as a designer we want to lead the viewer on a path. Sometimes it’s fast, other times slow, sometimes staccato.

Obviously I’m biased. But the next time you sit down with a latte and see a beautiful design laid into the foamed milk, remember that’s a form of art too.

latte art

Know Your Weaknesses. Know Your Strengths. It’s Just a Process.

The title is really for me.

This past weekend, after spending weeks, months actually, on a project (still not done) and studying color theory from the late 19th and early 20th century, I needed to get out and paint from a live model. It did not go well.

Not to make too many excuses but…. I got there late so I was in the very back row and I couldn’t see the model very well. The linen, which had a clear primer on it, had a strange and slippery feel. And because I couldn’t see well, I couldn’t measure well so my drawing was beyond off. I was testing a new limited palette of colors (suggested by Carlos Duran, teacher of John Singer Sargent) and thankfully that was going well. So I painted and scraped. Then I experimented and scraped. This painting/experimenting/scraping continued for the full 3 hours. All the while I could see other painters look behind them as they repeatedly heard the palette knife taking off layers of wet paint. (It has happened to them too. I truly believe I could feel their empathetic, “I feel your pain”.)  At the end of the session I gave the linen to a friend of mine so she could try it. Painting is hard work. Some days are very good. Others, not so much. This session was brutal.

Today, as I hiked the mountain with my dogs, I thought about what happened and why. And then I recalled….you know how certain things just come back to haunt you?….that an early teacher had suggested I stick to what I do best and not try to do it all. I completely reject that kind of pigeonholing. But there are things we are better at and more suited to do. Portraits are hit and miss with me. I do better with still life. They are more controllable and I have time to develop and correct. It’s quiet. It’s my space. No one is watching me. And even Rubens would parse out sections of his paintings to those who were more capable. That says something!

So I will continue to paint and draw portraits, but I do know that my stronger suit is the still life and (animals portraits). It’s good to know what one is better at. It allows more room for mistakes, learning, and growth.

onion small

Limited Palette of Venetian Red, Raw Sienna, Ultramarine Blue, Cad Red Light, Alizarine

Analogous Colors: Ahhhh……Harmony

P1080964

Recently I’ve been doing a lot of work using limited palettes. When you use a limited palette there is always harmony as all the colors work with all the other colors.
I just posted a video on YouTube on an analogous palette, which is another form of a limited palette, using a section of blue. Before I post it at the end of this post I want to talk a bit about analogous colors and a color wheel that helps you with some of the color choices.

An analogous palette is a set of colors that sit next to each other on the color wheel. The colors work well because they are all related to each other so they are naturally pleasing to the eye.

They can be any sets of colors, yellow-orange, orange, orange-red, or red, red-purple, purple, purple-blue. You want to have both a minimum and maximum number, so a minimum of 3 and a maximum of 5, with one color dominating. In the painting and video below, green will be the dominant color though I used blues plus yellow to make the greens.
If you only use analogous colors, plus white and possibly black), you will have a mostly monochromatic work. That can be quite lovely, but if you add a complimentary color you will be able to dull down the main colors and still have the neutral colors be colorful. Black will make the colors look kind of dingy but a compliment will keep both colors lively.

You can add to this mix discordant colors. These are colors that ‘clash’ with the main colors but also add a bit of pop. To help me with choosing colors I use a Color Harmony Wheel or an Analogous Color Wheel

color harmony  In this wheel the analogous colors are blues and purples, the compliment is yellow, and the discords are green and red.

In the painting above, the analogous colors are in the blue to blue green range, the compliment is a red, and the discords are violet and yellow-orange.

I use the compliment to dull down the colors so when I put a more chromatic version of the color in it will shine. The discords help to make the work more visually interesting. You can see bits of violet in the shadow side of the apple and the orange-yellow in the stem. You don’t need or want a lot of the discord, but just enough to make it interesting.

You can click here to see the 2 minute YouTube video of the painting from start to finish.

 

When All Else Fails……

run away

I know….It sounds so lame to run away. Kind of kid like. But having worked months to finish a project I was SERIOUSLY burned out and never wanted to see another paint brush, studio, art book, museum, again……..Or at least for a good, long while.

So for about 3 weeks I sort of took off, but not really. I went in to my studio to do some work, but every chance I got I would leave and watch Spanish soap opera type stories on Netflix. I loved the happy endings but it didn’t help my mood. I washed dishes, did laundry, hiked the mountain. Normal, daily stuff (except for the Netflix binge watching). But I was still encased in my house/studio. And the more I sat the harder it was for me to break away.

So I moved to working in my garden and cleaning the chicken coop. Better. But still burned out.

Then my in-box announced a workshop/lecture that was totally un-art related. I didn’t have to create anything, only listen. OK, sounds really good. My brain could rest……So I put an orange star next to the email to remind me it’s something I’m considering. When the day arrived I could feel myself melting in to my chair and thinking all kinds of excuses. I had to fight the rather strong urge to just stay where I was.  But if like begets like, this was begetting me nowhere!! I HAD to get up and get out.

So I did! And it was fantastic to be free of the bindings I was composing in my head. And for good measure I took a second day to do more things away from my studio. By day 3 I was refreshed and ready to go back to work. Yay! Finally!!!

My take-away from this is that I MUST take time away to run away and do things that are un-art related, out of my house, and enjoyable on a regular basis. And I have to do this without feeling guilty which is what starts the whole dilemma in the first place. This is a serious, ‘note to self’. Feeling guilty about not wanting to work, and then trying to work, and then working badly, will only work for just so long. At some point, guilt be damned. One has to just leave!!

So running away is not going to be a scheduled event, but it will happen when ever I need it and without inner thoughts voicing their critique that I’m really just ‘lazy’. Can I hear an AMEN to that?! Yup…..I hear you!!!!

How Long Will It Take to Draw Well??

copy of a master drawing

Drawing after Rubens

The question of how long it will take to draw well is often asked in one form or another. I ask myself that all the time!
There is no question that drawing takes time. And learning to draw well takes even more time. But here are some things that will help speed the process.
  • If you can get a teacher, do it. Even if you don’t take a regular class, have someone that knows how to teach drawing look at your work to help guide you toward your goals.
  • Don’t fall ‘in-love’ with your work. It will cloud your objective judgement. You need to actually seeing what you’ve drawn and what needs to be corrected. And believe me, there is pretty much ALWAYS something that can be corrected.
  • To go fast, go slow. It’s much more important to learn one thing really, really well and correctly because from that one correct ‘thing’ you can relate the next ‘thing’.
  • Some things you will get quickly, others will take more time. Don’t worry about that. It’s just the process of learning to draw.
  • Know that as you keep getting better, you will always have a carrot dangling just ahead of you.
  • Really observe. Draw what you actually see and not what you assume to be real. It’s really surprising when you leave your assumptions at the door and take the time to really look. Where does one line start and end? Where do shapes intersect? Use plumb lines to see what else falls in the same line.
  • Draw EVERY day. Even if it’s only for 5 minutes. It all adds up.
  • Copy from the Masters. They have SO much to teach.
 And finally, you will probably always feel like there is more to learn. That is a great blessing because you will always stay fresh! Manet was complaining until the day he died that he still had so much to learn! And have FUN!!!

Colors: What’s Not to Love?!!

I was so excited to read this email from Gamblin and wanted to share it. So when I emailed Gamblin, Scott Gellatly, Product Manager for Gamblin, kindly gave me permission to reprint it here. Some of these colors are already on my palette, but I will definitely be adding some of these others. And when, at the bottom of their Notes they say, “contact us if (they) can assist you”, they mean it!

New Year Color Notes
You can probably guess our 10 most popular colors. Most likely, several of them are part of your basic palette.
There are many reasons that Cadmium Yellow, Cadmium Red, Alizarin Crimson, Yellow Ochre, Ultramarine Blue, and of course Titanium White are so valuable and therefore chosen so often. This newsletter is not about the “mega-stars” of the artist’s palette, it is about a few colors I feel could use more recognition.
Perylene Red
Perylene Red
It seems like I have spent my whole paint-making career showing artists alternatives to Alizarin Crimson. First, the crusade was to help artists find our Alizarin Permanent, which has a higher lightfastness. And now I would like to highlight Perylene.
Yes, I know its name does not playfully roll off the tongue the way Alizarin does, and perhaps its hard to figure out how to pronounce it correctly (pera-leen). But jeez, it is beautiful. It’s transparency has fire inside; add a touch of black and it smolders with sophisticated sexiness.
Transparent Earths: Orange, Yellow, Red
Our line of Transparent Earth Colors are quite beautiful and of incredible value because of their glowing transparency.
In contrast to the natural earth colors, the Transparent Earths are synthetic iron oxide pigments that are made solely to be transparent. So if you want an earth color that will give the warm transparent glow that you see in a Rembrandt, a Transparent Earth will get it done.

Detail: Rembrandt, Self-portrait as Zeuxis Laughing

Cobalt Green
Cobalt Green
The family of cobalt based colors is as permanent as an artist’s color can get. Yet Cobalt Green is the least chosen of the whole group. But it has certain uses that make it invaluable:
  • in dry country landscapes where the greens are very muted, such as in the American SW
  • in abstract painting as a green that has a beautiful restrained character
  • in portrait painting where the translucent flesh tones have a cool under-painting as in the Italian Renaissance

Detail: Orajio Gentileschi, Lot & His Daughters

Manganese Blue Hue
Manganese Blue Hue
Ultramarine, Phthalo, Cobalt, Cerulean, Prussian: is this close to the order of hierarchy of blues in your use of color?
My recommendation: no matter what blue you put first on your palette, Manganese Blue Hue should be second. Why? Simply because it is the blue that is the coolest in the spectrum of blue. Most other blues are warm blues or middle blues. And unlike Cerulean Blue it is very reasonable in price.
Lay a stroke of MBH next to one of Ultramarine Blue and you might for a second mistake the Ultramarine for a violet. I’ve always thought of Manganese Blue as a breath of fresh air, so clean in color, so light in spirit. It is always on my palette.

Karen Ann Myers calls Asphaltum her skin tone “secret weapon”
Sap Green and Asphaltum
One challenge in oil painting has to do with darks. Make a dark too opaque and those sections of the painting can look lifeless. But by keeping darks somewhat transparent they never seem “heavy.”
Is the dark you need “warm” or “cool”? If “cool” is the answer, then Sap Green is perfect for this purpose. An important use of Sap Green is painting the deep dark areas often found in landscape paintings.

Sap Green

Asphaltum
If on the other hand you need a warm transparent dark, then Asphaltum will do the job nicely. We originally made this as a custom color for Nathan Oliveira in the mid 90’s. He needed the emotional energy of real asphaltum but wanted a material that would age well. And today, artists like Karen Ann Myers are finding their own special uses for our Asphaltum.
Any White but Titanium
Last but certainly not least in importance I want to discuss white.
With Warm White and Cool White, we now make 9 different white oil colors. Each one has a unique set of qualities. Titanium White should be your choice only if you need a very high tinting strength opaque white, that is warm in color and moderately fast drying and a little bit stiff.
You might be best served by a whiter white, or a softer creamier white, or a more transparent white, or even a super stiff white… Below is our chart of whites to assist in choosing the white that best supports your painting.
If this idea is intriguing to you, please consult our newsletter “Getting the White Right.”
Please contact us if we can assist you in any way.
Have a great New Year of painting.

“Kat” Using the ‘Zorn Palette’

I really love painting with the Zorn Palette. It’s simple and has the required three primaries, though slightly different. It’s nuanced, meaning I can get a variety of colors and values. And it’s BEAUTIFUL.

The Zorn palette is composed of Yellow Ochre, Vermillion, Black, and White. In a self portrait Zorn famously showed the palette of colors he used, and therefore the name, “Zorn Palette” has been ascribed to him.

It most likely was not the only set of colors he used but he was known, as were other painters (John Singer Sargent was also known to have used this limited palette as well), to use a limited scope of colors.  In this palette of colors black replaces blue.

One of my early teachers, Aaron Westerberg, made a great chart showing off the Zorn Palette.

You can see how wonderful and broad the colors are going from highly chromatic to tints and shades.

In this short YouTube video (under 2 minutes) you will see a start to finish painting I did this past weekend of a model named, Kat. (Yup…..her hair really is lavender, grey, and black)

To see more of my work please go to http://www.etuckerart.com