Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Pigment Properties

Now that I'm building pigment property sheets for my dry pigments, I question just how much of what I'm collecting that I really understand. Lately I've wondered about the differences between Organic and Inorganic and Synthetic and Natural.

Organic is of plant or animal origin--petrochemicals, roots, insects, berries. There are natural organics (rose madder, vine black, cochineal) and synthetic organics (quinacridones, phthalocyanines).

Inorganic are of mineral or metal origin--clays, rocks, metals. There are natural inorganics (ochres, umbers, lapis, malachite) and synthetic inorganics (cadmiums, cobalts, Mars's).

In general, organics often feel light, are difficult to disperse in water, and have a relatively small particle size.

In general, inorganics often feel heavy, are easy to disperse in water, and naturals have a relatively large particle size.

This all came about when I became again interested in the line of synthetic organics offered by Kremer. Although there is something about the organics that attracts me and I'll certainly keep experimenting with then, I'd like to fill out a palette of synthetic organics. I think they'll work nicely with egg tempera glazes.

And back to normal

Right on schedule, National Grid made repairs. Things are quickly returning to the norm.

Here are a couple of shots of our damaged lines.

It's so amazing the resilience of nature. This little one was taking in the morning sun. When I stepped out, a hummingbird buzzed up, seemingly greeting me, and hovered a couple of feet in front of my face.

With the fridge cleaned out, the very first item for restocking? What else!

Now it's off to the grocery. Later tonight, a back-to-normal post on a subject that's been on my mind the past few days.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The Home Stretch?

Although the road has been cleared of downed trees, electrical work has not started. National Grid's web site has the neighborhood's estimation restoration for Aug 31 12:00 am. One more day!

We're all really very lucky here in my neighborhood. Many folks in this area will be waiting into the weekend to get their power back. And to the north and west, many don't have bridges and roads, never mind power. For a non-hurricane, this was one hell of a storm.

I'm itching to get back to my egg tempera work. I want to experiment with relative warm and cool with turning form. I've been taking notes of pigments to try for base and glaze. I'm off to the market for produce that catches my eye, subjects that will lend themselves easily to my alchemy.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Still Safe and Getting Brighter

The sounds of chain saws, rumbling trucks, and back up warnings are lovely music to the neighborhood. Just maybe, there will be power tonight!

I remembered hearing about tethering smartphones for internet access. At the moment, my MacAir is connected via USB to my Droid X using a neat little application called PdaNet. Not to be confused with creating a costed hotspot, this free app hops on my unlimited data plan. It's pretty fast, too. Nothing like my broadband's +20Mbps but the just tested 1Mbps works just fine for these kind of situations.

So here I am typing away with delight on my laptop, my little LED light clipped on to light the keys, and my phone drawing power from the laptop. Of course, this means that I can see the battery slowly slipping away but the promise of a recharge hovers nearby.

It's been rather peaceful here without the distracting appliances. I reread most of Koo Schadler's "Egg Tempera Painting". Same for Virgil Elliott's "Traditional Oil Painting". Last and certainly not least, a few chapters from Ernst van de Wetering's "Rembrandt The Painter at Work".

This is how I enter retirement. A fine beginning! :-)

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Safe but dark

There's a pine across the road with the power lines below it!
Getting in plenty of reading. Typing on this DROID X is so tedious! :-)

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Cherries Wrap

I'm feeling that there's two sides with this exercise--proper technique and accurate seeing. The more I look at these cherries, the more detail appears, especially in the subtleness of the reflections. Practice...

Friday, August 26, 2011

Cherries Study 2 closing in

 There's about 6-7 hours work here today. I really enjoy dropping in highlights and reflections.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Cherries Study 2 cont.

Here's a couple of hours work, slowly and lightly building up layers. Tomorrow I'll glaze viridian before going back to blues and reds. Then, a bit of highlight work to help out the form.

Various earth glazes.
Red and blue glazes.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Cherries Study - Start of Second Round

Here's the very beginning of another try at glazing all kinds of pigments. I'll try to remember to take scans as the work progresses. Got a very late start this evening so there's less than an hour's work here. I'm practicing brushstrokes, trying to lay down just a hint of color with each stroke. You'll see some blotchiness where I was a bit too heavy-handed. I enjoy the practice; it's a meditative exercise.  When I get in the right zone I can pay attention to every stroke, and that's when I can work in a nice softness of transition.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Cherries Study

I took Dorothy's advice (see her comment in Sunday's post). I see a lot of potential with her method and will work this study over a few more times. Thank you Dorothy! This is fascinating stuff!

The board really is this yellow as it's a leftover from a sorry mistake that ended up being scraped off. Just couldn't get all the color out easily but  it's a good practice board.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Around The Lake

It's been a long time since I've enjoyed a walk about the lake. Lots of bushes with berries for another time. For today, a shoreline shot and a blue heron surprise.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Work Continues

Sponged in the background with glazes of burnt umber, ultramarine blue, and viridian. Mixed ultramarine blue and irgazine red to try homing in on the cherries--that is, rather than simply glazing. Finally, stubbed in the stems with white, just to place markers.

Simply dropping in the background and firming up the shadows seemed to lend a sense of it all pulling together. Soon I want to model the cherries particularly the stem hollows--that bit of shape that sings cherry.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

A Bit More

It's slowly coming together. Some days it's tough to get started, but it's all in the getting going. Once under way, I can go for hours. I've been working mainly with glazes and although there's nothing wrong with that, there are times when some opacity with a bit titanium white is helpful. I'll be getting to that next.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Getting Started

Just a real rough in for tonight. It's my second board--the first quickly went by the wayside. I do learn plenty from my mistakes! :-)

Thursday, August 18, 2011

A Better Bowl

I think this is much closer than yesterday's image to a good composition . I can feel a bit more tweaking here but I'll sleep on it.

I found the bowl about the house. The black background is a tee shirt. The white surface is a foot square piece of marble tile I picked up at Home Depot this afternoon. The cherries were all I had left after last night's devouring.

Edit: A couple of hours later, after another shoot and bit of cropping... No cleanup processing here as I'm just looking at composition.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Bowl of Cherries

Here's a start on ideas for a new painting. I like the bowl of cherries idea but not sure on the scaling yet. I could put the bowl on a stone shelf--I left some height off the image to accommodate that.

I see now that it's useful to develop ideas prior to being in need. And, it's good to collect props too.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011


Sinopia has been very responsive and responsible regarding that Raw Umber. This evening I sent out a another photo, one that better illustrates the material. They have no idea what that substance could be but are sending me a replacement. Thank you, Sinopia!

I sold my first painting today! It's such a rewarding feeling. :-)

Monday, August 15, 2011

Tending To Business

I've recently had interest in my ornamental corn in egg tempera, leaving me busy to work up a price and develop my signature. I'm learning that one must put the same attention to these details as working at the easel.

While I was at it, I framed up the lily. On the previous piece the panel was held in place by foam core pressing against the panel. On this framing I cut a piece of foam core to fit the frame and made a cutout to hold the panel. Works great. Next time I'll photo the process.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Pigment Mixing Day

For too long I've been meaning to grind up some pigments, rather than mix from dry each time I need a color. Today was cool, overcast, and humid, perfect outdoor weather to keep my grinds from drying out quickly. In fact, I even ground through a couple of showers. I now have three three raw umbers, two burnt siennas, and a burnt umber all bottled up.

There seems to be a bit of trouble with the green umber greenish. The pigment looked great when mixed with the palette knife but once more water was added and I began mulling, I noticed this distinct separation of pigment and a graphite black sheen. I'm not sure if this is to be expected. More on this after I hear back from Sinopia.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Titanium Dioxide

Probably the most popular pigment for an egg tempera artist is Titanium Dioxide. This opaque white is used on its own as well in many mixes to lighten, cool, and provide opacity. This pigment has so very many uses! For instance, check the ingredients in your tube of toothpaste.

The rutile form of titanium dioxide (tetragonal form) is the most popular although there are many derivations in different crystal forms. The anatase form is sometimes used.

Common Name: Titanium White

Alternate Names: Titanium Oxide

Color Index: PW 6  77891

Composition: TiO2

Specific Gravity: 3.7 - 4.2

Refractive Index: 2.70

Particle Size: 0.25 - 0.40 ┬Ám

Synthetic Inorganic

Lightfastness: Lightfast

Toxicity: Keep away from foodstuffs and drinks. Do not eat, drink or smoke during work. Wash hands before breaks and at the end of work.
Do not inhale vapor/dust.

Supplier: Kremer (46200) $8.00/100g Titanium White Rutile

  • 1791 Discovered in Cornwald, England.
  • 1913 First commercial exploitation when manufactured by a fusion process.
  • 1918 Commercial production in Norway with a sulphuric acid process.
  • 1958 Development by a chloride process.
Titanium dioxide accounts for 70% of the total production volume of pigments worldwide. It is widely used to provide whiteness and opacity to products such as paints, plastics, papers, inks, foods, and toothpastes. It is also used in cosmetic and skin care products, and it is present in almost every sunblock, where it helps protect the skin from ultraviolet light.

Friday, August 12, 2011

That's A Wrap

I've learned so very much with this piece. I suppose I could continue on, maybe with a bit more cleanup, but if that happens it will be down the road.  For now, I'm happy.

Thursday, August 11, 2011


Here's an information sheet on my second researched pigment. I'd somehow come to the conclusion that Viridian was something of an earth pigment. Not nearly so! It's a synthetic first created well over a hundred years later than Prussian Blue.

Viridian, a transparent bluish green, is closely related to Chromium Oxide, an opaque warm green.

Common Name: Viridian

Alternate Names: Guignet's Green

Color Index: PG 18 77289

Composition: Cr2O3 · 2 H2O, a hydrated chromium(III) oxide

Specific Gravity: 3.5

Refractive Index: 1.62, 2.12

Particle Size: 5 microns

Synthetic Inorganic

Lightfastness: very good.

Excellent tinting strength and stability in all mediums. Unaffected by dilute alkalis and acids. Unaffected by light.

Moderately toxic. Though chromium oxide green is not a serious health hazard, it can cause irritation of the skin and eyes, and can cause nausea and other problems if ingested. It also can cause respiratory problems when dust is inhaled. It is not a fire hazard, and does not readily react with other materials.

A permanent green pigment composed of hydrated chromium oxide. Viridian is a synthetic pigment with characteristic deep green, transparent particles which are unaffected by light and chemicals. The process for making the hydrated form of chromium oxide was discovered in 1838 by Pannetier in Paris. A less expensive method for manufacturing viridian was patented by Guignet in 1859. Viridian, though not extremely popular because of its high price, was used as a pigment in all types of binding media. The stable pigment is also used as a colorant in concrete mixtures, rubber, inks, and automotive paints.

Kremer (44250) $25.00/100g  Transparent chromium oxide

  • 1838 First made by the color maker Pannetier in Paris. Binet took over when Pannetier died. Worked in secret.
  • 1859 Guignet patented a method. The new green replaced Schweinfurt green for printing and other industrial coloring purposes.
  • 1862 Introduced in Winsor and Newton.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Closing In

Tonight was about a little here, a little there, a little all over. And repeat for over four hours work. At this point, I'm not sure if I might give it a rest. I do have more ideas but am cautious of overworking it.

I think my scans are picking up a bit of haziness. I'll need to do some photos for comparison.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Pushing the Lily

Working with titanium white with just a hint of yellow ochre, I dropped in highlights and lighter areas, and later glazed with transparent yellow earth. Then some glazing with orange earth and finally with Burgundy Red Ochre Deep.

I think I can push the darks darker and bounce up the contrast. At some point, I'll probably scumble a thin veil of white and then push out again. I'm getting some good feelings from this exercise.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Starting On Lily

I transferred the lily with white Saral and built a base with orange earth and titanium white. Then came light glazes of orange earth, followed by transparent yellow ochre. I'm treating this as a practice so I'll keep exploring possibilities.

I am thinking that I could have used a grisaille underpainting and glazed. In workshop we sometimes scraped to the gesso, or we sometimes masked.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

A Good Board

I continued work on the board shown yesterday and managed to take it along without picking up a greasy surface. I feel so great about this! This scanned image doesn't really show the surface very well but it's not at all greasy and has good depth. I'd say that in the future I can do better with gradation, etc, but for now to achieve technique is just fine by me.

Next I'll transfer the lily and begin building up an opaque base.

Here's a peek at my kitchen table workspace. I've just switched over to the lamp holder clamped to the arm of the chair. Works great--nice and bright and no glare at that angle. Once I retire and have more time I will again set up a dedicated studio space.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Lily Sketch

Not a true painting but an overlay in Photoshop of two egg tempera panels--just getting a feel for size and positioning.

My nice green panel took a similar fate as the previous. All of a sudden the surface had a greasy, eggy feeling and wouldn't take a polish. I think I am having trouble with my umbers.

I stripped both panels down with a razor, wiped with water, and then sanded. Next I did up a quick background, really as a test. When it came time for the raw umber, I mixed on the light side with egg. So far, so good. It's really a rough job on the panel  but I didn't want to put in much time or effort. I'll start in with burnt umber tomorrow and see if I can hold a good finish. If so, I'll work up the gradation nicely and start on the lily.

I think that I used to have a vision that putting in my 10,000 hours would be a series of good paintings getting better. Perhaps later, but for now it's retries and experimentation. Maybe that's the way it'll always be?

Friday, August 5, 2011

A New Background

I am busy at work on a new board for the lily. Green earths, yellow ochre, and burnt and raw siennas, layer after layer, are coming together. Every four or five layers brings a cheesecloth polish and there is even a light sanding in there.

My first background board still resists coming to a hard and smooth surface. I am carefully mixing my medium and pigment and this new board shows that. Restarting is really a blessing as I get to gain experience and I think that various greens will contrast nicely with the lily's oranges.

I know it all looks warm at at this time but I am going to try to really darken up, maybe even close to black, the border. Midway in I will be moving to Viridian to provide a cool region. The center, which will be mostly covered, will be warm. I want to keep in mind a relative state of cool and warm--another major principle from my Old Masters Design workshop. From time to time I hold up my earth orange swatch to keep me in line.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

A Change of Pace

After sleeping the day away while under the weather, I needed a bit of sunlight and fresh air. I didn't go far, just up the road, and came upon this male Blue Dasher, Pachydiplax longipennis, a skimmer of the Libellulidae family. Such marvelous complexity and beauty in a little package.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

More Test Colors

I woke this morning figuring that I might approach lily colors with earth pigments. During the egg tempera workshop Koo had mentioned how very often we do not need to turn to highly saturated pigments, examples being the cadmium yellow and irgazine orange I'd used last night.

I so wanted to sit down and get to painting this morning but alas, it was time for work. Time was very short this evening but I did manage to lay down some thinly applied Armenian Orange Earth and Transparent Yellow Ochre. Note on the orange patch, the right side has been overlaid with about six very thin layers of yellow ochre. The lower patch is undiluted yellow ochre.

The earths are so much easier for me to control. Jus the tiniest bits of cads or synthetic organics produce incredibly saturated mixes. I think I will turn to the earths as I retry the lily.

My gesso board still hasn't recovered properly, even after stashing it on the car dashboard all day while at work. I'll give it another try tomorrow but I have no great expectations. So it's soon to be another background job and I'm actually looking forward to another meditative exercise.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Test Colors for Lily

This exercise is about developing form as much as it is about colors. It was a busy night so I only got in a few preliminary layers but I did learn about brush handling. My fine-tipped Series 7's can certainly lay down a fine line and yet can behave like knife edges, cutting up the tempera if I absentmindedly go over a wet surface. Spreading the bristles with my fingertips to create a flat works very well. Perhaps I should look around for a few flat synthetics for a try.

And please do check out a most heart-warming post published this evening on the NESBA blog. Botanical art at its best, I think.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Building a Foreground

I'm thinking of using this lily for the foreground image. I photographed it yesterday, printed in on the b/w laser, transferred the outline, and dropped in a  bit of shading. I'm trying to become familiar with it in tone. Soon I'll start work on the color mixes.

I've run into a bit of trouble with the gesso board. The surface is a bit less smooth than I'd optimally expect. It may have been too eggy a mix late last night, or possibly that the egg was getting old. I dropped on a few more layers this evening with a fresh egg and it seemed to improve a bit before reverting. I'm going to let it sit while I turn to lily work. If in a few days it's still not where I want it to be, I'll simply start another background and let that one rest. No worries, I have plenty of boards and this is a great learning experience. 
"Don't be frightened if you make an awful mess; you can often learn more by doing so, than never launching out but keeping to safe unambitious projects."
~ Harold Speed