Monday, February 27, 2012

Pen & Ink Art

Around 1949 the kid next door showed me his ink drawings from a comic book of the super heroes of the day.  Being very impressed I began drawing in ink with a fountain pen.  In those days, you either drew with a pencil or an ink pen, fountain or dip type.  There were no alternatives yet. One day I acquired a few special pen nibs to enhance the drawings.  This kept me happy for a long time.

In 1990, my interests in art moved to pencil drawings with a watercolor wash on top.  A technique learned in architecture school for project presentations during the "60's.

Pencil with Watercolor

Pencil with Watercolor (The whites are unpainted paper.)

Several years later a friend gave me a gift of a Pelikan M 150 fountain pen.  It had an internal cartridge with a semi-transparent window to check the ink level.  I replaced the ink cartridge with an optional screw like filler.  Then I could use any ink at all. The pen wrote smoothly with a generous ink flow.  This would also be really good for drawing.

So now with a good pen, the quest began to find appropriate inks.  It had to be waterproof, non-fading and permanent. Various technical inks were tried, blended and tested.  A concoction worked well and the formula was recorded. The drawing began in earnest.

These two sketches represent the loose, free flowing sketching with the Pelikan pen and my ink mixture.  Drawing in ink requires careful planning of the drawing composition. Once the pen point touches the paper, you are committed.  There are no erasures or covering up.  It's done.

In drawing with pencil outlines underneath watercolors, the line work becomes obscured.  Using a brownish, water proof ink mixture in the pen left a visible but not over powering line.  See below.

Brown Ink Pen and Watercolor

Brown Ink Pen and Watercolor

A few years ago, the Pelikan pen gave out after heavy usage. The new pen is a popular writing pen, Lamy Safari. Since I use my own ink mixture, I bought the  accessory converter, a screw type refill plunger. The snap on cap with the "O" ring seal keeps the nib from drying out for a long time. In the barrel is a vision slot to check the ink level.  Lamy comes in various nib sizes: very fine, fine, medium, broad, and about three italic sizes.  The nibs are available separately and very easy to change. The body case comes in seven colors and some model variations. The Lamy is about a third of the cost of the Pelikan M 150 as well.

Lamy Safari Ink Pen

In mixing my own inks, I discovered Noodler's Inks in a generous 3 oz. bottle.   When mixing ink colors to adjust the stock color, stay within the same brand and type of ink to keep the chemistry the same. I started with brown and added a little of their black to darken the brown shade.

To see the various types and colors of Noodler's ink, go to their website.  A chart gives the characteristics of the colors. The number of colors is amazing. They have the very best inks that I ever found. 

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Examples of Brushes

Brushes are ancient tools and have developed to serve many specialized uses.  To see some of the brushes, not usually shown in most art catalogs, look at the New York Central on line Supply Catalog, pages 68 to 105.

The following collection was accumulated over many years in the studio for the application of ink, watercolor, gouache, acrylic gouache, casein, sizing, gesso, acrylic colors, oil colors, varnish, and some miscellaneous uses.  They are versatile to be sure.

The pencil in all of the photographs is to show the relative sizes of the brushes between the groups. 

First Group

On the left: Winsor & Newton, fine sable No.7 series, #8, #6, #4, used for water colors.

On the right: Proart synthetic sword liners, Large, Medium and Small.  The have a very fine point and a large reservoir above in the wide part of the brush.  They paint crisp lines both straight and curved.  By mixing oil color to the correct consistency they can paint hairs as in this portrait.

 Second Group

On the left: 1-1/4 inch synthetic wash brush, soft large Chinese, and #10 Rekab squirrel mop.

On the right:#10 DaVinci synthetic hair quill, #16 Creative Mark squirrel hair quill and #5 DaVinci synthetic hair quill.  Quills  can hold a lot of watercolor or ink and are flexible. 

Here is a sample of a #10 DaVinci quill from a design portfolio for Sundance Catalog.

Third Group

On the left: Signet Robert Simmons bristle, #4 egbert, #8 flat, #8 filbert and #9 round.

On the right:#10 #20 and #30 Langnickel Sable flat. They can be used for watercolor and oil color. Two of the brushes have been shortened to fit in my paint box.

Fourth Group

On the left: 2 and 1 inch foam brushes

On the right: #30 Blick Mega white bristle flat,  #2 Escodo domed bristle sash, #1 Escodo bristle sash and a 2 inch bristle gesso.

Not shown in this collection are a few synthetic bristled brushes. They were for a brief interlude with acrylic paints.  Having worked in oils for so many years, it was difficult to adjust the feel of acrylics and their properties.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Brush Cleaning

During the 1950-60’s, turpentine was the solvent for paint, varnish, oil colors and for cleaning brushes.  It was also used to remove soils from equipment, hands and other oily surfaces.  Turpentine is a very powerful solvent, dries quickly and is still used today for very specific uses.  The problems with turpentine are many but for our use in the studio it is a generally a bio-hazardous material and must be avoided.

The next generation of common oil color solvents is mineral spirits which is the solvent for house paints as well.  Mineral spirits are one of the distillates of crude oil.  They are not as aggressive as turpentine and dry slower.  Mineral spirits are still irritating and require well ventilated work spaces.   It does clean brushes but requires the precautions mentioned.

The next level of improvement is the further refinement of mineral spirits which is odorless mineral spirits (OMS).  The brand names of a few are Gamsol by Gamblin Artist’s Colors and another is Turpenoid by Martin F. Weber Co.  These are less toxic but still require precautions. 

Turpenoid Natural, not to be confused with Turpenoid OMS, is a product which does contain a citrus ingredient and is non-toxic, non-combustible, fragrant, water soluble, and a very strong oil paint solvent. Its other contents are not given. I use it for cleaning brushes but I’m not yet convinced of its chemistry to use it for thinning oil colors. 

For cleaning brushes that I have just used, a paper towel wipes off the excess colors from the bristles.  Then it goes into a small jar with about a half an inch of Turpenoid Natural and work the bristles around the bottom until they look clean.  And then another wipe of the paper towel.

So far this is the same procedure as any solvent.  The big difference is now that the brushes go to the slop-sink where tepid water rinse will wash away the remaining pigment and solvent against the palm of the hand until the water runs clean.   A wipe with a paper towel the the bristles are really clean, up into the heel and conditioned for the next use.  There is no need for washing the brush with the conventional soap lathering and rinsing.

I have not tested the following recommendation from the Weber Co. as my brushes are rather clean.  Their statement is that Turpenoid Natural can clean brushes with dried paint in the heel. This works for oil, alkyd and acrylic paints they say.

UPDATE 12-19-2013 *******************
Using a 2 inch gesso brush to apply a polly-varnish to repair a small area of wood flooring, the brush was cleaned with OMS,  washed in the utility sink with soap and water and let the brush dry for a few days.  When picking it up to put into my jars, the bristles were all stiff.  The untested claim of Weber Co. on the Turpenoid Natural was to be tested.  Using a small jar with enough Turpenoid to cover all of the bristles. 

Not remembering of the experiment sitting in the corner table, it came to my attention this morning after sitting for two days.  Pushing down on the brush the bristles all bent easily.  Off to the slop-sink with the usual washing sequence gave a brush with an almost new character.  Their claim did work.

Here is my 25 year collection of clean brushes of various types and sizes.  They range from foam, very fine scripts, swords, Winsor & Newton Series 7 sable, watercolor brushes, Langnickle Royal Sable and Signet bristles. There are also an assortment of utility bristle brushes, large and small.  You may notice that the tips of some brushes are stained by pigments.  This discoloration cannot be removed and it does not transfer to new colors.  More on brush types in a following post.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Color for Skin Tones

On the Internet there are many artists who have settled on a combination of colors that look right for their work. The list below is what was found to date. Number 1 in the list is a recipe taught by Alfred J. Tulk in the 1950's at the Saturday morning art classes*
1. White, Yellow Ochre, Cadmium Red Medium*
2. White, Burnt Sienna, Orange
3. White, Yellow Ochre, Magenta
4. White, Cadmium Red, Burnt Sienna, Burnt Umber
5. White, Orange, Raw Umber, Burnt Umber
6. White, Cadmium Yellow Medium, Venetian Red
7. White, Raw Sienna, Alizarin Crimson, Sap Green added for shadows

One thinks of skin having the same value all over the body.  The artist, however, sees little patches of shades and tints of various colors.  The tricky part is getting the proportions correct for each hue and value that you see and want to mix.

A tip from an Industrial Designer from the 1960'S was to roll up paper into a small tube and use it to look at the color.  Make the tube narrower so that only the color being evaluated can be seen.  Now you can see the true, isolated color in the tube.

Here is a photographic example of isolated colors from white to black.  If this is your first glance at a young, pale skinned face and see so many dark colors on it, you may be surprised.

Original photo by Beth Shepherd Peters - Color manipulation by Kenneth Peters

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Oil Color Samples

From time to time I do a color sampling of the oil colors that are new to my collection to determine which will be kept or which will be deleted.  I can also determine if it can be mixed easily with current colors.

Click to enlarge
Here is a Color Sample Board of all of the colors in my box from 2005. Each color is continually diluted with more and more white to observe the subtleties of that color. It is good to know what happens.

Also small color intermix studies are done to see how different colors intermix.  These are more casual.

NOTE:  Photographs cannot truly represent the range of colors that the eye can see.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Oil Color on Paper

I find that painting on properly prepared quality paper promotes free painting expression. It also allows quick studies and sketches to be casually discarded and start another.

First let us look at paper.  This is sometimes confusing as paper weights are calculated using two basic systems.  The U.S. system which measures the paper weight in pounds. In the U.S. system the same number in pounds can be used for different thicknesses of paper.  The Metric system measures the weight in grams per square meter (gsm). The Metric system is standard across all types of paper because it simply measures one square meter.  For that reason it is a better indicator of the thickness of a paper.  I only use metric for that reason.

The paper should be more than 150 gsm for better performance.  The higher the weight usually means a stiffer and thicker base.  Acid free, all cotton or the equivalent is recommended.  Inferior papers will deteriorate from their own acid content.  Notice how fast a newspaper discolors and becomes brittle.
Some papers that I have tried and like are Lenox 250 gsm and Stonehenge 250 and 320 gsm.  Canson Mi-Teinte 160 gsm is a pastel paper with a smooth and rough side made with 66% rag content.  It is also acid free and has 42 colored pulps to be highly light resistant. I have used Mi-Teinte smooth side in various colors for paintings, using the paper color as the background.

Up date:  90 lbs equals 200 gsm, 140 lbs equals 300 gsm, 300 lbs equals 640 gsm.

For complete information on artist's papers, visit New York Central Art Supply  They have a very detailed paper catalog with papers from around the world divided in various groupings.  They also handle general supplies in another catalog.

Using oils on paper and canvas require sizing.  The sizing seals cotton or linen canvas or in our case, the paper.  The sizing protects the base material from the acid produced by the linseed oil which, over time, will deteriorate the base material.  Canvas usually has a ground over the sizing which is the painting surface.  Paper does not require a ground because the paper is the sealed painting surface.

Since we have paper to use, the acrylic sizing is all that is needed to seal the paper.  I like acrylic matte medium.  It is a clear matte finish when dry and has a very slight tooth which helps the colors cling to the paper.

Apply the acrylic matte medium to the paper with a 2" to 3” foam brush which does not leave bristle marks on the sheet.  Since the acrylic medium is water based, papers on the thin side like Mi-Teinte will expand and buckle.  Use a tackable surface larger than your sheet so you can stretch the sheet flat after wetting. Staple or tack the edges of sheet until it dries.  Overnight drying is a good choice. When the paper is completely dry it is now smooth and ready to paint.

Two quick oil sketches from 2002. The paper is Strathmore 640 gsm, cold pressed, sized, watercolor paper.  The paper has survived well as there are no signs of acid deterioration.

Graphic oil painting on sized, colored Canson Mi-Teinte paper from 2004. Also, there are no signs of oil penetration into the paper.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Search Resource

A good research source for art materials is Dick Blick because they have the very best cross reference index for finding materials and manufacturers in a fast and logical way.  I don’t always purchase materials from them however, as there is a local art supply store, but I can get information for 95% of searches.  Their prices are usually in the range of most art supply companies.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Oil colors and drying time - Part 2 - Solutions

About 10 or 15 years ago, I was shopping for some oil colors to replenish my supply when I noticed a color chart next to a rack of oil colors. Oh what a treat as the chart opened up to 16" by 23" printed on both sides with tons of information on the colors, light fastness, transparency, composition and Munsell color system number.  The company is Gamblin Artist's Colors and for the color chart, click HERE.  Just ask for the color chart. I learned something new about alkyd resin oil colors and how wonderfully they improve drying time, workability and flexibility of the dried paint.

Recently however, Gamblin came out with another product call FastMatte which dries to a matte finish very fast, depending on the thickness.  It was created as an under-painting for painters who like to work in layers.  That's me.  I also like the matte finish.

Of course I sent off to a supplier and ordered the complete set of eight colors.  With the limited pallet I mixed in my regular colors to obtain the colors I needed and in the evening put in the first layer.  By the next morning it was ready to go for another layer.  The matte finish gave a tooth to the base layer for good adhesion of the next layer.  Now this was exciting.

I wrote to Gamblin about the product and asked if they are making a medium to give existing Gamblin colors the same characteristics as FastMatte.  They returned my email promptly and said a similar effect could be produced using existing Gamblin products.  If you are interested, send me a note for the specifics.  Gamblin also mentioned that they will be expanding the list of FastMatte colors to 24 later this year.  I looked at the list and see that it will include my basic color pallet.  I am happy.

SUNRISE using FastMatte in layers.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Oil colors and drying times - Part One - History

Back around 1950, I was moving up in my artistic skills when my father brought home a present of a pan of Winsor-Newton watercolors as I was a Boy Scout then and studying birds for a merit badge from Peterson's bird guide.   How very exciting to move up to real watercolors from Crayolas. (No insult to wax crayons as I still do detailed paintings in wax crayons - Caran d'Arche Neocolor 1. So I remember opening the tin and seeing the circular discs of vibrant color, especially the Vermilion, just the color of the Scarlet Tanager.  Back then, Vermilion was made from Mecuric Sulfide (HgS).  Toxic.

Back to the subject, I learned to paint in layers.  The watercolor would dry while I was raiding the refrigerator and then I could continue painting on top of the background.  Also, in about 1955, Dad came home with a set of very small oil paint tubes.  There was a small bottle of turpentine solvent so that I could thin the first layer of color into a fast drying background. Turpentine dries rapidly. About that time I enrolled in a Saturday morning painting class with Alfred J. Tulk, a muralist.  I felt a bit strange at 16 years old in a group of retirees but I lost my uneasiness when we setup in the field doing a landscapes.  I noticed that some of the dark colors dried very fast in the open air thinned with a bit of turpentine.  I later learned that the Umber family contained manganese which hastened drying time in and out of the tube.

This is an on site class painting from 1956 near the North Stamford Reservoir.  The darks in the stonewall were burnt umber and dried very fast so I could lay in the individual stones on top of it.

Part Two coming soon.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

From the start

My daughter convinced me to start a blog relating to my years of interest and research in the field of art, drawing and painting.  I have picked up some tips which may be of interest.  As I go through my notes I'll post them as they may be of interest to others.

 My "studio," a corner in the basement. 1957.  
The trophies are for sailing and not art.