Watercoloring Galore

Watercolor is amazingly portable. I enjoy casein, but I don’t have a portable kit that folds up to the size of a phone like I do with watercolor. Casein dries out quickly like acrylic, and it spoils, too, so my choice for everyday painting is watercolor.

I’ve painted this doorway twice. On the left is a 3.5″x5″ painting, while in the center is a 9″x12″. Both have their pluses and minuses. The left is too dark, and some of the color became muddy, while the center has nicer color variation, detail, and value. However, I think the overhang is far better on the left than the center. It’s interesting that I failed to capture perspective with both. I loved painting with this method, however. It involves layering in primary colors to gain luminosity and depth.

On a whim, I bought a child’s Melissa & Doug watercolor kit. After trying the colors, I emptied it and replaced them with my six Daniel Smith Essentials kit, which consists of warm and cool blues, reds, and yellows. You can see how I put the pigments into the left, center, and right circles on both lines, and created a mix of two in between. The single circles on the bottom have all three warm on the left, which made brown, and all three cools on the right, which made black. I didn’t mix greens because I like to vary them so much–plus, I ran out of room. This was super fun. I hadn’t thought about pre-mixing my commonly mixed colors before, if that makes any sense.

Here’s my former Melissa & Doug kit with it’s new Daniel Smith pigments. Don’t they look awesome? I now have four palettes I use regularly.

Below are two attempts at painting barges on the Mississippi River. Both are from photos. My goal was to use the brush in a way that leaves sparkles on water.

Little landscapes from my mind and a few plein air attempts on the bottom.

Water, bridges, water sparkles… and grapes.

Water, Nature, Bob Ross

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.

3.5″x5″ Watercolors

All in my little Pentalic journal. I’ve been trying some realism. The plant on the second row is kind of awful. The final row are experiments with a new paintbrush, the Escoda synthetic Versatil. It’s a #6 portable. It’s a nice brush, but I’m hooked on using my Caran d’Ache Aquarelle brush when I’m out and about. I use the medium size.

A bright blue sky and an old antique store. The sky was done by wetting the cloud area and painting the blue in the dry sections, letting the edges blur. My lettering on the antique store sign was sloppy:

Flowers, using a very loose effect. This is a super fun way to paint:

And, using a photo of a doorway, I tried to use layering to create an interesting background. I followed some videos by artist Laurel Hart. She has two wonderful tutorials on painting a colorful background and having a focal point. Obviously, I need to practice this more.

Lots of Little Watercolors (plus one casein)

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.

Watercolor Journals

No casein this week, but I’ve painted watercolor en plein air (3.5″x5″):

I’ve also painted in my 9″x12″ journal quite a bit over the past week. This one I did en plein air:

The one on the left was done in a very dimly-lit room while a storm rolled in. I find the colors strange and moody:

This is based on a picture my husband took:

And here are four seasons:

More Casein, Plus New Colors

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.

Watercolor Journal: Little Experiments

Playing around with little 3.5″x5″ pages in my Pentalic journal. There’s everything from lifting color to painting from a photo to a few cluttered-but-energetic plein air sketches. While painting an old bluebird house by a pond, a fawn trotted right by me. I was holding so still, it took awhile for the fawn to realize I was a human, not a post or tree. And away it ran!

Casein: Lock and Dam

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.

Casein Sketches: Bob Ross

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.

First Casein Sketch

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.

Catching Up: 9″x12″ WC Journal

I have a dream of painting pictures with horses in pretty much every one of them, so I do a little praticing now and then. Maybe I’ll get there someday, but first I need to gain confidence drawing them. These head sketches are from my favorite children’s illustrator Sam Savitt. His book is Draw Horses with Sam Savitt. It’s awesome. I added some dull colors here and there as an afterthought when I realized I had used up an entire page of watercolor paper with pencil sketches.

I’m still getting used to my Daniel Smith watercolors. They’re so vibrant, and I only have the six colors, so I’m practicing using the pigments straight…

…and with mixing. These stormy sketches are from Bob Davies’ tutorials. I gained some confidence mixing gray and burnt umber, plus the skies are really fun, super moody, which is what I’m fancying at the moment.