…I’ve been painting, mostly watercolor. But I’ve also tried Inktense (blocks and pencils), water soluble graphite pencils, oil pastel, and soft pastel. These all needed a certain amount of experimenting. They’re all wonderful, by the way. Here’s a sampling of what I produced this year.
I painted three 5″x8″ casein pages in my journal. The 140 lb. paper buckles a little with the paint. I’ve tried 300 lb. on a block, and it worked out much better, so I may need to swap over. This journals works okay for a journal, which is something I enjoy having, but I don’t think I can find one with 300 lb. paper.
With casein, I have to think differently than when I use watercolor. I find myself making some really muddy areas when I don’t wait for the paint to dry–it takes longer than you think, maybe up to an hour for some areas. I also highlight poorly. Another key difference is how different casein looks when dry–it can change the painting entirely. Learning all of those differences makes it super hard to swap back and forth, but I still try. I love casein and would like to paint with it more often.
A Bob Ross attempt, Bridge to Autumn. I had painted it in watercolor months ago, using an inexpensive, little paint kit that was sitting in my closet. In fact, it was my very first watercolor attempt when this art craze hit me. This painting looks block-ish. I’m most pleased with the background tall trees, but their vivid color ended up making it the focal point. The highlighting with white paint is kind of heavy.
In casein, I also painted this landscape based on a photo. I enjoy painting the clouds, even though I got heavy with the highlights. Grass remains a challenge.
And this casein, my favorite of the three, is based on another photo of barges on the Mississippi River. My husband took the photo. Using a ruler for the barges would have been smart.
Here’s a similar shot that I painted with watercolor en plein air.
All of these are painted in my 3.5″x5″ Pentalic sketchbook or on 4″x6″ postcards from a block of Fluid 140 lb. cards. The second set and the farm scenes were painted en plain air.
Here’s the only casein painting I’ve done recently. It’s also 4″x6″ and on a postcard block of 300 lb. paper by Fluid.
I ordered the color theory six pack of Richeson casein, even though it included orange and violet, two colors I can mix. The other four colors made the price a bargain, since purchasing each tube individually would run nearly double the cost. Those four colors are Shiva phthalo green, ultramarine blue, cad yellow, and rose red.
The wonder of mixing greens! Plus, my all-time favorite color is probably ultramarine blue. So, now I have two blues, yellows, and reds. Those, plus white, black, orange, and violet, will keep me happy for a long time.
Here’s an older journal page with the original James Gurney six pack. You can see how many shades of green I achieved with all variations of yellow ochre, cobalt blue, raw umber, and white.
This is a barn I’ve painted in watercolor twice before. The beautiful, old silo has been removed since the last one.
This one reminds me of an old-fashioned postcard.
I painted this little blue lock-and-dam house in casein from a photo I took. I’m finding that painting in lighter washes is helpful when it comes to blending, but my white highlights are very heavy. Also, using a ruler would certainly be advisable with all of those straight lines. There’s a healthy dose of artistic interpretations in the architectural details.
Still trying to figure out how casein works, I decided to plunge in and paint a few Bob Ross landscapes. I’m trying to figure out how to achieve some realistic landscapes, and right now, they are blocky with few soft edges. I’m using the James Gurney six-pack of Richeson casein: titanium white, ivory black, Venetian red, yellow ochre, cobalt blue, and raw umber. Trying to mix green has been a struggle. Cobalt blue is cheerful and bright, and yellow ochre is brownish and dull. There are numerous shades of green in there, especially when adding in white and raw umber, but it’s challenging.
Also, I purchased some synthetic brushes (Simply Simmons) to use only with casein as I’ve read it can be super hard on brushes. You can see how I’m attempting to use a fan brush, something new for me–yikes! Something I’m really pleased with is the old-fashioned, matte look casein has when it dries. It’s so unique.
I’ve become fascinated with casein paint, mostly because it’s water soluble and can be used like a transparent watercolor or an opaque gouache or even like a thicker, heavier acrylic. It also dries to an impermeable surface which can be left alone, varnished for an oil painting appearance, put under glass, or displayed in a frame. In other words, it’s versatile.
I bought a six-color kit and practiced a little on my watercolor paper. Used thinly, supposedly it won’t crack after it’s dried. I’ve learned a lot in less than an hour:
- Casein dries on the palette quickly. It turns thicker and thicker until it goes from a smooth, velvety texture to a gluey texture. At that point, you need more water to get the paint onto the surface, and that extra amount of water will thin the paint so it’s not as opaque. I’m going to experiment with a wet palette to keep the paint fluid for a longer amount of time.
- Casein is truly opaque, which means one layer will totally cover the first layer (when the first layer is dried). This is so different from watercolor that it’ll take some thoughtful practice to get used to it. For example, when painting the windows on the houses, I kept painting around the edges. Only at the end did I realize I could paint directly over the wall of the house to create a window.
- Casein can be mixed on the palette, but when it’s still wet on the paper, it can also be mixed on the surface. I think this is a matter of skill as the paint doesn’t blossom like watercolor. It’s far more subtle.
- You can use two colors on your brush to create super cool effects.
- White doesn’t appear as pure white when layered over other colors, at least not for me. It seems to show color beneath. I suspect you need to use fairly thick paint with nearly no water to get white to obliterate the color below. So, perhaps, when the painting is nearly done, putting down a fresh bit of white paint to use is the best bet.
The little painting is from a 1950 book by Henry M. Gasser, Casein Painting: Methods and Demonstrations. This first example is using casein watered-down, more like transparent watercolor. I simplified it tremendously, not wanting to paint two dozen teeny houses. It’s funny how crooked my houses are–can you tell I did this at the end of a very long day? I was super excited to try the paints and wasn’t content with doing the color sampler.
Artist James Gurney is a fan of casein and is probably the reason why I bumped into it in the first place. He writes about it on his blog and has numerous short videos painting en plein air. Truthfully, although artists use this medium, there isn’t a tremendous amount of current information about it, even though it’s the oldest known paint and was used in ancient cave paintings.