Subscribers will have already read that I am running some online auctions as part of a fall sale. What's new in this post is that I have created a page on my permanent website dedicated to my auctions and special offers, which will provide a quick and easy way to view both my auctions and any other promotional sales I might be offering at a given time. I've just listed two new auctions this week and will be adding more in the weeks ahead, so be sure to bookmark the page and check back often!
Paintings of France, Italy, and Beyond ©Jennifer E Young
In addition to my travel up to Maine in June, I participated in two plein air festivals this summer. This was the first summer I have done this many "away" events in a long time but now that my daughter is getting a little older I felt like the time was right to give them a shot. The first was Floyd Plein Air, which took place in and around Floyd, Virginia in August. I had fully intended to live blog during this event, but I had zero internet or GPS anywhere in Floyd (not a great look for me, but somehow I survived ;-) ) I participated in the inaugural event for this festival a couple of years ago, under the name of "Plein Air Crush". This time around the festival was extended from a long weekend to an entire week. The weather was much better this time, which meant my paintings weren't covered in a layer of fine dirt like they were the first time around. Floyd is was a truly scenic venue for a plein air event, organized by the Floyd Center for the Arts. I met a lot of very fine painters during the event, but I found it to be equal parts congenial and competitive. Congenial because I really admired and respected the participating artists who took part in the event, but competitive because there was definitely a competition aspect (judges and awards given) which always adds a layer of stress ( at least for me) to the experience.
Nevertheless the event was a fun fledgling festival, and I had the chance to paint some beautiful scenery for an entire week, which culminated in a show at the Floyd Center for the Arts. Here are a few of my pieces painted during the festival:
Going through my notebooks and photos from my Maine trip, I'm made aware of just how many paintings I have swirling around in my consciousness, and never enough time to execute them all. I guess it's better than the alternative of a dry spell, but only slightly less frustrating.
The reality is that I'm a mom with a family and a household and a very busy summer on top of it., and since my return from the trip I have had to work in fits and starts, and not without some failure. Still, I do what I can to make time for art. Here's my latest, which was first attempted on site but had to be aborted when the wind turned my painting into a virtual kite!
Those boxy shapes you see are lobster cages. They are kind of an iconic symbol to me of this town. Vinalhaven once had its heyday as an island for quarry mining, but workers later turned to lobster fishing for their livelihood. The sun rises at 4:30 a.m., so I was told the fishermen are up by 3:30! Now that's dedication. A far sight more dedicated than I was on the evening I attempted to paint this scene. After my painting did a face plant there was nothing left to do but resign myself to the realities of the wind and eat a delicious lobster roll as consolation.
I have another Maine piece on the easel that I'm hoping to complete this week, and then I am off to Floyd, Virginia to paint with my fellow plein air painters in the Floyd Plein Air Festival. This is a week-long event of painting in the mountains, farmland, and vineyards in and around Floyd. I participated in the inaugural event a couple of years ago and we had lots of clouds, wind, and some rain. Here's hoping the weather is a little more cooperative this time around.
This painting had quite a few interruptions, so it took a while to bring to a satisfactory conclusion. But now that it is done, I feel pretty satisfied. This is another painting reflecting on my trip to Floyd County, Virginia this past fall:
As with all of my recent studio paintings, this piece was done in water miscible oil paints. I haven't said much about these paints lately, but since I have been working with them for a while now I feel I have enough experience with them to comment.
The main reason I decided to experiment with these paints is because of health. I have become more sensitive to a lot of things, and I've suspected for a while that painting with solvents has been giving me problems; especially when painting indoors. While it is possible to paint in traditional oils solvent -free (in the past I have used walnut oil, and now Gamblin has some good solvent-free products) creating initial washes is a challenge without solvents. I am also currently renting a studio space and I am sensitive to any possible odors that the other business might sense. Plus, cleanup is so, so much easier using just water.
Water miscible oils behave a lot like traditional oils, though there are some exceptions/ differences. There was a bit of a learning curve in that not only did I have to learn the properties of the paints, but the colors differed, sometimes significantly, from my go-to traditional oils that I had become accustomed to working with for nearly 20 years. In many ways, however, I actually prefer the water miscible oils. Below I will attempt to outline some benefits and possible disadvantages.
- Simple easy clean up with water! (This is really, really hard to overstate!)
- Combined with a medium formulated for this type of paint, creates luscious, buttery brushwork similar to and perhaps even exceeding ( depending on the application method) traditional oils.
- For myself, personally, I am finding that these paints retain their luster from wet to dry and I do not get the "sunken-in" effect that can sometimes happen with thinner passages in traditional oils. (As far as medium goes, the same rules apply as those for traditional paints; fat over lean, no more than around 20 % medium to paint, etc.)
- Most brands offer a varnish formulated specifically for water miscible oils, but so far I have found varnishing unnecessary. This is pretty big as it eliminates a considerable step from the finish.
- No or low VOC's and off-gassing, which means a much lower risk of toxicity for the artist.
- As for appropriate painting surfaces, there are not as many options as there are for traditional oil paints. My understanding is that acrylic gesso grounds are best for water miscible oils. Oil grounds and shellac on wood may be more problematic.
- Traditional bristle brushes tend to turn into soggy mops if too much water is present (I do limit the water, but I also use synthetic bristle brushes by Rosemary Brushes with my WM oils now. They behave like bristle brushes. They keep their shape well and have a great spring, but don't turn to mops. They are great for traditional oil paints too. (In short, they.are.awesome!!!)
- Too much water can also cause the paint to become cloudy or sticky,
- While these oils can be mixed/interchanged up to 25% with traditional oils, I have received little technical response regarding the interchangeability of the WM paints among other WM brands. Early indications recommended against this practice, given the different compounds used by different brands. I am still a little unclear about this, so out of caution I paint with Royal Talens Cobra exclusively right now. I like them very much and have been wary to mix with a different brand like WN Artisan paints.
- So far, there has been zero support from the manufacturer of these paints when I have written them about technical properties, though I have sent in at least three questions through their online channels requesting technical support. I like this paint overall, but. I find this highly unusual, especially in comparison to Gamblin whose support has always been stellar, and Winsor Newton's, whose is also very good.
- Due to the fact that these paints will react to water while they are wet, they can be a problem in a sudden rain storm. Not that painting without cover in the rain is good for any painting, but it sometimes happens unexpectedly when painting en plein air. For this reason, I still use traditional oils for plein air painting, either minimally using OMS or painting solvent free with safflower oil and the Gamblin solvent free gel. Plus, I still have quite a supply of traditional oils, so I will probably keep using them to some extent.
Slightly longer dry time. This may prove to be a con if you are up against the deadline, but since I am using these for my larger studio paintings I love, love, love this aspect. My schedule has been fairly erratic this year and It is so much easier to go back into a larger painting and rework it than it is with traditional oils. Even after a couple of days, the edges can still be manipulated somewhat and I don't get that "lip" of built-up texture that I would have to sometimes have to scrape down with a traditional oil painting that I let sit too long. I'd say given the way I paint, it takes a good 5 days for the water soluble oils to dry to the touch, as compared to about 3 days for the traditional oils.
How about you? Have you tried water miscible oil paints? Which brands did you try and what did you think?
Here on the east coast we have been experiencing a significant snow storm. We've been pretty much home bound this weekend, only venturing out into the back yard to get blasted with wind and snow right in the kisser. It's been far too windy outside to try and paint Plein Air, so I have attempted a couple of "Plein Kitchens" instead. I'm still noodling with those, but if they happen to turn out I will post them here on the blog. Once the wind dies down and the sun comes out (as it's supposed to tomorrow) I intend to will venture out and brave the cold to paint the winter wonderland. Here's what I was working on Friday, though, before my van got buried under a giant snow drift:
I still have quite a bit of work to do on it but I have been enjoying the way it has unfolded so far. This is another piece inspired by my trip in the fall to Floyd, VA for the Plein Air Crush event. It was pretty crazy weather there too much of the time, with lots of threatening rain clouds and wind (oh the wind!) But here and there I saw breaks, and whenever I did I tried to take lots of reference photos of this beautiful area. I'm not sure how soon I can dig myself out of the house and make it back over to the studio, but I will post an update when I do.