Posts Tagged ‘materials’


Using Tyvek Polyethylene Fabric for Artwork

June 9, 2018

I recently purchased a large sheet of synthetic fabric that I wanted to experiment on as a painting surface. It’s called “Tyvek,” made by DuPont, and is a paper-like fabric made of polyethylene fibers. There are different brands out there that have different textures, and other features. The sheet I bought is 60×52 inches, and came folded in a letter sized envelope. I’ve seen rolls of it in larger sizes at hardware stores with “Tyvek” printed on it in large type. This was blank, and other brands in rolls may be also. This sheet is 43 GSM (grams per square meter) which is very thin, but it’s extremely tear resistant. Some other brands I’ve seen have a puffed up canvas-like texture, but this is smoother.

The folded sheet has creases, but I was able to mount it to a scrap piece of 9×12 inch mat board, and that removed the crease. In the picture above, the Tyvek board is on the left. I used an acrylic gel medium, and also painted the back of the mat board with a single coat to flatten it out when it dried, and then folded over the edges of the fabric to the back.

In this photo above you can see what looks like wrinkles, but it’s actually very smooth. These are fibers that leave wavy streaks of matte and sheen lines that looks something like wood grain. If you wanted to leave areas unpainted this would be seen, but an opaque coat of paint would hide it.

Here I’ve scribbled some ink lines to on the back to show an example of what that media looks like on this surface. Even though it’s soft to the touch, it does have a texture. You can see a grid of square lines running through it like a canvas weave. A thick paint layer would cover that, but thin washes would not. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but something to keep in mind. I used sumi ink with a brush, a PITT brush pen, and a ZIG Millennium marker. Markers draw well on this in general, but water based inks may bead up some. Metal dip pens don’t work so well, tending to snag on the surface. Dry media, like charcoal or pastels work okay, but this is a little too smooth to be ideal for them. Hard leads of graphite or wax pencils don’t work very well either.

Once I figure out what to paint on this, I’ll show an example of how it performs with paints. I may just paint example swatches and nothing in particular, but I’ll still wait for a later posting.


New Sketch and New Water Brush Pens

June 6, 2018

Lately, I’ve been working regularly with my water brush pen, so I decided to get a few more to add to the family. These are made by a company called Cocoboo. The set of six pens cost me $9, with 3 sizes of round and flat brushes. They each hold about 6.5 ml of liquid.

Below is a rough sample of the type of strokes these brushes make, using liquid sumi ink inside the handles. If you look closely at the rounds, when they are first filled or wiped dry, you can get decent dry brush effects, even though the brush stays filled with ink. Also, notice with the flat brushes (#2 medium, and #3 large) that the first strokes at the top look like multiple strokes from the brush, but are actually single strokes. This is caused by the way the brush hairs tend to separate when they’re wet, and clump together. As the drawing goes along, and the hairs get more saturated with liquid, they get more uniform, and make a solid stroke.

This closeup shows how the flat tips tend to clump together when wet. When you lightly drag the brush across the paper this way, you’ll get multiple lines from a single stroke. As you press down, the hairs will come together in a more uniform stroke. Working with these, you will get a feel for their behavior.


Framemaking: Cleaning Dust On Acrylic Sheet

June 4, 2018

To follow up on the previous post where I assembled a frame for my painting, I wanted to show how I clean the acrylic sheet that will be part of the frame. If you’re fortunate enough, unlike me, to work in a space that doesn’t have carpeting, you’ll be less likely to get very much hair and dust on the sheet, where the static acts like a dust magnet.

The first thing I do is to work on top of a dark sheet of paper or mat board, so I can see the dust easily. I place the frame with the plastic sheet face down on the paper, and use a large paint brush to sweep the dust to the center. The sheet didn’t seem to be that dirty, but you can see the ring of dust I gathered in the center. Next, I wet a “microfiber” polyester rag with a little rubbing alcohol, and pick up the dust.

To finish up, I hold the plastic at an angle to a light source, and spot any missed dust or smudges. Be careful to not touch the face of the plastic with your fingers to avoid smudges as much as possible. The last step is to place in the backing, flip the frame over, and clean the front.

I’m using these window turn buttons to hold the foamcore on the back. I ran out of the flatter type of buttons made specifically for frames, which I’ve ordered. The local hardware store had these which will work if the order doesn’t get here in time; although they sit a little high off the back. The frame is now ready for a hanging wire and label.


Refilling a Pentel Color Brush Pen

May 8, 2018

In the above image I’m showing two Pentel Color Brush Pens. The one on the bottom is brand new, but the one on the top is an old one I’ve taken apart. The way Pentel sells these pens is that the bottom section can be replaced with another handle that is already filled with ink. That struck me as wasteful, and I figured out a long time ago how to fill it with new ink of my own choosing. Also, their old pens only came with dye based inks. They now sell a pigmented ink option, which is in the bottom pen here.

To refill these pens (this method works with the new ones too,) You have to disassemble everything. You carefully pry off the plug (D) from the handle (B), and then remove the two tubes (C) attached to the plug. I use a 1ml syringe to fill the handle with ink. It holds about 7ml of liquid. Don’t fill it completely full, so that there’s a little bit of air to push the ink into the brush top. Replace the plug on the handle without the tubes, and screw the brush top back on. On the new brushes, you are supposed to leave off the spacer ring (F) for the top to screw all the way down, but on my old one I needed to keep the ring between the top and the handle to make a good seal. Gently squeeze the handle until the top fills with ink. It will take a long time for the ink to fill into the brush, so I do this a few hours ahead of time. Replace the cap (E) to keep the brush from drying out. There are different size brushes available, too, including a flat style. I’ve seen other brands that have different sizes of flats, also.

You can refill these with any type of ink, but I would recommend not using a type that is waterproof, such as shellac or acrylic inks. These can dry inside the brush top and make it useless except possibly as a dipping brush. It is possible to use those inks if you give the brush a good cleaning after each use, but that can be tedious, and the inside of the top is hard to get completely clean. You have to fill the handle with water, screw the top back on, and squirt it through the brush a few times. Sumi inks work very well, and are available in a limited range of colors. Since they’re not waterproof, you don’t have to worry about leaving the ink in the brush. Fountain pen inks also work well, but are not pigmented.

Pentel also sells another similar style tool called a “Aquash” brush. I’m showing one here filled with sumi ink that’s been slightly diluted. This is mainly sold for watercolor painting, but will work with ink the same way I’ve described above. However, for watercolor painting you only fill the handle with water, not paint. This allows you to dip the brush on your palette and use different colors as you would with a regular brush. The water in the handle keeps a constant flow of water on the brush. To refill it you just unscrew the top, and add the liquid in the handle – no plug or tubes to deal with. When refilling it with ink, don’t press the syringe tight against the rim of the handle. Instead, leave a little bit of an opening to let air in, so the ink will flow inside properly. If your syringe has a needle, that won’t be necessary, but needles are a little harder to clean.


Considering Selling the Casein Paint I Make

January 20, 2018

I continue to be wrapped up in a family crisis, so I haven’t yet gotten back to my painting, but hope to tomorrow. In the meantime, I made up some more casein paint yesterday. This time I made some yellow ochre.

It came out very good. The paper shows a thin wash, and an undiluted sample painted over a black sharpie ink marker. I decided to use my last empty 45ml tube instead of the new 37s I got recently.

All this paint I’ve been making has got me wondering if anyone would be interested in buying some tubes of paint from me. Right now I have a bunch of burnt umber, titanium white, red oxide, and this yellow ochre. I have a few small jars of other colors, but can easily get more. I could put together a “basic set” of six tubes, such as what Richeson does with their caseins. I’m sure I could affordably sell it for $15 to $20, and possibly individual tubes as well for $3 or $4. That would be much cheaper then Richeson. Not sure how I would market them. Perhaps an Etsy page, or a Go Fund Me project would work. Does this sound like something any of you would be interested in? If so, please leave me some feedback.


Making Red Oxide Casein Paint for New Painting

January 7, 2018

As I’m starting to work on the background of the new painting, I noticed I was too low on the red oxide paint that I wanted to use, so I needed to mix up some more.

I also wanted to test out the package of Bob’s Red Mill milk powder I bought recently to see how well it works for making a casein binder. 1 quart of rehydrated milk gave me a little less than 6 ounces of casein when I added 1/2 cup of vinegar. That’s the separated milk liquid on the right. I’m used to seeing the milk coagulate into a large ball after I add the vinegar, which I then tear it into small pieces so it will dissolve better. This milk forms small clumps of casein instead, as seen here, so that saves me an extra step.

I added about 2 teaspoons of Borax diluted in 1/2 cup distilled water to this casein, and let that sit for about 24 hours to form a thick smooth gel. This will be my paint binder.

The red oxide pigment was purchased from Camden Grey. A one pound bag cost me only $3. It makes a lovely dark red burgundy color that mixes very easily with my binder. I’m waiting on an order of empty paint tubes to arrive, so I’m using a one ounce jar in the meantime.

Here’s a scan of the paint on a piece of watercolor paper. I painted it over some black Sharpie marks to show how opaque it is. It also thins down nicely. Now I’m ready to get back to work.


Testing Gesso Made from Cellulose Gel

October 1, 2017

A few days ago I was scanning the internet looking for raw art supply materials, and I came across a site that sold a gesso mix using methyl cellulose. This was “Eco Gesso” sold by Natural Earth Paint. I was surprised, but intrigued. I’ve used methyl cellulose (MC) and Carboxymethyl cellulose (CMC) as art mediums before, but not in this manner. (Here’s a link to a previous post using MC mixed with oils.) I’ve made gesso before using rabbit skin glue (RSG) or casein for many years. My first reaction to one of this type was that MC or CMC would be too weak by comparison to serve as an effective foundation for painting; however, being naturally curious, I decided to try to make some of my own, and test it out. A $30 kit from Natural Earth sounded like too much to pay for experimenting.

I’ve read that CMC has a stronger bond than MC, so I took a teaspoon of CMC powder, and converted it into a gel by adding eight teaspoons of distilled water.

Next I added water to thin this out, and solids to make the gesso. That’s the gesso in the metal bowl.

I took a scrap panel I had, 8 x 10 inches, patched it up a bit, and applied the first thin coat.

Here’s the finished panel with 8 coats.

I had to make 3 different attempts at this. The first batch of gesso I made, using the same ratios of CMC gel that I use with either RSG or casein was too thick, and the end result on the dry panel was dusting off too much, leading me to believe the glue was too weak to hold that much gypsum. This panel is the second attempt, which had 25% less solids, but the same glue strength. It went down very smoothly, and although it didn’t powder off as badly as the first one, it still was rather weak. I could wipe the surface and get a powdery residue. I made a third attempt by using less water in the glue, and it didn’t brush on as smoothly, but still dusted off.

In summary, this gesso is much weaker than those made using RSG or casein, just as I first suspected. However, it’s not completely unusable. It’s like painting a fresco. Wet paint will turn pastel from mixing with the surface powder, but still hold. You can see the difference of this burnt umber paint on the CMC gesso panel compared to the same paint on a scrap piece of watercolor paper. If one doesn’t mind that desaturation of color, then it can work acceptably with either water based or oil based paints. The CMC powder can be found online very easily. I bought mine at a local ceramic supply store. It doesn’t have to be heated or refrigerated like the other glues, but can grow mold. A drop of preservative, like thymol, will prevent that. Personally, I’ll stick to the other glues. They make a stronger surface and are more versatile, but it’s good to know there’s an alternative.