Monday, April 30, 2012

Tonal Studies - Block Painting

This evening I began painting with pretubed Munsell values. I botched up the lighting here with  warm overhead fluorescent lighting and front facing balanced lighting--a better photo is coming once I finish up the cubes. I can envision tuning up individual cubes once everything dries but I think I have a reasonable and exciting starting point.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Tonal Studies - Block Prep

The blocks are nearly ready for painting with Munsell neutrals. The initial coats of GAC 100 might have lifted the grain, leaving me to try to smooth things out with sandable gesso. Getting there!

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Tonal Studies - Block Making

Ah, such a long overdue project... Finally underway!

I lurk on where among many other topics members are encouraged to delve into using Munsell as a base for tonal studies. Rather than try to explain the details, I refer you to the wonderful work of Paul Foxton. Paul is building an art teaching website so be sure to look beyond his posts on tonal studies.

Starting with an eight foot 4x4 cut in half, I ripped it to about 2.5" square. This Freud blade cuts so smoothly that only minimal sanding was needed.

Using a power mitre box, the blocks were cut.

With the blocks cut out, it was time for a couple of coats of Golden GAC 100. I mixed in a bit of water, as I find this primer somewhat thick and seems to leave behind a bit of texture

The blocks are nearly ready for a few coats of Golden acrylic gesso but first I'm letting the GAC 100 get nice and dry. There's still a bit of tackiness here.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012


The storm came trough leaving inches or rain behind. Here's the same shot right after but by the next day it was all soaked up. It's the beauty of swampland, regulating flow in the watershed. A sponge that prevents runoff and flooding.

Here's my ground lapis applied with egg tempera. I couldn't resist a bit of a royal touch with W&N gold gouache. Something like twenty layers at its darkest. It's a tiny swatch, only about an inch high.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Finally, some rain

The crabapple blossoms are pulled down, heavy with rain.

My backyard swamp was dry before the rains began. Hoping to see puddling up after the heavy rains come through.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Lapis Continued

After posting last night, I began to wonder about the authenticity of that gemstone. I didn't think to identify the stone prior to grinding it up. (I'm a gemologist in a prior life.) An indication of lazurite is a sensitivity to acids, so I sprinkled a pinch of pigment into white vinegar. Looks good as you can see in the photo; the blue within minutes disappeared. Still, it's only an indication. (By the way, no gemologist would ever conduct a destructive test without prior consent.)

Here's the pigment with linseed mixed with a palette knife.

I plan to pick up some natural untreated lapis chips and give this another try.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Lapis Lazuli

Here's a ground up 6x8mm Lapis Lazuli cabachon. This little experiment went surprisingly well; in just minutes the gemstone was reduced to a fine powder.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Spring Blossoms

This season I'm intent on photographing pollinators. Identification is a whole other matter! I found these two critters today right in my yard. The first with a striped abdomen, the second with a black abdomen and a hairy vested thorax.

One of my favorite trees, Sassafras, is now flowering.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Signs of Spring

This is the second day of temps in the 80's. It's glorious! But tomorrow it's over and back into seasonal averages.

Spring blossoming seems "off" this year, almost like it's moving slowly. Perhaps because Winter without snow and Spring without rain? My surrounding swampland is dry like mid summer. No matter, the signs of Spring are here! These photos are right off my doorstep.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Bits and pieces

Here's a scanned image of my gray scale. It's blurred to knock down the paint strokes, making it easier to read levels in Photoshop. I was looking for RGB values as equal as possible for true neutrals. Most mixes were close; one needs to be cooled down.

Here's that same rose with more glazes. I'm playing with warm/cool relationships and form. What made a huge difference was simply softening edges of the flower's outside shape. It seemed to pull together foreground and background.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Munsell Gray Scale

I'm back after days of measuring, mixing and tubing. For results there are nine tubes of hand-mixed paint in Munsell values 1-9. It's probably impossible to reach the extreme values of 0 and 10 in paint. In the chart below Holbein Peach Black starts off the low end with a value of about 0.5. The high end is Gamblin Radiant White with about 9.75.

Apologies for this photo... Once the scale dries and can be scanned safely I'll post a better image.

More soon as I examine the chart in Photoshop and tune up the paints as needed.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Mixing a neutral

I've mixed and tubed Munsell neutrals N4, N6 and N8. No matter which neutral I am mixing, the process and paints are the same. Here's a look at the process.

Material and tools. 
Williamsburg Ivory Black, Rublev Cyprus Umber Medium and hand-mulled titanium dioxide. Munsell Neutral Value Scale Glossy, palette knives and glass palette.

Workspace layout.
All the paints are ready to mix. This is my mulling glass abraded with silicon carbide, although I use the smooth side for mixing. Abraded side is used for mulling only.

Testing mix accuracy.
It is best to test accuracy by applying paint directly; the glossy scale easily wipes clean. Note that at this time all we are matching for is N8 value; color matching comes later. Black is added to white bit by bit, constantly checking for spot on value.

Black/white mix completed.

Testing mix accuracy.
The umber and white is mixed to the same N8 value. Note that at this time all we are matching for is N8 value; color matching comes later. Reflection makes the paint sample look lighter here. Spreading the sample with a finger helps achieve an easier read.

Umber/white mix completed.
On the palette is now a pile of N8 leaning cool and a pile of N8 leaning warm.

True Munsell N8.
The two N8's are now mixed, testing all the time for value and hue. Although I say value and hue, it is assumed at this point that value should be spot on if prior mixing was completed accurately meaning that targeting the Munsell neutral hue is all that is needed. The photo details roughly the mid point in mixing. Note the three piles of paint: cool, true N8 and warm. In this case there was a bit of umber/left over. The true N8 mix was then tubed up. 

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Mulling Titanium Dioxide

I'd like to try working my form exercise in oils. Theory and computer programs are fine but I want to get my hands dirty. Expecting that I'll need a good bit of white and that all I have on hand is a bit of lead white and lots of Gamblin Radiant White (titanium dioxide in safflower oil, a very slow drier) , I'm whipping up a batch of titanium dioxide and linseed oil.

On first mixing the pigment and oil with a palette knife, the pigment pulls together into little platelets. I then need to work with just a bit at a time to gain a smooth consistency. This paint will eventually be mixed down into Munsell neutrals in values 4, 6, and 8.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Establishing Measures

Here's a b/w right eye closeup where I've sampled color from a few spots within the encircled area.

And here is the same image with the color opened up.

After creating the sample color blocks, I measured the RGB and Lab color space values within Photoshop and corrolated them with Munsell using the Munsell Conversion Data Tables from WallkillColor. The numbers didn't always align very well so I had to work between RGB and Lab.

This chart follows the same six sample color blocks, here detailing the Munsell properties. Value is behaving as expected, decreasing in value as the form rolls off. Chroma seems to following nicely as well, as I expected highest chroma in the local color. The hue I am not so sure about and I need to complete more samples.

Hue Value Chroma
10YR 9 4
7.5YR 8 6
7.5YR 8 6
7.5YR 6 6
7.5YR 5 4
5YR 3 4

 I also want to categorize this sample into highlight, local color, half tone, and shadow but it's not really clear where I want to make the breaks. That's okay for now as I'm really just exploring here.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Forming a base

I want to better understand how form develops. Form will be divided into four groups, knowing that we're really viewing on a continuous scale:
  • Highlight
  • Local Color
  • Half Tone
  • Shadow
We'll use Leonardo's Ginevra de' Benci based on this high resolution image from Wikipedia.

Next I need to spend some time with Photoshop, clipping out pieces for study in b/w and color. More soon!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Oil and Form

Oil work continues here. I brought up my second batch for water removal and once again lost oil when the water blew out in a fury. I think that as the batch clears on the stove, the remaining water comes together, creating conditions that lead to the blowouts.

What seems obvious now is that excess water needs removal. I am looking into methods to remove water prior to heating but I may need to stop the heating and remove excess water by hand before continuing the heat process.

In the photo the top mini jar contains studio oil made from commercial alkali refined linseed oil. The mini jar below is my first refined batch. It is slowly clearing up nicely.

The tall bottle is last night's work. There is some settling of residual water and some solids. Soon I will rack the oil off and rebottle. Sounds like wine, doesn't it?

Oil work will continue as I try out my own techniques, but for now...

In the next series of posts I plan to delve into form development based in part on Old Master studies. It's a matter that has been on my mind for some time. This evening I'm laying my foundations and tomorrow will provide detail. More soon!