30 December 2006

George Michael

Our oldest kids shared an apartment and together got a kitten, which they named George Michael. He came to stay with us over the Christmas holidiays, and somehow it sort of felt like we were babysitting a grandchild. A foretaste, perhaps. Here was great subject matter for a painting, but how to get him to stay still long enough for a photo? Finally I managed to catch him staring intently at something out the window. This one would be done in casein, using my newly acquired techinques.

Casein is a very obedient paint, unlike watercolor. It goes where you put it, but nothing more. Some people like that. But I found that I was missing the 'give and take' of watercolor. There is a kind of partnership with watercolor. You do this, and it will do that. You start the process, and it will complete it while you are out of the room. Its a bit like giving a horse the reigns and it will find its way home. I had the hardest time getting the paint to blend the way I wanted along the window sill in this painting. The watercolor would have known what to do. But this stuff! I had to tell it everything.

I attempted two more casein paintings, but not being happy with how they were going, abandoned them both. During this time I also bought a nice set of water soluable oil paints. Seven months later they are still in their box. Maybe someday, but I could hear my watercolors calling me back.


I don't know how it happened, but I started to get interested in an opaque medium called casein. Paint is applied like oil or acrylic and has similar characteristics. It is thinned with water but doesn't harden on the pallete the way acrylic does, so it sounded ideal. There is not much information on this fairly obscure medium, so I started reading books on oil painting technique. The self-taught approach kicked into research mode as I read everything I could from the local libraries. I was peeking over the fence so to speak into the land of an entirely different way to paint. It was a strange country where a foreign language was spoken. Impasto? Scumbling? Gesso?

After the research, it was time to try it. Theory and practice. Both are good. As I had done in the past, I turned to the work of an artist I admired, in this case acclaimed oil painter Caroline Jasper. Although I was working in casein, the method was the same, and I copied her piece entitled "Expectations". She (and therefore I) started this painting by painting everything red. What a strange thing it was to dab thick white paint over a dark surface. But fun too. See that little mistake? Well now you see it, now you don't...ha ha ha.

This wasn't Kansas anymore.

20 December 2006

Kelly Vee

My uncle, I call him Uncle, is about as intensly interested in car racing as my dad is interested in tug boats. That intensity must run in the family. After following racing for decades, he finally left the spectator stands and bought his own race car, the vintage Kelly Vee, which he races himself. Not bad for a 65 year old. I saw him race once, and I saved the best photo I took for a painting. A suprise Christmas gift. I did only this one Christmas painting , as opposed to the previous year when I did six, which was kind of a lot.


Some of the impressionists experimented with pointilism: painting with small dots of color, and letting the eye do the blending. I wanted to give it a try too. So I bought a couple of very small flat brushes, and went to work on a 15"x22" format rhododendron. Most brush marks were less than 1/4" square. An interesting process, and I'm glad I tried it. But I missed the broad watery sweeps of a loaded brush. I don't think you'll see me doing one of these again any time soon...