Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Starting With Oils

It seems hard to believe that I've avoided using oil paints for so many years.  I think I've had an oily epiphany!

As a sufferer from many allergies, I didn't think my system would cope with the vapours and smells one normally associates with oil painting.  I just crossed the possibility of using this medium off my "To Do" art list and puddled along with pen and wash, acrylics and pastels.  I had the tubes of oils and the brushes.  I'd bought them as slightly used tubes on eBay.  Then a friend gave me heaps more used paints and masses of hard, crusty brushes plus a few new ones too  -  just enough to make me realise I had a lot of work to do with brush cleaner to try and rescue most of the others.

In the past, I had thought that using natural gum turpentine might be okay, but had a go using it on pastel underpaintings and the smell was atrocious!  It permeated the house for months.  Really yuk!  I considered buying a set of water mixable oils, but where is the sense in that if one already paints with acrylics?  Besides, I had quailed at the expense of starting from scratch with yet another medium.  (For those of you who are not familiar with water soluble oil paints, Winsor & Newton have a nice explanation and history of this medium here).  Besides, I sensed a definite lip curl when oil painting purists heard the words "water soluble oils".  It was as if a brash new contender for the throne had pushed their way onto the holy turf of the oil purists.  So I ruled out taking up oil painting in the foreseeable future.

Then I discovered odourless turps for my pastel underpaintings.  Have now been using it for about 12 months.  Sometimes I worry about my mental faculties.....  It took me twelve months to equate the odourless turps with being able to try oils without the headache imposing side effects of horrible smelling mediums like the natural gum turps.  It was one of those light bulb moments!  Couldn't wait to give them a whirl.

For a first effort, I thought I'd better start small on a cheap canvas.  If it was a failure, I wouldn't be wasting too much paint or too many dollars on a canvas that was heading for the bin.  Initially I was very daunted about this wet on wet technique.  Kept wanting to break out the hair dryer as I would with wet acrylic paints.  I found myself obsessively chanting "do not make mud, do not make mud".  Huh!  Easier said than done, but lots of fun trying.  I quickly learnt to use the flat side of my brush instead of the tip and to gently lay the paint on top instead of dabbing.  That helped a lot.  It avoided disturbing the underlying wet paint and I could thus lay different colours on top of the wet paint underneath.  Not always successful mind you, and I confess to cheating and letting it dry a few days and then retouching the muddy bits.

Drumroll please..................................here, is my very first Oil Painting, entitled Track in the Ranges, that I completed before Christmas, but have only just plucked up the courage to show here.  I did promise warts and all didn't I?  This has a lot of warts!  Not entirely happy with that tree in the right foreground, but I've fiddle and fiddled and am sick of it so it can stay as it is.  30 X 40 cms (12" X 16") on el cheapo, pre gessoed, gallery wrapped canvas.

I'm about to start my fifth oil painting.  I definitely have an addictive personality.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Colourfast Ratings for Neocolor I Wax Crayons

 Caran d'Ache® have kindly supplied me with their Colourfast Ratings for their wonderful water resistant Neocolor I Wax Crayons  - or Wax Pastels as they call them.  You can find the colourfast ratings and colour chart for their Neocolor II water soluble wax Pastels here.  The difference between the two is often difficult to determine.  Just remember that the Neocolor I Pastels (crayons really) are water resistant and the Neocolor II so called Wax Pastels are completely water soluble and can substitute for the conventional water colour pencils, tubes or pans.

These Neocolor I non-water soluble wax crayons are popular for mixed media and journal work because of their pigment load.  This is not as intense as the Neocolor II range of water soluble pastels but then these crayons serve a different purpose and the wax carrier must, by necessity dilute the pigment just a little.  

They are soluble in any oil solvent such as turps or linseed oil and can be used with oil painting techniques.  Where they really come into their own is in wax resist techniques under watercolours or acrylic paints.  The range is not as great as that found in the Neocolour IIs, but the 40 colours plus 10 Metallic colours available, will blend well together to give a wider palette of colours.

These are not student grade or children's  oil crayons.  These are serious artist's grade wax media with only four colours out of the available forty, having poor lightfastness ratings.  They can be used to replace coloured pencils or hard pastels for drawing, but of course their water resistant and soluble properties open up a whole new dimension for experimentation.  They are also excellent for jazzing up a visual diary, just as are the Neocolor II range of water soluble pastels. 

As you can probably tell, I'm a great fan of the Caran d'Ache® Neocolors be it the I-s or II-s.  They are a great value for money product and you don't have to continually sharpen the jolly things as you do for the pencil based media.  They seem to last for ages even when working on a sanded surface with it's abrasiveness.

Caran d'Ache® have a nice downloadable PDF with ideas for using both their lines of Neocolour pastels and crayons.

There are some good reviews of these Neocolor I crayons on the Dick Blick website.  The range seems to be freely available in most countries, so your favourite art supplier probably stocks them or could order them for you.

Colour Chart for Caran d'Ache® Neocolor I Wax Pastels
Courtesy of Caran d'Ache®

Colourfast Ratings Chart Neocolor I Wax Pastels.
Courtesy of Caran d'Ache® 


Saturday, December 31, 2011

What Makes an Art Workshop Successful?

I've attended quite a few workshops. Some good, some a waste of time and effort. I don't expect miracles from being a workshop attendee. If I can learn one new thing from that workshop then I judge it a success even if I produce rubbish on the day. I go home and practice until I have the hang of it.

The best workshops I have attended had the following points in common:

1. Clear preparatory information supplied.
A clear minimum requirements list was supplied prior to the workshop and it was affordable for newbies to using that medium. It was not going to cost them hundreds of dollars on top of the workshop fees. No pedantic list of the tutor's favourite colours that the pupils might never use again, just a general suggestion for a minimum, but well rounded mixed palette of primaries and perhaps three or four "off the wall" colours essential to the tutor's particular techniques. With pastels this is harder, but students should be able to get by with a set of 25-30 colours - possibly half sticks. Any specific mediums or bits and bobs that might be difficult to source should be provided by the tutor.
Students should be clearly informed if lunches are to be supplied or they need to bring their own. Nothing is worse for the bonding of a group than half of them racing off to buy their lunch.

2. Not essential, but a very nice touch was when the tutor or organisers had gone to the trouble to arrange sponsorship for the workshop from a manufacturer or stockist. This ensured the correct paper/canvas was supplied free of charge together with the useful information folders and brochures that these companies produce. Very welcome to those that did not have a local artshop from which to draw their supplies. This was the icing on the workshop cake! It also meant the tutor could relax, knowing that at least everyone was starting with a reasonable substrate and not some bargain shop rubbish that would make the job more difficult. The cost of bulk purchased substrate could be built into the workshop fees if sponsorship is not possible and the attendees informed of this.

3. Workshop notes were supplied for the students to take home with them. This also served the purpose of ensuring the teacher was well prepared.

4. Two or three small projects attempted, using different techniques. Students knowing ahead of time that there is X number of minutes allocated to that project and then, if not finished, they must put it aside to finish at home. This served to get the slow coaches motoring and even loosened them up a bit. It also took away the performance anxieties as the students had the excuse of a time constraint if things did not go perfectly.

5. Teacher came equipped with a stack of reference material for the students to borrow. This saved the panic when someone didn't have anything to copy or they had brought something unsuitable. Sometimes it has been the tutors own reference photos and sometimes it has been images cut from magazines. Nobody worried about copyright as this was a class exercise. It also served the purpose that the tutor knew that the images would work with his/her techniques.

5. The tutor made sure that every student received some individual attention during every exercise. Some beginners with that medium needed more attention than others, but the more experienced understood this. Nobody was allowed to dominate the tutors attention or time.

6. A partial, quick demonstration of each pertinent technique was given by the tutor to clearly show the technique under discussion and then a finished example of that was produced like a rabbit out of the hat. This finished work was then discussed further by the tutor. Once again this was possible due to the tutor's thorough preparation. This avoided the boredom of an excessively lengthy demo from a tutor that was not adept at working and talking at the same time. Then it was over to the students to try and reproduce, or partially reproduce, the technique in a set time.  The demo pieces were large enough for all to see and the work not so small that it was hidden from sight by the tutor's hand as they worked.  This actually happened to me recently when a tutor gave a demo on an area no bigger than 6x8" of a large sheet of sanded paper.  The rest of the sheet was occupied by similar tiny demos from other workshops he has conducted.  We felt cheated!

Things that really get up my nose at a workshop:

1.Tutors that are unprepared.

2.Tutors that do not give their full attention to the class.  We do not want to hear about their families, health problems, trials and tribulations.  We want to improve our art and pick their brains about any new art techniques. not listen to a heap of waffle.

3. Tutors that give 99% of their attention to those demanding and often vociferous  "problem" students and neglect the others. We all pay the same fees to attend workshops.

4. Tutors that walk past your work and say "that's coming along nicely" and keep going to the next student.  I want to know why they consider it is coming along nicely. I want the same money's worth from the workshop as the less experienced/less intelligent students receive. I might possibly grasp the points quicker thus allowing for and understanding that those struggling need more attention, but I want my time too even if abbreviated by necessity. I do not want to be ignored because I can produce something that is vaguely similar to the tutor's aims. I want to be helped to do it even better than what is currently on my easel.

5.The following is a matter of personal preference.  Not everybody feels as I do, but  I really loathe tutors doing my work for me. Not all workshop attendees dislike a tutor actually applying touches to their work.  I would prefer that they guide me while I do the actually application of pigments. IMHO it is the only way to learn the lessons thoroughly. I was furious a couple of weeks ago when a teacher in a weekly class I take. picked up my brush and ruined a painting of mine.  She destroyed the freshness of the contrasting underpainting colour peeking through, that I'd been striving so hard to preserve. (It was an oil, so was thoroughly stuffed).  I was so angry and could not show it.  I shortly thereafter made an excuse and packed up and left.  Several day's work had been destroyed in a thoughtless moment and I had no heart to continue.  I just wanted to get home and bin the painting.  Some tutors politely ask permission before they touch up a student's work, but what student is going to say "No, don't you dare touch my painting"?

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Everything You Wanted To Know About Oil Painting - Forum Thread

Note:  This forum has moved to a new home and so far I cannot find this thread again.  Will keep looking though.

I had forgotten about a really funny and informative thread that every oil painter should read.  It started on October 7, 2005 and is still an open thread and still going strong as of last November 2011.  You will find the start of it on an Australian Art Forum here. (Sorry, they have moved sites and the relevant thread seems to have disappeared).

"Everything You Wanted to Know About Oil Painting" is basically the freely shared, accumulated knowledge of a senior, anonymous, somewhat witty (and dare I say, highly opinionated) artist with decades of knowledge.  You might not agree with everything written in this thread, but you will learn a lot and, if you can handle raw Aussie humour, find it very entertaining.  A good one to devour over a period of a week or so.  Not recommended for children under 16 unless you cut and paste it to Word and edit out the mildly naughty bits.

Enjoy and learn.