Coastal Shimmer

This has been the strangest winter. One week we have blizzards and the next tornadoes. Given all of this chaos it seems a very good idea to just cozy up in a warm studio and work out some ideas on some larger canvases. Granted, I'm still not painting on an enormous scale, but this 24x36" is the largest I've done in a while.

"Coastal Shimmer", Oil on linen, 24x36" ©Jennifer E Young

"Coastal Shimmer", Oil on linen, 24x36" ©Jennifer E Young

I kept the composition fairly simple. I wanted to see what I could do with brushwork and color to create the drama that I felt from the interplay of the sky and the dancing light on the water. This painting unfolded over a number of sessions and the paint is quite thick. I am currently searching for a way to be more expressive and less literal in my work. It is so, so much easier said than done! I am constantly fighting with my inner nature to control, to spell things out. My heart reaches for more expression, even abstraction; but my head still clings to realism. Somewhere in that conceptual arc lies my voice. I've been feeling around for it, and grazed against it a few times, but I still don't quite have it in my grasp. Nevertheless I did enjoy this painting. It's different than what I imagined it would be, but not in a bad way. And it's already given me some ideas about how I want to approach the next one. Onward ho!

Pasture in Evening Light, and pros/cons of WM oil paints

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:

"Pasture in Evening Light", Oil on linen, 24x30" ©Jennifer E Young

"Pasture in Evening Light", Oil on linen, 24x30" ©Jennifer E Young

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. 

Pros:

  •  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.
  •  Odorless
  •  No or low VOC's and off-gassing, which means a much lower risk of toxicity for the artist.

Cons:

  •  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.  

Pro/Con:

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? 

 

Bellagio From Above--Redux

The painting below was completed a while ago and has been sitting in my office since the move to our new home. So  I have had a lot of  opportunity to look at it lately with new eyes:

Version 1

Version 1

 While I liked the painting before, I felt it could be improved and opened up a bit more to give this view a little more breathing room. So I looked back through my image archives from my trip to the Italian lakes and found several different views from this approximate vantage point. I then followed my own guidance and decided to play around with the composition in Photoshop to see "what would happen if..." I really wanted to capture more of the beauty of the lush blues in the lake and the mountains beyond:

"Bellagio From Above" Oil on linen, 20x16" ©Jennifer E Young

"Bellagio From Above" Oil on linen, 20x16" ©Jennifer E Young

Of course, one change lead to another and my minor edits became quite a re-working. I oiled out the areas I wanted to repaint, and then set to task. This doesn't always work for me, as sometimes the paint layers have too much " skin' or texture, but this time around I guess the paint was more evenly applied.  I really like the way this turned out! It is much more aligned with the concept I had from the start- only now a little better executed.

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!