Three New Sketches

November 22, 2021

I am finally starting to venture out and meet up with other vaccinated friends, and they were kind enough to let me make a few sketches of them. Here are a three of the better ones.


Making Casein Paint: Step 3 – Mulling Pigment

October 27, 2021

Using the casein binder that I made in the previous post, I am ready to mull it into paint with a couple of pigment colors I have. In the above photo I show my set up. There is an empty 37ml paint tube on the left, a jar of Hansa yellow pigment from Sennelier, and a tablespoon measure. I dump a tablespoon of pigment on the slab, and drop a couple teaspoons of binder (in the jar on the right) onto the powder and start mixing it into a paste. I’m using my new muller here just to try it out, but this pigment is not at all gritty so it really isn’t required. Once I got this smooth, I adding another tablespoon of pigment and teaspoons of binder to smooth down another batch. At this point I have enough to start filling the tube with my palette knife. The tube holds about 3 to 4 tablespoons of this powder and binder mixture, leaving me about 1/2 an inch at the open end to fold over and crimp shut with pliers. Of course, when handling dry pigment, even those that are not considered toxic, for safety reasons you should always were a NIOSH rated mask and latex gloves. These powders are so fine that they can very easily become airborne.

Here’s the finished product, a tube of Hansa yellow, and a tube of red oxide that I also tubed in the same manner. I always test out the mulled paint on a piece of watercolor paper to make sure that the paint handles the way I like. There’s a black mark of ink that I painted over to show the paint’s degree of opacity or transparency.

A note about the slab: most paint mulling kits have etched glass as the working surface. I happened to already have this large textured tile on hand with a thick glaze surface that cleans up very nicely with just a water rinse. Not all ceramic tiles will work well, however. Some are too porous, and harder to clean. I’m also working on top of a plastic drop cloth for easy clean up.


Making Casein Paint: Step 2: – From Gel to Medium

October 26, 2021

After deciding which pigments to use to make casein paints, I will need a casein medium to bind the pigments. This picture shows a batch that I made a couple weeks ago. On the left is some dry casein powder that I rehydrated into pure casein, and then converted into a gel by adding a small amount of borax. The jar on the right contains diluted gel made into a binder solution for paint by adding 5 times the volume of distilled water. I tend to prefer using raw milk to extract my casein, but I had some in powder form that I wanted to use up. This powder tends to make a slightly darker gel than raw milk, which I’ve written about before, but when diluted and mixed into even white pigment it doesn’t add any noticeable value.

The precise steps I follow to make the gel can be found at my website https://dbclemons.weebly.com/articles.html

Next step will be mixing the medium with pigments to make paint.


Making Casein Paint: Step 1 – Take Inventory

October 24, 2021

The first step in my process of making casein paints is to determine which colors I need. My stock of paints for this medium has run pretty low on the colors I had previously made myself, but I have several tubes of the old Shiva brand that are still useable. I spread them all out on the floor in groups, and wrote down a list of what I thought was missing for a good range of colors for my palette.

The solid white tubes are paints that I’ve made myself, and I see I have plenty titanium white, one tube each of burnt umber and yellow ochre that are nearly full, but just a little of iron oxide.

I also pulled out some of the dry pigments I had for colors I think I could make: a cadmium yellow medium, hansa yellow, magenta, and a bunch of iron oxide. I’ll get started on those, probably do iron oxide first, and then decide which other pigments I need to purchase. I could use a good red, like pyrrole or cadmium. Benzimidazolone is a good orange, and I see I’m missing some burnt sienna.

Next I’ll make some casein medium by diluting some gel I mad, and start making some paint.


Small Glass Pigment Muller Purchased

October 21, 2021

My glass muller that I used to make paint got broken in the move to my new home a couple years ago, and I’ve been meaning to replace it. I didn’t have to use it very often, since most of the pigments I bought didn’t need that extra grinding power, so I thought I’d get a smaller (and cheaper) one this time. I found this on Etsy for just around $30. The broken one was about an inch and a half wider at the base, and had a vertical handle, which was a little more comfortable to hold, but I think this will work okay for the limited use I need. Now I need to buy some more pigment…


Painting Final: Gina Applies Mascara

September 17, 2021

Here’s the latest version of my painting of Gina. It’s mostly finished, but I may keep making a few minor tweaks. I added some color to her face from what I showed last time, and finished the rest of the painting.


Painting Update: Gina Applies Mascara

September 13, 2021

Here’s an update on my painting of Gina that I started. I wanted the light to be bright on her face, but it might be a little too washed out. I’ll keep going with the rest of it, however, and then touch things up later.


New Painting Started: Gina Applies Mascara

September 6, 2021

I’m painting again. Started working on this today. It’s based on an old photo of mine of a friend, Gina, applying mascara as she looks in a mirror. The surface is a 9×12″ piece of white ABS plastic. I first made a line drawing of the photo to scale, and then transferred that to the panel. The paint is gouache, using raw sienna with a bit of yellow. I have a couple different ideas of where to go from here, and will probably merge them together somehow.


New Sketches: Protest Rally in Austin

August 1, 2021

I went to a protest rally yesterday in Austin, and found a shady spot below a tree on the Capital grounds to get in some sketches of the people sitting nearby. I used some sepia tone layout markers on letter sized rag paper.


New Drawing: Ella Taking Orders

June 25, 2021

I stopped in at Gordo’s Sandwich Shop the other day for lunch. Ella was behind the register taking orders, so I made a quick sketch of her while I waited, and then finished it later in the car as I ate. Luckily I managed to keep the mustard off the paper. The drawing is 9 x 12″ in pencil.


New Sketches: At Republic Park

June 13, 2021

Yes, yes, I know. I’ve been away for too long again. A thousand pardons! I’ve been busy trying to put money in the pocket. You know how it is. I did manage to get some free time to make a few sketches over the past week that I would like to share with you. I hope you’ll accept them as an apology, and I will try to be more frequent with posts in the near future. These are all done with pencil on 8.5 x 11″ paper stock. Feel free to click through them and comment.


Fixing Tangent Edge Problems in Artwork

April 18, 2021

A criticism that often gets made to the work of an artist is the confusion created by tangent lines or edges in their image (if it’s representaional.) Personally, I think too much is made of this point, like a singer who hits the wrong key in an otherwise flawless performance, which I can excuse. Nobody’s perfect, and sometimes it’s best if they don’t appear to be. However, I can also agree that it can be distracting, and easily avoided.

I recently posted the image above to an illustration art group. It’s a story illustration by one of the great artists of the 20th Century, Coby Whitmore. A friend made a comment that he wished the artist had drawn it so that it didn’t look like her left arm was deformed, or that a hand was growing out of her elbow. This is due to how the edges of the shapes line up, causing a visual confusion of their spatial relationships. I don’t want to presume why a professional artist such as Whitmore made these decisions, so I’ll just show how I would make changes to avoid those tangents, with the benefit of starting from his finished layout.

Firstly, this topic shows the importance of doing sketches and studies before you start painting what will be the final piece. Notice also that this appears to be painted in watercolor and/or thin gouache. Were it in acrylic or oils, painting corrections would be easier. As it is, I would want to make as few repaints as possible. If I start off with simple thumbnail sketches, it makes it easier to catch these tangent problems early, or more specifically to make an image that reads properly. As I said earlier, tangents can be useful in your design, but you have to make them look intentional, and not negatively distracting. In the sketch I made above, I changed her pose slightly by bending her left arm with her hand touching his wrist to avoid the possible tangents there entirely. I also transferred the gesture of her left hand over to her right to keep the same body language. Even after doing small line sketches like this, I would follow the sketches with some quick color studies as well to be sure that the colors and shape patterns were not also making the composition confusing.

Of course hindsight is always a luxury, but perhaps I had gone too far before I caught the problem area – then what? I certainly don’t want to start all over again, especially, if this is an illustration piece that is on a tight deadline, so repainting her pose is not ideal. One simple fix would be to repaint only the problem area of her arm and his wrist. In the image above I broke the curving lines of his knee and the bottom of her arm, and repainted the her sleeve to look like it had been rolled up to her elbow.

Another option would be to just change the color of her blouse. The light pink in the original looks too similar to the flesh tones, adding to the confusion of his hand seeming to be attached to her arm. Giving her blouse a darker value and color change helps separate the shapes more clearly. If I had to deliver the art quickly, this would be the fastest solution, and sometimes speed is necessary. There’s still some tangent issues with that sleeve, but that could be repainted as I did in the previous image.

While we’re talking about the art of Coby Whitmore, here’s one of my favorites by him. You’ll likely spot several more tangent edges and intersecting lines in this one, but they all read clearly due to the patterning of colors and values in the separate shapes.