Thursday, March 24, 2016

Blog Redesign

I am looking into the possibility of redesigning the blog and changing the layout to a better more modern look. This will happen in the coming week or two, if I can manage to learn what needs doing.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

How to oil paint -- History of Art Technique

John Singer Sargent     Carnation Lily Lily Rose

The state of art today

Never before has there been such a range of materials from which an artist can choose. The modern painter is freer to choose what to paint than ever before, and creativity and originality is seen as the hallmark of genius in the painting world. However, there is a downside too, in that in the modern art world, the majority of artists painting today have little true knowledge of the skill and training passed down through generations by the painters of the 15th - 17th century, the old masters. The skills have been lost to the majority of artists, although fortunately not lost to all, and even though they have tried to be rediscovered, they are not taught widely and many successful artists are ignorant of how to paint with strong technical skill .
On the positive side, the move away from the old styles of painting (since 1700 onwards) have encouraged the discover of whole new ways of painting and many beautiful paintings and styles have emerged. This has brought a whole new appreciation of art in our society. So even a beginner artist can create a piece which will be well appreciated and contribute to the artistic world in their own style.
As I discover more about oil painting and reading about the old techniques, I realise I too have a very basic understanding of their techniques, and so I am on a journey to discover for myself what I lack in ability.

One thing I have discovered, is that many of the paintings from before 1700, are painted so technically well, that they are withstanding the ravages of time better than paintings that modern artists are creating, and that they could well outlast most of the paintings being created today. Will Jackson Pollocks paintings still be around in centuries to come on the wall beside an ageless Carravaggio or Van Eyck's The Marriage of Giovanni Arnolfini (1434, now 582 years old)? I sincerely doubt it. And so I believe it is important to try our best to understand our painting materials, more and more, in order to create our best work and ensure it has some durability too.

Friday, March 18, 2016

How to Oil Paint, Choosing colors for oil painting -- Part 4 of 4,

Van Eyck's The Marriage of Giovanni Arnolfini (1434)

How to Oil Paint, Choosing Colors for Oil Painting, Properties of Oil Paints...Drying Rate

Oil Paints unlike most other paints, change little as they dry in colour, but they do change slightly, becoming slightly darker and a little less brilliant. This is not really a noticeable change however.
So it is not really a concern to us as oil painters so much.

The rate at which the individual paints dry is important when you are building up a painting in layers. It is important to not paint fast drying paint layers over slow drying painting layers, until the slower drying layer is completely dry, in order to prevent the risk of problems occurring on the surface such as wrinkling or cracking of the paint in the future.

The very slow drying colours are titanium or zinc whites, ivory black, cadmium colours, vermillion and rose madder. Less slow drying but slow are ultramarine blue, cerulean blue and yellow ochre.

Colours with an average rate of drying are raw sienna, naples yellow, cobalt blue, chromium oxide (green), viridian, and earth red colours.

Fast drying colours are Prussian blue, raw umber, burnt umber, phthalocyanine blue, phthalocyanine green, flake white, burnt sienna and davy's gray.

So it can be seen that if you have a slow drying colour and you want to speed up it's drying rate, and you are also wanting to use a lighter shade, you can mix flake white instead of titanium white into the colour to quicken the drying rate. Alkyd mediums such as Liquin also help to speed up the drying process, although their primary purpose has been usually to make it easier for paint colours to flow under the brush.
If you like to see earlier parts of this article see Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3 for further properties of paint and choosing a palette for starting oil painting.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

How to Oil Paint, Choosing colors for oil painting -- Part 3 of 4

Photo I took last year on the way to work in Carlow, Ireland. A storm was on the way and I was driving when I saw this tree and had to stop.
Properties of Oil Paints -- Part 3
Depending on your style of painting, another property to consider is the transparency or opaqueness of each paint. Transparency is the degree to which a colour allows light to past through it from above, and allow this light to reflect back to your eye from the colour underneath. If you paint a transparent yellow over a blue paint, the eye will see a greenish colour. This is because the blue is covered by the yellow but is allowed to reflect light back through the transparent yellow to your eye. 
Paints like ultramarine blue or burnt sienna are transparent and make good paints for glazing. If you like to build up the paint in layers choose transparent colours. Adding white to a colour will reduce it's transparency.
Here is a list of transparent colours:
Viridian, Ultramarine Blue, Prussian Blue, Phthalocyanine Blue, Phthalocyanine Green, Green Gold, Ultramarine Violet, Cobalt Violet, Rose Madder (not so light fast), Manganese Violet, Indian Yellow (not so light fast), Transparent Oxide Yellow, Transparent Oxide Brown, Ivory Black, Quinacridone Gold, Transparent Oxide Red.
Here is a list of semi-transparent colours:
Cobalt Blue, Transparent Gold Ochre, Aureolin (not so light fast), Burnt Sienna, Burnt Umber (some brands), Raw Sienna, Davy's Grey.
If your style of painting is to fill in large dense blocks of colour, you should consider working with more opaque (non-transparent) colours that cover areas well. Opacity is also called covering power, the power to block out an underlying colour.
Here is a list of semi-opaque colours:
Yellow Ochre, Raw Umber, Greenish Umber, Vermilion, Burnt Umber (some brands), Deep Ochre, Gold Ochre, Burnt Green Earth.
Here is a list of opaque colours:
Flake White, Titanium white, Naples Yellow, Mars Yellow, Mars Orange, Cadmium Orange, Cadmium Yellow, Cadmium Red, Mars Red, Mars Violet, Mars Brown, Venetian Red,
Indian Red, Light Red, Brown Ochre, Terra Rosa, Red Ochre, Chromium Oxide Green, Cerulean Blue, Mars Black.
I hope this helps those beginning to paint out there, stop back another time to see more information on choosing paints, in part 4 in next few days. Also check out part 1 , part 2 and part 4 of this article.

Monday, March 14, 2016

How to Oil Paint, Choosing colors for oil painting -- Part 2 of 4

Art Instruction, Choosing Colors for Oil Painting -- Part 2 Paint Properties 

Many art colleges and universities have over the last years especially, focused their attention when instructing art students, on encouraging the students to work primarily on their creativity and to "express themselves". However this has meant that the actual materials they should use to express this creativity have often been overlooked.

As you progress your journey in becoming an oil painter, you may like / should try to learn a little about the various different properties that individual paint colours possess. Apart from the obvious properties to consider such as hue, value and colour, there are properties such as transparency, opaqueness, oil content, type of oil, pigment content and light-fastness of the paint colour. Also how fast they dry, their tinting strength and their consistency. Then there are factors of compatibility with other pigments. Lastly, and important too, some paints contain lead and care needs to be taken in working with such paints. Different manufacturers will mean the same colour could be slightly different from brand to brand also.

The most important property of a paint colour is it's light-fastness.

Colours fade when their molecules are broken down when exposed to the power of light, the shorter the wavelength the more the power the light will have. So UV light packs a punch. Some pigments are better at withstanding this attack. Iron Oxide colours and heavy metal colours, such as cadmium or cobalt can withstand UV light.

If you want to protect your artwork from fading, then it is best to choose colours with good light fastness properties and avoid displaying the painting in direct sunlight. This means - how likely is the paint to fade in colour over time. Quite a bad feeling if you see your beautiful portrait of a loved one fading into obscurity after a few seasons on the wall....So what should you do?
Look to buy paints with an ASTM (American Society for Testing Materials) rating of I (very light fast) or II (lightfast enough to use for painting).
If you use ratings III, IV or V then the colours will change in time and may fade completely. Alizarin Crimson is one of the paints that is best avoided as it is not light fast. A good alternative is Permanent Rose, also called Quinacridone Rose or Rose Lake. It is PV19.
Different brands have different notation. Winsor & Newton use A (permanent), AA (extremely permanent), and also the above I,II,III system too sometimes. Daler & Rowney Georgian brand use Permanence followed by *** symbols. Three stars is fine and four is best.

The next quality perhaps to consider is the quality, or pigment content of the paints.

Depending on the brand, most paints come in two grades, artists and students. Artists grade paints are made with the higher amount of pigment content and less extenders, and they produce stronger more vibrant levels of colour. They also cost a lot more in some cases! If you are starting out, it might be worth while to buy the student grades for now. The difference is not so noticeable, I have found, although the fact that paints can last a lifetime depending on your rate of working, and use of a colour, perhaps the better investment is to go for the more expensive brand when you can afford it. I use the best I can afford when I am doing commission work or work for sale.

For more tips about properties see part 1 , part 3 and part 4 of this article.