Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Donkey and horse mini-paintings

Yesterday on my morning walk I did these tiny sketches of a donkey and a white horse with an old sable watercolor round brush and casein paint. Casein is an opaque water-based paint.

Instead of starting with a pencil, I jumped straight in with the brush, massing the big shapes and cutting foreground over background and then background over foreground.

Corrections and refinements were easy with an opaque paint. Note that the plane of the scapula in both sketches was placed as a single stroke.

I used just four colors: titanium white, ivory black, raw sienna, and raw umber. That was all I really needed for such a subject under such conditions.
It is a good super-basic palette for exploring simple relationships of light and dark, warm and cool.

The donkeys were fascinated by the smell of casein. Maybe they liked the milk-based binder. I was afraid they might try to eat the paint, but they didn't. Lee just nibbled my fingers with her lips, and Peanut kept sniffing the paint rag.
Here's what I used:
Jack Richeson / Shiva casein colors 
Moleskine watercolor notebook
Winsor and Newton Series 7 round watercolor brush
I'm using a watercolor palette for a mixing surface, but I didn't use any of the watercolors for this sketch.


Robert J. Simone said...

Nice pic of you! Good sketches, too! Habitual sketching is so valuable. Like a golfer putting in his time on the range or the practice green. Makes a big difference.

Tom Hart said...

Thanks for the reminder of the valuable technique of massing general shapes, then cutting background over foreground, and vice versa. Of course it requires a medium that allows for that, but it's such an effective and efficient method. It's like two dimensional sculpting, somehow.

Unknown said...

First of all thanks! I'm currently self teaching in art and the loads of knowledge you share is invaluable and much, much appreciated.

What would you chose as a super-basic palette for landscape studies - meadows, trees and water ?

James Gurney said...

Good question. I often like to use the Stobart palette: Ultramarine blue, white, Winsor (pyrrole) red, cad yellow, permanent green, and burnt sienna. You can get almost any color in nature with that. Or you could use white with any red-yellow-blue combo, either with high chroma primaries or muted ones such as burnt sienna, yellow ochre, and cobalt blue. I usually bring a fairly full palette of about a dozen colors and then decide how to limit it --either by limiting pigments or by premixing -- when I arrive at the location. Limiting the palette gives you speed and harmony.

Tom Sarmo said...

So tiny. So amazing.

Karen Eade said...

This is so impressive and I do so wish I could do this. I am now investing casein paint with supernatural powers and driving myself nuts because it is unobtainable in the UK. Would gouache work as well?? Like Alexandre, I am self-teaching and have learnt so much from your blog and colour/light book. Please could you explain about the background/foreground point you make - cutting back and forth? I'm sorry to be thick but I don't really understand this.

James Gurney said...

Karen, I'm glad you asked. They are great questions. Yes, gouache would work as well. Gouache is a wonderful kind of paint, nice and opaque. By cutting back and forth I mean painting across an edge rather than just up to the line. So on the donkey I let the body and legs be thicker in some places but then just mixed some of the background color and painted it over the thick forms to make them thinner. This practice of alternately overlapping foreground and background is sometimes called "painting back and forth" or "cutting edges" or "weaving." One of the goals of such a practice is to get an alternation between hard and soft edges around a form.

Erik Davis-Heim said...

These Caseins look really fun and flexible. I think I may pick up a set for quicker plein air studies.

Can you do much premixing with these, or do they dry too quickly on the palette?

James Gurney said...

I suppose if you wanted to premix them, you'd want to put them in cups at about the consistency of heavy cream. I used to do the same with cel-vinyl paint, which is similar in some ways to casein. Illustrator John Berkey of the spacehip fame mixed his own casein and kept it in cups.

Diana Moses Botkin said...

Thanks for the smiles today. These are lovely little studies you painted, and those small hairy beasts look so charming!

Anonymous said...

Hi James!

Wanted to let you know that I re-blogged your post on my blog under the title "Blogs I Like: Gurney Journey" with linkbacks.