Thursday, March 6, 2014

Painting Iceboats


On Tuesday I set up my sketching stool in the middle of the Hudson River, a few hundred yards out from the shoreline.


Beside me was a foot-wide crack. Every once in a while it groaned and creaked. When a tug passed by in the shipping lane, the crack let out a dull, low thud, which reverberated up and downstream.

The sun was shining, but there was no wind. That was a good thing, because it meant that the iceboats would hold still while I painted them in gouache.

With the temperature hovering around ten degrees Fahrenheit, watercolors tend to freeze on the brush. I filled my water cup with vodka, which kept it flowing.

18 comments:

Larry MacDougall said...

That's the Plein Air spirit. Don't let a little cold weather stop you.
Fabulous !

Tom Hart said...

Ahh, the old "the vodka's just to keep the brush from freezing" line...

(You're a brave man to sit by that crack. I don't care how thick the ice was!)

Tim Fehr said...

Vodka also can be mixed with valve oil. Lord Mayor's New Years Day Parade, London, England. Band directors help the trombones and trumpets working despite it being the coldest January 1st since WW II. They were having trouble with lips sticking to mouthpieces and spit valves freezing up. More worried about making it through the parade intact than in tune...

Louie Tokarz said...

A little for the paint a little for me....

Nice painting!

NJL said...

It's inspiring to see you sketching in all kinds of places and conditions. So Vodka can be used as a medium - good to know!

On the opposite end of extremes, have you found ways to paint with water-based media when it's very hot? I imagine a wet palette of some kind might help. Are there some media better than others for painting in warm temperatures?

James Gurney said...

NJL, it's not the heat, it's the humidity. Too dry or too moist is a problem. In dry conditions you can use a mist-sprayer and squeeze out the gouache on wet paper towels. In high humidity, you just have to be more patient.

Tom Hart said...

Any particular reason you opted for gouache over casein? Or was it just what you happened to reach for that day?

James Gurney said...

Tom, it's just that I had gouache with me. Casein would have been fine, too.

Juan Carlos Barquet said...

Love reading these little plein air adventures.

CC said...

James! I feel like a mom now! Are you crazy??? Do be careful out there! We need you around a long time! That said, great job! ;)

Capt Elaine Magliacane said...

OMG… I'm so glad that crack didn't expand and dump you in the river.

Shaun Stipick said...

Utterly impressed!

Abdullahel Kafe said...

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evensketchier said...

That's dedication. Great work!

jytte said...

Hello
Very hic! nice hic! painting Mr. Gurney hic. Now tell me did the rest of the bottle go down into the crack or down into you hic! LOL

David Still said...

@Larry MacDougall: I see what you did there. Plein Air 'spirit' indeed...

Bennett Vadnais said...

Can you also use Vodka to speed the drying of gouache and watercolor when its cold and humid but not necessarily freezing? Thanks, I love your blog.

James Gurney said...

Bennett, I don't know if vodka would speed the drying or not, but it's worth a try.