More Casein, Plus New Colors

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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.

Lifting and Scrubbing

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I used a page in my journal to practice building backgrounds with different types of layers and then lifting the color back up with a damp brush. My favorite is the little running horse on the bottom left. The most difficult was the landscape on the bottom right. I stopped trying with that one. Lifting color is super fun. I’ll be doing more of this.

Daniel Smith Essentials Watercolor Set

Along with steadily filling up the pages of my sketchbooks, my student-grade Cotman watercolor set has been fast disappearing. My original original set had ten 8ml tubes and I added three. So far I’ve emptied five. Several tubes haven’t appealed to me yet, like white and black. I’ve been using yellow ochre and burnt umber, but I’m never happy with the results, probably because they’re opaque. Opaque muddies the waters, so to speak.

So, with the thought that I needed more paint, and I was leaning toward transparent colors, and I wasn’t using five of the original ten colors, I realized I was in a perfect situation to experiment with artist-quality paints and consider some new colors. So, I purchased Daniel Smith’s Essentials set.

This teeny set (each tube is 5 ml) has six transparent colors in a split primary palette: two each of red, yellow, and blue. Each of these colors is either warm or cool, which means that instead of “yellow,” there’s a yellow with a hint of green and a yellow with a hint of orange. This makes one cooler and one warmer. It’s a curious thing that with these six colors, so many combinations can be made.

As it turns out (with the exception of purple), mixing cools with cools and warms with warms gives a crisper, more vibrant color. Crossing the warm with a cool gives a duller color. Mixing three together gives a neutral brown or green/gray. And when I bravely mixed all six? A steely gray. After having a little fun painting a glazing grid (top left) and doing some initial mixing of greens and warms with warms and cools with cools, I found this wonderful handout from the Daniel Smith company on this exact set. I set up a color wheel and gave their mixing a try. Someday I’ll write about the paint as far as painting a sketch and not dabbling with color wheels and charts.

I also purchased this Mijello Bulletproof Glass Palette–which isn’t glass nor bulletproof. It’s some type of plastic. I like my other Mijello Fusion Palette a lot–a super lot! Strangely, however, even with using a limited palette, I mix like crazy and wanted a bigger mixing area. Right now, I only have my Daniel Smith colors in it.

Here are the two, side by side: