Tuesday, November 17, 2015

How to Buy Paint

I went to Blick this week for some blue water based ink for my Christmas card, and since I had to sit in traffic for an hour to travel 10 miles it felt like I should stock up on whatever I need. I picked up a canvas for a series of aquatic dinosaur skeleton paintings I have been working on, researching, and sketching. I visualized the 3'x4' field of black and thought I probably needed more black paint. I took my new things home and put them away and found I already had two full tubes of black. That always seems to happen to me; I have a poor memory for which colors are running low.

I have an old painting I started a year ago that doesn't really fit into the series. It is a plesiosaur as discovered on site, before restoration, so it is twisted up and dead rather than animated. I don't really remember why but I thought it was a neat way to follow the boxy shape of the canvas and I had taken a million photos of interesting rocks thinking I would explore those in oil paintings, so maybe I intended to render the rock bed in an interesting way. I want to get this painting cleaned up and done because it has been languishing so long. I took stock of my remaining oil paints and chose a cool red for the background, but it wouldn't open for anything so I used warm orangey red (cadmium red light). It was smoother and easier than I remember and I had a nice time defining the shapes of the bones for a session.

Then I put away my paints and made an inventory list so I would stop buying duplicates Artist's grade paint is sold in tiers called series, which are determined by cost and concentration of the pigment. Series 1 will be white, black and brown, and might be $25 for 6 ounces while blue and red from the same brand in the same brand and grade can cost $100. The cost, and in the case of acrylics the lack of longevity, is why I don't just keep a lot of everything on hand. Also, you can't really layer or mix different sorts of paints freely and I have never settled on one. Oil paints make better paintings because they are luminous and have a long working time but if you want to paint any little sculpture like a brooch or an ornament or a little figurine acrylic is nice because it doesn't leach oil into the thing or need a base coat. You don't have to baby it. So I need both sorts for different projects, and then when I travel or sketch on location I use watercolors because they don't ruin anything and you can leave clean up for never with no harm done.

Since it has been so long since I worked on this painting I don't recall all the little decisions I made about placement and color, and outlining it has been a nice way to rediscover them. Even if it is very rough it is sort of charming. I am planning to leave the background layer as translucent as possible without losing the vibrancy in order to display the different planning stages that are still there, in pencil and what I think is watercolor but might be watered down acrylic. You can see in the top photo at bottom right I started to paint a shoulder or a wrist and then decided to move it so just crossed it out with paint. I thought it would be covered by a thick, detailed layer of paint but I am learning not to control things so much. 

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