Archive for February, 2019


Two New Sketches: Eva and Miguel

February 24, 2019

I have two recent pencil sketches to show that I made while visiting my friends, Eva and Miguel, who were kind enough to pose for me. I had to give Miguel a paper to read to stop from fidgeting so much.


Homemade Fixative from CMC Powder

February 9, 2019

Carboxymethyl cellulose (CMC) is a material I’ve written about before, that works as an oil and water emulsifier for use as a painting medium. It has an adhesive quality that should also work as a fixative. I’m testing out a batch of it by comparing it to the homemade casein fixative I’ve been using for some time now. Fixative, if you’re not familiar, is a spray finish applied to dry media, such as charcoal, to keep it from smearing.

jars of CMC gel and fixatives

First, the CMC powder was converted into a glue gel by adding 8 parts (tablespoons) water to 1 part powder. I let this sit for a few hours for the water to be completely absorbed and the lumps to disappear before using that to make a fixative solution.

Sheet of glass sprayed with fixative

The proportions as I use for casein fixative is 1 part gel, 2 parts alcohol, and 5 parts distilled water, so I made the CMC version with the same proportions. It seemed to be a little thicker than the casein, but still sprayed okay with the Preval sprayer. You can see in the first photo above that the CMC is clearer than the casein fixative, but both look the same when sprayed on a sheet of glass.

test marks sprayed with fixative

I took a small sheet of grey cardboard for my smear test, and drew some dry media marks on both sides using a soft pastel, charcoal, an 8B pencil, and white chalk. On the left the marks were not fixed, and on the right I sprayed three coats of the CMC fixative.

Holding the cardboard up to the light you can see a slight darkening of the paper from the CMC. It has a very slight satin sheen, but is mostly matte and clear. I also smeared the marks on the left to demonstrate the difference. After wiping the fixed side with some pressure using a paper towel I got no transfer at all from any of the marks on the right. I would call the test a success! Even the chalk seemed to hold up very well without darkening in value. CMC appears to work just as well as casein for a homemade fixative, but more time will be needed to see if it holds up as well. I’m encouraged by this test.

For now, I’ll likely continue making casein fixative, since I have some stock of it to use up. That brings up the major point in the difference between the two: shelf life. CMC powder can be stored indefinitely in a drawer, while casein has a limited shelf life, even as a dry powder. CMC is organic matter and can also grow mold when made into a gel, so I’ve added a drop of tymol as a preservative, not required if you make small batches or use it up quickly. As with casein fixative, the CMC can be drawn over, but you don’t want the total layers to get too thick; four or possibly five coats at the most.


Drawing Final: Mother and Child

February 7, 2019
drawing of mother and child sitting in a chair

Here’s where I stop on the drawing for now. It will need a little cleaning up, and I haven’t decided what to do with that dark void on the upper left.

The water putty surface worked out well for this media. I wish I had made it a little smoother with how this drawing went along, but it came out okay. A box cutter knife turned out to be my best tool for scratching lines, and I discovered dragging it slowly gave me the best results. It was an interesting exercise. I also picked up some Prismacolor NuPastel earth tones, and Conte pastel pencils to help me get sharper marks.


Drawing Update 3: Mother and Child

February 4, 2019

More of the drawing has been laid down. I’ve filled in the chair, and have much of the figures drawn in. It’s a slow process with layers made by lightly drawing in an area, blending that, scratching some, and drawing in again, scratching, etc. This builds up texture that I can’t get any other way.