Sunday, November 6, 2011

Palette Cups, by Larry Seiler

For years I have read Larry's ideas, and information, and was thrilled to receive this small oil painting from him. This artist has contributed more to other artists than he is likely to ever know. Reading is one thing, as is seeing pictures, but it is quite impressive to own a piece, and be able to directly observe the masterful brush strokes. An inspiration, and treasure.

Colors, shadows, composition, contrasts, balance, the idea, it has it all. Also, the panel (support) is absolutely impressive! Thanks Larry.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Making Oil Paint: Ivory Black

I received some genuine ivory black pigment from a friend who makes it from scratch, using mammoth ivory. No elephants were harmed to obtain this pigment. Ivory charcoal was made using a traditional method, and then milled into pigment form. The pigment from the ivory bark produces a black that is very similar to bone black. The pigment which derives from the inner part of the tusk is very different than bone black, and when mixed with white, produces a grey, which leans blue.

The pigment is not uniform in particle size, and is initially coarse. This black is very versatile, and makes a very oil rich paint. Since this amount was only 150 mg, I used a couple of glass dishes, and a large palette knife. For larger amounts a glass muller and slab are better suited. The oil is cold pressed linseed oil, which is very good for those who make their own paint. It wets the pigment very well.

The ivory black pigment is placed in a glass container, and linseed oil is added in small amounts, and mixed with the pigment. This forms a slurry, and is the precursor to paint. At this point, the particles are not encapsulated in oil, and there are agglomerations throughout. Again, the particles are not uniform, and will be broken down in size while mulling progresses.

Initially it is very loose, and oily. It will drip right off of a palette knife, and is in no way a paint at this point.

The oily slurry is placed on a glass dish, and ground out with a palette knife. It is initially very course, despite being loose and oily. This is ground, and thickens up, as the particles are broken down and smashed into the oil, so that each little particle is fully surrounded by linseed oil. If this doesn't happen, problems with the paint can result, later in the life of the painting. In this picture you can see the course pigment, and the small amounts of linseed oil that I have added with a dropper. The additional linseed oil is mulled into the mix.

In this picture you can see that the material has been worked a great deal, and there is quite a bit more oil in it. It is smoother, but still requires work.

This is further along, and quite a bit smoother. I tend to stretch this out quite far, and work it until it appears to dry out. Then add more oil, and work that in until it feels very smooth, with not the slightest gritty feel. When it is ready, despite having a great deal more oil than at the onset, it is very smooth, and firms up, so that it has body.

The end result is a very smooth, highly pigmented paint, that has body but is more loose than modern tube paints. This particular color is very rich in oil, and therefore not good for underpaintings. It is better when used in later layers, and is excellent for mixing with most other colors. At the end of this batch I added a very small amount of baltic amber varnish that I made, which adds a bit to the body, and provides several other advantages. When I finish mulling the paint, I place it with a small palette knife into empty aluminum tubes specially made for this. Although time consuming, as with anything else, the more that one does something the quicker it becomes.