Friday, June 28, 2013

Water Tower in Casein


(Video link) Here's a video of a 45-minute plein air painting boiled down to one minute so that you can see the entire process at a fast clip. I'm working in a watercolor sketchbook using casein paint in a limited palette of titanium white, ivory black, Venetian red, golden ochre, and cobalt blue. 

I start with a reddish brown watercolor pencil, to place the big shapes. Leaving the background white, I paint in the tower and the trees, knowing that I'll be painting over them with the sky, and then painting them again on a second pass. Casein painting involves boldly cutting across edges, rather than painting up to lines. 


Now the sky: warm white clouds and blue sky behind, all painted quickly together wet into wet. I build the painting forward: far mountains, near mountains, buildings, trees, and poles. I paint almost all the painting with one very old watercolor round, which I can use for large areas—or by squeezing the tip, I can use the edge of the brush for thin forms.

The casein surface dries to an eggshell matte surface that is receptive to delicate graphite pencil lines for the utility cables. I use a harder HB for the fine wires and a 2B for the darker wires. That's it: time was up, and I knew Jeanette would be waiting for me over at the supermarket.

Technical notes on the video: Time lapse is shot with a GoPro HD Hero2 set to 5 second intervals. The camera is mounted on a IKEA Kitchen Timer for the slow rotation in time lapse. I also use a Canon Rebel T3i and an intervalometer for the close-up time lapse at the end. The street ambiance is recorded with a Zoom ZH1 digital recorder. The music is by Kevin MacLeod. He describes it this way: "Snare line with quads and a bass line add marching flair for an electronic groove."

22 comments:

Simone said...

Nice. Finishing by adding dark accents with pencils made it pop.

Michael Chesley Johnson said...

Nice work! Question for you: do you have a crew of grips, gaffers, best boys and the like to film? Or do you do it all yourself? I would imagine that managing all the technical equipment while sketching would hamper your concentration.

James Gurney said...

Thanks, Simone! Michael, no crew--I shoot and edit all the videos. A crew would make me nervous and they could never get the close angles. The tools are really easy to use and quite cheap--if you want someday I'll do a video about the gear and how to shoot your own videos.

RK said...

Loving these casein paintings.
Please film a video on your video making techniques and gear you use.

jjwoodee said...

Inspiring. I'm in the process of building my own little rig similar to yours But the detail that is holding me up is how you mount your plywood base to the tripod. I was at the camera store attempting to explain what I was doing and they were a bit perplexed. I know it must be a hole threaded mount of specific size but not sure of the name. BTW, thank you so much for your autographed book Color and Light which I received about a month.

James Gurney said...

JJWoodee, to attach the painting rig to a tripod, I use a 1/4 • 20 brass hex nut brazed to a two inch square piece of copper. It's a little hard to describe in words--I would have to do a post to show how to make them. The 1/4 • 20 nut fits a standard tripod or quick mount shoe. I use a similar homemade bracket to attach the IKEA timer to the tripod.

RK, Thanks, I'll do that eventually. I've perfected my Lego-driven camera dolly and am working on a few other unusual DIY rigs. Until I get around to doing that tutorial, there are a ton of dolly and camera rig how-to videos out there on YouTube, but I'd like to do one focused on artists who want to document their own work.

RK said...

Another easy way of attaching a 1/4 - 20 is to buy a 1/4 inch "T -nut" from Home Depot or similar store. Than drill a hole into the wood base of your box and hammer the T-nut into it. It worked great for me and was cheap at .99 cents.
Here is the " Painting Gurney " box i made as inspired by James. http://www.flickr.com/photos/michiganpainter

Tim Ridley said...

Lovely painting James! I've never used casein, is this pretty much the same process you would go about doing a gouache painting?

Robb said...

Blarg!!! So awesome - Thanks for sharing this, Jim!!!!1!!

Karen Robinson said...

This was a great post, thank you so much. Also good to be reminded that other media is allowed in a painting! I think I would have sat there and ruined mine trying to do all those lines with a fat old brush and then got mad with frustration instead of simply whipping out a pencil! Yes, please do a blog post on how to attach a box to a tripod I would appreciate that so much but please please use pictures. Words such as "1/4 • 20 brass hex nut" leave me utterly befuddled as I can't speak Klingon. Thanks.

Bill Guffey said...

I've never used Casein either. Do you use a watercolor type brush, or do oil brushes work okay? Nice painting, James.

James Gurney said...

Bill, best to stick with watercolor brushes--sable, nylon, etc. but not bristles, which don't take well to water.

Anand Upadhyay said...

This is great. I would love to see you do some longer videos with some commentary.

Connie Nobbe said...

James, I would be so grateful if you could put together a tutorial on equipment and videotaping and editing...any information applicable for an artist wishing to film the process of a painting. I have always wanted to do that.

Connie Nobbe said...

BTW, I clicked on the links for your equipment that was used. Very cool stuff that I didn't know existed!

Michael Chesley Johnson said...

Hi James - Yes, that'd be great, a video about the gear and how to shoot your own videos. I appreciate all you do to educate us!

Sankam said...

Thanks for the post, James! I'm curious as to what codec you use to compile your GoPro movies?

James Gurney said...

Sankam, I've been using iMovie, which is OK, but only lets you compile frames at 10/second.

Anand, I have shot some longer form videos of art done in real time, which I will release in a paid form.

Michael and Connie, I've been thinking about how best to share techniques for art videos without reiterating what video pros have already covered (such as three point lighting, editing techniques, audio, etc.). My thought would be to cover the aspects of the topic that are specific to artists' needs, especially artists shooting it themselves on a tight budget.

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Elizabeth said...

I've been very excited to follow your casein painting endeavors. I have long been looking for an opaque, solvent-free medium. Do you have to apply a ground to your watercolor paper before you use casein? And do you know of any good books on the medium?

James Gurney said...

Elizabeth, quick answer.... No need for a ground and there needs to be a good book on the subject. Steve Quiller and Henry Gasser have some helpful info, but it,s a bit outdated now.

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