I was chatting with a friend of mine who's been experimenting with gouache still lifes lately and it hit me: all these «studies» I've been doing are very nice but they're well inside my comfort zone. Mainly because I use photographs, in fact.
I can talk and look all artsy when I experiment with photographs but I'm still very much a coward when it comes to painting (or drawing, for that matter) from life.
So today I set up a still life in my kitchen and tried to tackle it in the same fast & loose process that I use for photograph studies.
It's casein. It's about an hour. It's painful, but hey… I was out of my comfort zone and… you know… I was told that's good.
I've been experimenting with casein some more and... GAWD I love that medium! This is a fairly quick study (probably around 80 minutes) of a kingfisher. I used graphite to sketch the basic shapes on regular, cheap chipboard then sealed the drawing with a very thin layer of Liquitex Clear Gesso. I then went straight on with casein. (I used my regular 11-color palette—which I can detail if you're curious.) After about an hour, I placed my palette in a big resealable plastic bag and let it sit for about 24 hours. When I came back, the paint blobs were still wet and the mixtures on the palette only needed a little work with a wet brush to be workable again (like you would expect gouache to be). I loved, LOVED the paint' handling qualities. It really is like nothing I've ever used before. And the richness of the pigments is still stunning. So... yeah. Next time, I'll use more gesso (or matte medium) to really seal the board so the fibers don't lift as much. (It's a pretty cheap surface that was never meant to be painted on, so... no harsh feelings.) I'll keep you posted.
I picked up a couple of casein tubes recently. James Gurney has been talking about (and showing) casein on his blog for a couple of months and I was pretty curious about it.
This is basically my first shot at it. I worked pretty small (I think it's around 4x6 inches) on Fredrix Canvas Pad.
The paint handles like nothing I've ever tried before. It's like the love child of oil paints and gouache.
It's a bit runnier than oils but behaves much like it on the brush (I used soft synthetic Filberts). It's really, REALLY matte and incredibly opaque. A single white stroke will cover the darkest background color with ease.
It dries as fast as acrylics or gouaches and to my surprise, I found out that it could be re-wet to mix a new stroke or to soften edges (exactly like gouache but with more body). I read that the surfaces actually closes after a while but that it can take weeks. I'll keep you posted on this.
Thought it dries as fast as acrylics, it doesn't have that tacky feeling to it and anyone used to painting with acrylics will definitely be pleasantly surprised.
So… yeah. I loved it and will keep experimenting with it — namely on other surfaces/grounds.
Hmm... I put Inspiration in the title, but the real subject is Motivation. I thought I'd share with you a couple of quotes and concepts that have kept me motivated over the years. Here's a recent picture of my easel.
You can see a lot of thing abut me right there. There's my workspace (with the kind of pencil I use, the mahl stick I made to fit the exact format of my easel, my iPad to look up reference and my palette—which I find is one of the most personal items in a painter's gear.) There are also a number of things scrawled at the top of the easel. These are what I want to talk about today. Let's start at the far left. — The black & white sticker is from The Art Order. That's the name of Jon Schindehette's blog and it's the catalyst in my whole fantasy-paintings-new-portfolio endeavour. Jon (look him up) is an amazing prize-winning art director whose insight and profound love of illustration is a gold mine for artists of all fields. He probably doesn't know it, but I know he made a huge difference in my life. — Then, there are two quotes from Steven Pressfield. Man. Steven Pressfield... If Schindehette made me realize fantasy was still a thing, Pressfield made me sit my ass in front of my easel and work. The first quote is: Resistance is always lying and always full of crap. It's from his book Turning Pro and it's in a chapter where he explains his concept of Resistance and what to expect from this internal foe. And: This fucking trilogy is killing me! Which is basically the big difference between amateurs and pros (two specific concepts of his), basically, the amateur is all talk and no action and the pro acts, even if his project is "killing him". — Done is better than perfect is from The Done Manifesto at Lifehacker. — Fast, Cheap, Good. Pick two. Is the short version of the project management triangle and it helps me stay focused when I feel an urge to rush things. — Work like your life depends on it is taken from a talk Adam Savage gave and which they summarized on Boing-Boing. I found that it made a lot of "Pressfield" sense. — Draw the art you want to see is from Austin Kleon's wonderful, wonderful book Steal Like an Artist. Read this book. Now. — Make Mistakes Deliberately/Faster is my personal favorite entry in Bruce Mau's Incomplete Manifesto for Growth. — Stay on the bus is the central idea in the Helsinki Bus Station Theory. This text is one of the best pieces of advice I've read in my life. — At the far right, the box with the column of words is my personal reminder for Greg Manchess' great post 10 things about… planning pictures. A great hands-on set of advice to plan a good composition. I also have a Memento Mori in the form of the japanese character for "death" scrawled in the center of the easel, right where I put the paintings I work on. If the spot is empty, I'm reminded that I'll die soon and that I should try to paint one more piece before it's too late. So... there. I wanted to share.
Awright! Today was my first real attempt at urban plein-air painting. I was (obviously) inspired by James Gurney and the Urban Sketchers online community anI wanted to give this a try for a long time.
I chose to paint this derelict car wash sign that's a 10-minute walk away from my place.
I set up my easel.
After the drawing was done roughly, I prepared my palette...
And painted away for a solid 45 minutes. I didn't really check the time.
[Note to self: If your subject is in direct sunlight,
you'll also be in direct fucking sunlight. Bring a hat.]
And that's the final result.
The acrylic paint was drying as it was leaving my brush. It was pretty hard to work the edges correctly and to think about my strokes. Also, I need to find a way to use some sort of mahl stick... I'm used to hand stability when handling a brush. But still... Oh! And I forgot to apply a underpainting which I regretted 10 minutes in. So... yeah. It was fun and I'll venture again with my stuff to try some more painting before long.
Hey! Another study. Another step in a long self-discovery process. (More on that later.) Let's just say that at the time being, I'm very happy if I manage to paint something. And more so if I manage to paint it with my guts. So I'm experimenting with paint application, palette and other aspects of a painting I never really cared about... foolishly thinking I had it all figured out. All the while building my practice (in the Steven Pressfield sense of practice).
I'd also like to finish on a criptic—and maybe a bit uncivil—thank you note. I don't even know if he'll read this, but here goes: Thank you Dorian, you're showing me what real work is and giving me a huge boost doing so.