Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Memento Mori begun

I'm definitely doing something wrong - the paint shouldn't act this way. I think it's because I used some really old oil paint that was stiff as hell and thinned it with nothing but walnut oil. It ended up like a thick gel, and whenever I'd put some on I'd have to spend 10 minutes carefully lifting off most of it because it was too - I don't know - wet, thick, something. It was leaving thick ridges from the brush bristles. I probably did a lot more work scrubbing with rags and brushes than actually painting. And even though halfway through I realized the light values are too light and put in some darker paint over it, they're STILL way too light.

I *THINK* what it needed was some Turpenoid added to thin it down to a more workable consistency. And I'm 100% convinced that getting the paint to the right consistency is key. Once I crack that I expect to make massive progress rapidly.

And my shoulders are sore as hell from holding the brush out in front of me all day - somehow it hurts both shoulders even though I only used one.

But I consider it a good day spent painting. More mistakes down, closer to knowing how to do this right. And I really do like the way it's starting to look.

The approach I'm using is from Harold Speed's The Science and Practice of Oil Painting.

The relevant advice from the Speed book - This is a monochrome painting - recommended for students in the beginning. Use solid color - wet into wet. Work hard to get the drawing (shapes, proportions) right, get the values right, and the edges - but on the 1st day all you do is the basic forms - the biggest shapes (I probably got too detailed already). You're only supposed to block in the mass light and mass shadow and the halftones. He recommends using 2 values in the light (light and halftone) and only one for shadow - I couldn't work that minimalistically, I had to include 2 shadow values - ok, probably more like 3 actually.

I was getting exhausted - especially my aching burning shoulders, and kept thinking "I'm almost there now", but then I'd see something else that needed attention, another hour down, then another, then another… eventually I just had to call it a day and clean up my brushes. I don't feel like I quite got everything worked out the way I'd really like. It needs some darker shadow on the lower front teeth on the shadow side, and the edges aren't really worked out well enough, mostly they're all firm or soft.

But I expect to be able to pick up tomorrow and go right back to work on it, since I put a drop of clove oil in each pile of paint. That;s supposed to keep the paint wet and workable for days, maybe a week or more, and I:m not using the walnut alkyd medium (which speeds drying time) or turpenoid (ditto). I hope for this to essentially be a long alla prima painting.

Oh, interesting note - it's the first time I've used actual oil paint for many years - it's always been alkyds. As soon as I opened the 1st tube, I immediately recognized the smell of clove oil - I didn't realize it must be put in oil paints to make them dry more slowly, as opposed to the alkyds, which are meant to dry overnight uniformly.

I really like the uniformity and more fluid consistency of the alkyds, and next time I'll use them and compare. 

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