progress on the paintings

i’m tired of doing things the commercially approved way.  i don’t like wearing fashionable clothing, i don’t like being a consumer, i don’t like living in air conditioning.  i also don’t like painting the modern way.  i don’t want to squeeze my paints out of a tube that i don’t know what’s in it, i want to mix everything from scratch.  the way the old masters painted.

of course, this comes with its own pricetag.  the learning curve is what i’m talking about.  there’s a big difference in the way paint goes on when you do it the commercially approved way, and when you mix it up yourself.  all the paint manufacturers go on about how buttery the paint is, how little filler they use.  one manufacturer claims to use no fillers at all.  just pigment and linseed oil.

but when i mix up pigment and linseed oil on my palette, i get a gloppy, thin syrup.  that’s why i abandoned the oil painting experiment i started at the beach.  no body whatsoever.  not without fillers.

above is the oil painting i’m working on.  it’s the beach as seen from our screened-in porch, at night.  it’s on a panel, and i’m mixing up my paints from dry pigments, calcium carbonate (chalk or marble dust) and linseed oil.  as you can see within the glare off the flash, it’s not dry yet.  there are drips.  that’s what i noticed first when i looked at it this morning.  it’s still wet, not just tacky.  there was no way i could continue it this morning.  i just have to let it dry.

my question to jim was what made all the difference?  when i was using oil paint that came in tubes and cost big bucks, i got this thick, buttery consistency right out of the tube, and i hated using any thinner on it at all because i just loved the consistency.  i could put it on and it would stay right where i put it and look great.  when i used the stuff i mixed up at the beach, it slopped and ran and bled out all over the place.

the difference is fillers.  a mixture of pigment and oil, unless you use a shitload of pigment, is going to be syrupy.  so you add an inert filler that disappears into the oil.  did you know that chalk turns transparent when you wet it?  it doesn’t just wash away, it disappears.  how’s that for invisible ink?  can you just see kids making use of sidewalk chalk that way?  this is the reason why pastel artists hate to use fixative.  one pass with the spray can and all the light colors just disappear into the paper substrate.

but in oil paints, it’s great.  i can add a bunch of ground chalk (marble, limestone, calcium carbonate) and make the paint as thick and bodyful as i like, and it’s as simple as that.

so to yesterday’s line of little cups of handmixed paint – titanium white, ultramarine blue, raw umber, and carbon black – i added a little pile of chalk to mix into the paint to thicken it.

perhaps tomorrow i can start putting glazes on, and add a bit of color.

this pitiful example of a painting is the encaustic version of the same scene.  yesterday i got a piece of pelon, cut it to the wrong size (too short to fully wrap around), and with a slight rip in it, and mounted it not exactly tightly.  evidently pelon shrinks.  evidently you have to stretch it when you stretch it, because it loosens way up once you start putting wax down.

i’m learning a lot doing this.  all the mistakes i’m making and all the consequences they will have during the making of this painting, these are all very instructive things i’m doing.  it’s painful.

i’m not liking this method.  for one thing, it’s on pelon.  i should probably try muslin tomorrow, that’s jim’s suggestion.  another reason to hate it is because i’m working with foamcore as the substrate.  it’s stiff, and that’s good for a substrate, but it’s light, and i can feel a dent already where i have put the wax of the ocean, that greenish horizontal stripe in the middle-ish of the painting.

pelon seems to be highly absorbent.  i still, after many layers, don’t have the shine of wax.  my layers so far:

1. the original blocking in of color – an old grayed blue from the palette, the greenishness of palette scrapings dissolved into orange oil, and the dark brown of raw umber on the bottom third where all the vegetation is going to be.

2. a layer of beeswax with only a veil of titanium white in it, over the sky and the sea.

3. another veil of white in the middle, over the lower sky and the upper sea, and a layer of brown microcrystalline wax and raw umber over the upper sky and the lower sea.

4. a thin layer of cobalt blue over the sky and sea, making it act as a transparent pigment, which it isn’t when used thickly.

5. another veil of white over the entire sky and sea.

6. and another veil of white.

i burned in each layer, and watched as the wax melted on top of the pelon, turn completely molten, and then sink into the pelon, leaving only the texture of the fabric, which is a mat of small fibers.

so this sucks.  how much wax do i have to use to begin to get a wax buildup that i can buff?

i’ve had that problem before, when i tried to do a very persnickety little encaustic painting of a greek orthodox icon over cotton.  i ended up scorching the fabric, and the fine details of the faces and clothing was very difficult with all that texture to bump over.

i’m sorry, i want a smooth surface to start my encaustic paintings on.  but masonite‘s too damned heavy to carry in my luggage.  i want luan panels, but i don’t want to go to an art supply store and pay retail for the damned things.

i’ll try the muslin next, and go back to home depot to see if they don’t sell luan.

i’m having real trouble representing the night with its most subtle colors, but maybe i can get to that later.  right now i’m tired, and think i’ll try going back to bed.

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One thought on “progress on the paintings

  1. Perhaps it’s a combo of the paint AND the surface to which you’re applying it. I could see you foraging for natural bases to convert….tree bark, etc. Just an idea.

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