Sunrise Stroll

Back in spring as I was packing up and/or discarding my earthly belongings, I had imagined that by fall we would have begun working on a new studio at the new house. "Oh, I'll be up and running by winter," I thought. Well, I may have been a "tad" optimistic as we haven't come close to deciding how or even where we will fashion one.  In light of the constant waffling, we finally decided to rent a little temporary workspace for me, to take the pressure off a bit.

Viola! My little space. It's certainly a far cry from my former studio. It's tiny, it's dark, it's plain...but it's mine (at least temporarily). And I couldn't be happier to be back at work. :-)

What's missing in this picture is, of course, the easel. I will keep things simple (and light) by using my Soltek in here. I have also added a few additional lights to brighten things up a bit and make things a bit easier on the eyes.

To kick off the occasion, I dove into a subject I have been dying to develop since I painted it on location this summer- The Outer Banks of North Carolina. I was especially keen to dive into the concept of the sunrise, having tackled in en plein air in July:

"Sunrise Stroll", Oil on linen, 20x24", ©Jennifer E Young

"Sunrise Stroll", Oil on linen, 20x24", ©Jennifer E Young

Because I am renting this space and the ventilation is poor, I will only use water miscible oils here. So this, friends, marks another inaugural moment, of sorts--my first studio painting with Royal Talens Cobra water miscible paints.  I have to say, I am loving these paints in the studio. They stay open longer than my traditional oils, which makes it easier to manipulate edges and build up to lovely, lush texture without having to do it all alla prima.  The only criticism I have at the moment is that the Titanium White in this brand is rather weak. Maybe I just need to get used to the tinting properties of the other paint colors,  but I used  almost half of a 150 ML tube of paint on this one 20x24" painting. (And that's not *much* of an exaggeration.)  Otherwise, though, I am having a great time and am so happy to have a room to call my own to create and leave all of my toys lying about.

Morning Surf

Immediately after I wrapped up painting my sunrise painting, I turned to look up the beach toward the pier and noticed how lovely the waves looked lapping up on the curving shoreline. So since I finally felt like I was getting somewhere with these paints, I decided that this would be a back-to-back session, one piece after another. Here' s the beach in early morning, post sunrise, around 8:30 a.m. or so:

"Morning Surf" Oil on Canvas, 9x12"  ©Jennifer E. Young, All rights reserved

"Morning Surf" Oil on Canvas, 9x12" ©Jennifer E. Young, All rights reserved

For this painting and the prior sunrise one I had to lay the paint on pretty thickly to manipulate the edges the way I wanted. Also I found the titanium white and cadmium yellow light were much less intense than what I was used to with my traditional oils, so the highlights were painted very thickly indeed. I hadn't noticed this in my first venture with the Water Soluble oils, but it became much more apparent with these beach paintings because they are pretty high key.  Overall the effect seems to me to be closer to a palette knife painting than one done with a brush, though hog bristle brushes were all that I used.

I really enjoy painting the surf. While I have done it before a number of times  in the studio, these pieces were my first effort done completely from life. What a rush! I feel like I could spend a lifetime studying just this one subject...I should be so lucky.

Back from the beach

Last week my family made our annual trek to the Outer Banks of North Carolina. It is a trip I look forward to all year, and it always seems to be over all too soon. For this trip, I brought along my water soluble oils.  Given all of the moving and excitement we had this spring and summer, I thought I would simplify things a bit with the painting gear I chose to bring with me, and eliminate the need for carrying turpentine. The only problem with my little plan was that, unlike my first foray into this medium, I found myself struggling. A lot. I don't know if it was the humidity, the painting surfaces, my overall fatigue or what. But every painting I did all week was a complete wiper, in spite of my most valiant efforts.  The paint seemed to completely lack body and intensity. It also seemed to do nothing but smear all over my surfaces when I applied them.

Finally on the night before the last full day, it dawned on me that I should try a more absorbent surface. When I paint with traditional oils my preferred surface is one that is quite smooth --a fine weave linen or a shellacked birch panel. It was my understanding that shellac wasn't going to fly with water soluble oils, and my linen wasn't doing the job at all. So I dug around in my supply of panels and came up with a couple of gessoed birch panels and a Pintura gessoed canvas panel and decided to throw the old Hail Mary on the final day.

Here is the  first piece I did that last day, at sunrise:

"Sunrise at Nags Head" Water miscible oils on panel, 9x12"  ©Jennifer E Young

"Sunrise at Nags Head" Water miscible oils on panel, 9x12" ©Jennifer E Young

Finally I painted 3 pieces that I actually felt happy with! The paint was still harder to control than my beloved traditional oils, and I had a harder time mixing the colors I was aiming for, but at least the paintings actually looked like something I could show and/or use for reference when painting larger pieces. I will post the other paintings from that day in the coming days. Stay tuned!

Color isolator

My 5 year old and I have started playing a little color game called, "What color is that exactly?"  I'm trying to show her that colors are not always what they seem. The ocean may seem "blue", but which blue, exactly? And is it all blue? Or is it the same blue, from horizon to shoreline? One way to hone your color discerning skills is by using a color isolator. A color isolator is nothing high tech. It's basically a small hole that one can peer through to "isolate" a particular color from all others in a scene, in order to achieve better color accuracy.

There are little art tools sold to achieve this purpose, or you can peer through the small hole at the end of your palette knife. In a pinch you can concoct a small hole by peering through your curled up fingers. Last night at the restaurant my daughter and I were peering through straws. We even made a hole in a piece of my daughter's pita bread.

This worked really well, actually, though by this time my husband started trying to disassociate himself from the crazy people peeking at things through their appetizers.

The point is, by isolating a tiny portion of an object you eliminate the information overload that can often happen when painting outdoors, and it is easier to see the color and value more accurately.

First painting since the move!

After re-reading my post from yesterday I started to feel like a wimp, complaining about the heat and all. Then I tried it and realized that heat stroke does not improve your art one iota! All kidding aside, it was boiling lava hot outside on my patio. I only lasted about an hour before I decided I'd have to leave it until the next day, and pick up where I left off. And so I painted this piece over two sessions, noting the time of day and returning to wrap up at the same time this morning.

"A Taste of Summer" Water soluble oils on Linen, 12x12"   Jennifer E Young

"A Taste of Summer" Water soluble oils on Linen, 12x12"  Jennifer E Young

This little outdoor still-life setup includes the herbs and flowers I brought from my old place, as well as a big beautiful housewarming gift from our new neighbors (the pink and orange spray behind the basil). A  marriage of old and new,  I felt it was the perfect subject to kick off this new beginning.

I experimented with this painting using Cobra water-soluble oil paints by Royal Talens . I was inspired to try them when I started following the very talented painter Mark Hanson's discussions about them on Facebook and on his blog. I have friends who use water miscible oils, too, but having tried them before without success I haven't been compelled to try them again. But when Mark suggested that his migraine headaches may have gone away after switching to these oils, I took notice and decided to try this new (to me)  line of paints myself.

I have suffered from insomnia for years, and yet ever since we moved to the new house, I have only had two bad nights. That's pretty incredible! Coincidentally, with the exception of yesterday and today,  I have not painted since we've been here. Is it possible there is some other reason for my new-found improved sleep? Absolutely. But it's also possible the fumes were getting to me and I didn't even realize it. It has also bothered me for a while that I am eating as much organic and natural food as I can afford, I'm also inhaling volatile organic compounds on a daily basis in my work. And if we ultimately decide to set up my studio in our current attached garage, water soaked paper towels are going to be a lot safer than ones soaked with mineral spirits, odorless or not!

I first tried water-soluble oils several years ago. I believe they were Winsor & Newton's Artisan series. At the time I found the handling too gummy and tacky and not to my liking at all. I may not have given them a fair shake though, because in recent weeks I have read that you really should not thin your paints with water or it will produce that tacky, gummy effect and make the paints rather dull and cloudy looking. Instead, Mark advised not to rinse off your brushes too much with water, but to just wipe off the brushes as much as possible in between color mixture sinstead, and save the water for the final cleanup. If needed, use a water miscible oil painting medium created specifically for these paints rather than water to increase viscosity.

That advice made a world of difference and I found myself painting without fighting with my materials. There was a slight difference in the handling and a few old habits to overcome, but nothing so difficult as to put me off. I would say they did not flow as easily for me as my traditional oils, and the color intensity was a tad weaker, but not by a tremendous amount. On the other hand, they have absolutely no odor and seem like they would be great for travel.

From what I have read so far, the drying time may be a bit longer than what I'm used to. But that should not be an issue for ole' Pokey, here. I do hope they dry well and evenly, without any dull passages or great shifts in color or value. I will report back on this if I notice anything remarkable. I look forward to experimenting more with these paints. I really hope these will be my new go-to paints, and that I can ditch the OMS once and for all!