Saturday, December 19, 2015

This is the Story of a Happy Marriage

Writer, Ann Patchett's, collection of essays gives insight into her creative process of writing both fiction and non-fiction.  Although specifically about her experience with writing, This is the Story of a Happy Marriage speaks to me as a painter.  Today I was specifically struck by a passage in the essay, The Getaway Car, a Practical Memoir about Writing and Life.  She states, "Why is it that we understand playing the cello will require work, but we attribute writing to the magic of inspiration?" 

And, "If you want to write, practice writing.  Practice for hours a day, not to come up with a story you can publish, but because you long to learn how to write well, because there is something that you alone can say."   Patchett elaborates, "Most of us are full up with bad stories, boring stories, self-indulgent stories, searing works of unendurable melodrama.  We must get all of them out of our system in order to find the good stories that may or may not exist in the freshwater underneath."  Now she of course has a whole lot of compelling metaphors in between those statements above, and they illustrate her point well: That becoming good or great at anything requires learning the craft and practicing the craft. 

I believe Patchett is spot on.  Why do I trust Ann Patchett?  She does not give advice for the sake of the advising, she writes about the process as she has lived it.  And her words speak to what I know in my heart to be true about finding the good paintings that exist under the cruddy ones.  I believe most of us have some terrible paintings that we have to get out of our system---by painting them.

Patchett's collection of essays are witty, fresh and insightful.  Her writing connects the reader with the human part of him/herself by exploring her own humanness.  She reminds us of things we have suspected or known about ourselves as well as gives us a new perspective by tossing us morsels of wisdom.  And she does it all without pretension or elitism.

This is the Story of a Happy Marriage is for anyone questioning the way forward or seeking to learn more about themselves through their experiences.  It is especially beneficial to those of us who have creativity as a central theme in our lives. Loved it!


Sunday, September 27, 2015

Oil Painting Mediums: Safflower Oil

Paint can yellow over time.  This is more of a concern lighter colored pigments.  As linseed oil has a tendency to yellow as it dries, artists and paint makers have found alternative oils for oil painters.  One of the most popular is Safflower Oil. 

Safflower oil is considered a reliable, pale drying oil.  Because it has good color retention and is believed to not yellow over time some prefer its use when making whites or light colored paints.  It is said to give oil paints a satin finish and buttery feel.

Oil Paints Made with Safflower Oil

  • Blick oil paints from Dick Blick are primarily made with first-press, non-yellowing safflower oil (there are 4 exceptions). High Quality Artist Grade Paint and a Good Value.
  • Sennelier are made with first-press, non-yellowing safflower oil. High Quality Artist Grade Paint.
  • RGH Paints have Cremnitz white made with your choice of 4 different oils: RGH Cremnitz White.  They also make pure Titanium and will custom mix with the oil of your choice.  High Quality Hand Made Artist Grade Paint and a Good Value.
  • Winsor and Newton (W&N) have some lighter colors made with safflower oil.  For example Titanium white and Zinc white.  But be careful if you want pure titanium white, W&N's is not pure.  (I talk about that here:  Paint Ingredients: Which White is in the Tube?    Read about the paint labeling inconsistencies: Oil Paint Ingredients.  Read more about choosing white paint: White Paint Ingredients: Lead, Zinc, Titanium).
Not all share the opinion that light colors are best mixed with Safflower Oil: Regarding Safflower Oil and Poppyseed Oil, R&F, the maker of pigment sticks, website states: "But those oils are very slow drying and prone to cracking, whereas linseed oil dries to a tougher, more flexible film."

Artist Jonathan Linton in his 5 year study,  has made some interesting observations about yellowing here: White Test.

Why Oil Paint Yellows is addressed in next month's post.

Artist Grade Safflower Oil vs Food Grade Safflower Oil

You may ask, "Can I use safflower oil from the grocery store?"   This is not the best choice due to the way in which it is produced.   First, there is a question of kitchen oils' purity; there may be additives, such as vitamin e which can hinder or prevent drying.  I recently read a journal article that points to contaminants as the the primary culprit in yellowing (2).  In addition, there is apparantly a wide range of drying ability in safflower oil.  Food grade safflower oil may have an an iodine value (correlates with oil's ability to dry) of as low as 87, where 130 or greater is preferred (1).

1. Knowles, P.F., Variability in oleic and linoleic acid contents of safflower oil, Economic Botany, , Volume 19, Issue 1, pp 53-62

2. Mall├ęgol, Jacky; Lemaire, Jacques; Gardette, Jean-Luc, Yellowing of oil-based paints,
Studies in Conservation Vol. 46, No. 2 (2001), pp. 121-131



Monday, August 3, 2015

Art Nerd; Check Out This Great Art Website

Featured Art Website:

Got Art? This website sports what's hot in 5 cities! 
Art Nerd  City Guides: New York · Chicago · Los Angeles · San Francisco · Seattle
Founded by Lori Zimmer, Art Nerd New York has piles of eye candy for artists and art lovers.  
Why (one of my) favorite Art Nerd features is ON THE INSIDE TIP: Studio Visits;  I love seeing what other working artists are doing now!
And check out Lori's new book The Art of Cardboard: Big Ideas for Creativity, Collaboration, Storytelling and Reuse It's 160 pages of cardboard heaven and looks totally irresistible (I couldn't).  And if you hurry, you may still be able to get a signed copy!!    

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Wedding Party

Wedding Party Painting

Wedding Party was completed after many layers of oil paint using glaze technique.  From the series about marriage.  Below is of unframed diptych.

Wedding Party, 12" x 24" x 1/4", oil on masonite, © 2013 julie susanne

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Oil Painting Mediums; Linseed Oils part 2

Why Use Oil as an Oil Painting Medium

Oil paints in their purest form are made with ground pigment and oil.  Therefore oil is a superb and highly compatible medium.though oil paint can be used directly out of the tube as is (and this is a fine way to paint), there are numerous oil mediums that oil painters can use.  This post discusses the difference between the various types of linseed oil.

What is the Difference Between Types of Linseed Oil

Through their manufacturing methods, the properties of linseed oils can be manipulated : Thickness, Color, Drying Time, Handling and Paint Film Strength.  Choosing a form of linseed oil depends on the desired use.

Linseed Oil

Linseed Oil is produced from the seed of the flax plant.  It dries slowly by oxidation and remains workable or "open" for a long time.  This can be very beneficial to the oil painter.  Once it is dry it can not be reversed.  Linseed oil is an excellent paint binder and medium, and excellent drier forming a strong paint film.  Straight linseed oil as your medium is a time honored choice.  Use less oil in layers closest to canvas and use more oil in the top layers.

Cold-Pressed Linseed Oil

Cold-pressed linseed oil is linseed oil in it's purest state.  Raw flax seeds or linseeds are crushed without the use of heat.  Because this is a low yield process, Cold-pressed linseed oil is a more expensive form of linseed oil.  Although there is some debate, paints made with cold pressed linseed oil are thought to have superior film strength, handling and brilliance to paints made with refined oils.

Alkali Refined Linseed Oil

Flax seeds are processed with use of heat via steam.  The heated seed are pressed and linseed and waste products are produced.  These waste products called mucilage or foots are removed through a refining process.  Sulfuric acid is used to treat the steam-treated, pressed linseed oil which destroys the waste products.  The acid is then neutralized with an alkali.  This alkali-refined linseed oil is a neutral, acid free oil and is is an inexpensive alternative to cold pressed linseed oil.  Less expensive high quality paints with high pigment content can be made with alkali-refined linseed oil.

Refined Linseed Oil

This is the same as alkali refined linseed oil.

Steam Pressed Linseed Oil

This is also the same as alkali refined linseed oil.

Sun-Thickened Linseed Oil

Sun-thickened linseed oil is the choice for using linseed oil as a painting medium during the painting process.  Sun-thickened linseed oil is made by mixing equal amounts of linseed oil and water and then left exposed to sunlight for several weeks.  Exposure to the sun lightens the oil by bleaching and partially oxidizes the oil.  Better results are obtained using this thicker bodied form;  It is a superb viscous medium that leaves texture and brushstrokes on the canvas and because it is partially oxidized and is therefore a faster drier than either cold-pressed or alkali refined linseed oil.  The lighter color and partial oxidation is also thought to reduce the yellowing of paint later compared to cold-pressed linseed oil and alkali-refined linseed oil.

Stand Oil

Similar to sun-thickened linseed oil, stand oil uses heat to create a bodied medium.  Linseed oil is heated at 550° F for at least 12 hours in an airtight oxygen-free container.  This causes the stand oil to polymerize rather than oxidize due to the absence of oxygen.  The result is a viscous medium that does not leave texture or brushstrokes and is superb for used when glazing.  It has a very strong paint film that resists cracking when dry.  I love to use stand oil in my glazing recipe that is damar varnish, stand oil, and mineral spirits.

Superb Oil Paint Medium Technique Using Linseed Oil

  1. With paint thinned with mineral spirits (or turpentine) paint first layer onto gessoed canvas or panel and let dry if desired.
  2. With paint straight from tube or lightly thinned with stand oil or sun-thickened linseed oil, paint next layers and let dry if desired.
  3. With paint thinned only with stand oil or sun-thickened linseed oil, paint final layers.
The above method generally not only maintains a "Fat over Lean" concept but also allows a full bodied layered painting technique improving depth and textural brilliance.  This method dries faster than using regular linseed oils, but still dries slowly.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Best Oil Paint Glaze for a Smooth Surface

Oil Painting Glaze Ingredients
Damar Varnish: Linseed Stand Oil: Mineral Spirits
My favorite glaze for oil painting is Damar Varnish: Linseed Stand Oil: Mineral Spirits* in a  1:1:1 ratio. This is a very high quality clear glaze that creates a strong paint film.  This homemade glaze is mixed in a very small quantity:  I put equal parts in a 1 oz glass jar with a screw top lid and shake it up.  I usually make a small amount at a time, because it does thicken up a bit over time.  I do not dip into the jar, but pour it out into my paint mixing container.   Treated this way, it will last weeks in a tightly lidded jar.

This glaze mixture is said to dry relatively quickly. I find that it takes several days in my humid climate. Even though reworking the painting can occur early in initial painting session of a new glaze layer, the painting does not remain 'open' beyond this first day as this glaze becomes increasingly tacky during the drying period. That being said, there is a much longer open period compared to Liquin glaze.

This is perfect glaze for using on panels or other smooth rigid supports.  I also like to use it on canvas.  I use this formula of glaze when I want an extremely smooth surface without much in the way of texture or brushstrokes.
Many of my paintings are layer upon layer upon layer....of glazes and transparent or semi-transparent paints.  This glaze is perfect for this style of multi-layered painting.  The end result is a finish that has a slight sheen, but not a high gloss finish.
*The Brands I use: Richeson Damar Varnish, Maimeri Stand  Linseed Oil, Gamblin Gamsol 100% Odorless Mineral Spirits.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Going to the Chapel

Going to the Chapel- A Painting

Going to the Chapel from the series about marriage.
In the final stage foggy mist was added.  See the pre-mist version here.

Going to the Chapel

10" x 30" x 1"
oil on canvas
© 2013 by julie susanne

Detail of Going to the Chapel.

Bride with bouquet.

Again, the albatross.

Skull and stone pathway.

Chapel and hooded figures.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

How To Paint

Learn To Paint 

Swami Muktananda

The mecahanics of painting can be learned from classes, books and master artists.  This is information.  Incorporation of this information into your painting life leads to knowledge.  Your experience with the act of painting deepens this knowledge.  But how do you get to the place of wisdom and the place of creating really, really great art? 

Painting From Your Core

By "painting from your core"  I mean from the center of your being.  I mean being in the moment.  This is very different than doing.  It requires a spiritual approach in which the attention is inward turned.  The attention is turned inward away from the outer manifestations of the mind thoughts.  I believe this requires a specialized teacher.

Painting Using Your Inner Light

It is often said that when you are painting, you are "painting the light."  I want to suggest you take it further and use inner light to paint.  Again this requires a spiritual approach it is an internal process of painting from your Heart. 

This also requires a teacher as few of us were born knowing how to do this.  My teacher is Rohini Ralby.  Her new book Walking Home with Baba: The Heart of Spiritual Practice can help guide you to that wisdom.  She talks about why we need a teacher on her blog.  She addresses finding a teacher with an authentic spiritual lineage.

Painting can be cutting, pasting, repackaging and selling.  Alternatively, you can paint as a spiritual practice and truly unleash your creativity.

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