Monday, September 25, 2023

Scene in a Laundromat


We've all been captivated by the black glass rectangle.

Sunday, September 24, 2023

Cottage in Connemara

Clifden, Connemara, 8x10” plein-air oil

As I finished up, the owner took in the laundry, came by to see how I was doing, and invited me for a cup of tea in her kitchen, which was lit by a single light bulb. 

Saturday, September 23, 2023

Frank Duveneck, American Portrait Painter

Frank Duveneck was an American figure and portrait painter born on October 9, 1848, in Covington, Kentucky. His parents were German immigrants, and his father died when he was a year old. His mother remarried a businessman named Joseph Duveneck, and the artist legally adopted his stepfather's name when he married in 1886. 


Portrait of a Woman with Black Hat 1890, Pastel by Frank Duveneck

Duveneck began painting in his early teens and was employed as an assistant to Wilhelm Lamprecht, a successful German-born decorator. At age 21, Duveneck studied in Germany at the Munich Academy with Wilhelm Dietz and was greatly influenced by the works of Frans Hals, Rembrandt, and Peter Paul Rubens.

Friday, September 22, 2023

Audrey Tarrant, Illustrator

Audrey Tarrant was a London-born artist who was active as an illustrator in the first half of the twentieth century, painting charming scenes of anthropomorphic animals. 

She went to the Selhurst Grammer School for Girls. She studied art at the Croydon School of Art. Her artwork has been published in the form of illustrated books and postcards.  

Wednesday, September 20, 2023

Yoshida Tōshi's Cherry Blossoms

How many birds do you see in this picture?

Cherry Blossoms by Yoshida Tōshi, 1951 Courtesy Masterpieces of Japan

Tuesday, September 19, 2023

Casein Questions on Open Time and Varnishing

Rollo Q asks: "I have a couple of questions about the casein. Roughly how long do you find the paint is wet (moveable rather than liftable) on the surface. Obviously I realise this must depend on climate and surface and paint thickness etc, but I've seen people call it fast drying and its hard to tell what that means (I paint in flashe vinyl which is notably slower than acrylics but faster by far than oils. Open time is 30 - 60 mins for flashe I'd guess). Also do you use an acrylic varnish? Or a resin?"

James Gurney answers: You're right, time it takes for a freshly painted area to dry to the touch depends on the temperature, humidity, wind, paint thickness and wetness, absorbency of the ground, and even the type of pigment. Cadmiums are slower drying than umbers, for example, and titanium white dries relatively fast. This pigment variable is especially noticeable on the paint blobs squeezed out on the palette. 

So how long does it take for a passage to dry? On a nice day an average paint stroke starts to set up in anywhere from a few minutes to ten minutes or so. While it's still wet you can blend all you want, but once it's dry to the touch, a stroke can go down over it without much fear of previous layers lifting or reactivating, unless the new stroke is really wet or there's a lot of scrubbing. 

Paint that is newly dry presents a relatively closed surface, meaning that, unlike gouache, it resists reactivation. The strength of the paint's glue-like binder is not as strong as acrylic, which has a powerful bond which sticks hard to your palette and wreaks havoc on your brushes. Because of that weaker binder, casein techniques involving thick, textural impasto should only be painted on a rigid surface such as a panel or illustration board. 

With casein, paint that feels dry from evaporation isn't fully cured yet. The milk protein molecules keep bonding, which can take anywhere from overnight to a couple weeks. Curing time can be accelerated by putting the painting in a sunny, dry, and warm (but not too hot) location. 

After it's dried and cured you can decide whether or not you want to varnish it. Like gouache, casein is meant to dry matte, and that can look good in a light, high-key painting. I almost never varnish sketchbook paintings. Paintings with a matte surface certainly photograph well, and the digital version of a painting can be adjusted in Photoshop to give it the full range of values. The manufacturers suggest buffing the surface of a dry painting using an old T-shirt to add some semi-gloss luster to the surface.

The main reason I varnish some of my casein paintings is to deepen the darks in an overall dark painting or to protect a painting that I want to frame without glass. Dark-keyed paintings look better varnished, and sometimes varnish is needed to unify the surface sheen of the painting. You can varnish casein just as you would varnish an oil painting. The advantage of casein compared with oil for plein-air painters is that you can varnish it the same day, rather than waiting weeks or months for the paint to dry. 

I've tried various brush-on varnishes, but I've been using a non-yellowing spray gloss varnish, which works well, but acrylic gloss varnish should work well, too. 

For the varnish to work with one or two coats, the substrate beneath the paint needs to be relatively non absorbent, such as a hardwood panel or gesso-primed canvas mounted to board. I've been painting on acrylic primed canvas panels, which respond well to varnish. If the painting consists of thin casein washes on soft watercolor paper, the surface will absorb the varnish, and it will take a lot of coats before you start to get a glossy surface. After it's varnished, a casein painting can be framed without glass just like an oil.

Sunday, September 17, 2023

Poppies in Casein

 Poppies, painted in casein, will be one of six paintings I’ll have in a botanical art show and sale.

It’s one of six paintings I'll have at Stonecrop Gardens in Cold Spring, NY at a botanical art show opening Monday through October 30, 2023.

Saturday, September 16, 2023

Painting the Stonecrop Conservatory in Casein

In this new video on YouTube I use casein paint for a plein-air study of the conservatory at Stonecrop Gardens. 

As I demonstrate my drawing and painting process, I explain the advantages of casein compared to oils, gouache, and acrylic. 
For information about availability of original art, contact Karen Stein at this email address: 

Thursday, September 14, 2023

Wednesday, September 13, 2023

Skybax Toy Prototypes

Would giant pterosaurs with saddles make cool toys? I did these marker sketches to explore some of the possibilities.

This one-of-a-kind toy prototype was made by Hasbro in 1997, part of a proposal for a line of Dinotopia toys. The skybax is fully posable, with flapping wings, gripping foot claws, and a removable saddle for the Will Denison action figure.

Here's a larger prototype with some plush, soft, and fuzzy elements.

As it often happens with toy ideas, this one never got off the ground. The toy line was tied to a movie at Columbia Pictures that went far into development but never got green-lit.

There was a Jurassic Park toy with a remarkable similarity. It's possible that the JP toy came first and that they modded it out for the Dinotopia presentation.