Monday, May 6, 2013

Casein Portrait of Shapenote Singer

Yesterday I tried out my new casein paints at my wife's singing group.

(Video link) I'm painting a friend of mine named Alan Neumann, who sings bass in the shapenote singing society at Bard College in New York.

I'm using an improvised easel to hold my sketchbook on a camera tripod. I start by painting over a not-so-hot sketch done in the Atlanta subway. I'm starting to get the hang of caseins--they're like oils on adrenaline. The whole portrait takes about two hours.
More info:
Paints: Jack Richeson / Shiva casein colors 
Moleskine watercolor notebook
Richeson's informative FAQ about casein.
Sacred Harp Singing at Bard College
Sacred Harp Singing in New York State
The tune is White #288 ("Long Time Traveling")
Subscribe to the James Gurney YouTube channel to see videos before anyone else


Making A Mark said...

"Oils on adenaline" is a new one on me - expand please! :)

James Gurney said...

Hi, Katherine, I'm finding that casein forces me to make decisions quickly, especially when it comes to softening edges and matching values. I can't be as deliberate or ruminative as I am in oil. That makes it great for super-quick paintings, especially on the spot and in sketchbooks. I love the fact that I can overlap and cover any previous passage without worrying about a layer lifting up.

For those who don't know, Katherine runs the wonderful blog Making a Mark
Best wishes recovering from the eye surgery!

Andrew said...

Speaking of Casein, I found this on Cartoonbrew's website: Several Disney artists painting an oak tree. Eyvind Earle talks about working with Casein for his interpretation.

Daroo said...

Thanks for the demo-vid.

Humidity and temperature being equal, how does the open time compare to gouache?

James Gurney said...

Daroo, good question. It stays open a bit longer relative to gouache. This time I didn't put the dabs of paint onto damp paper towel, but still the paint was mostly workable for the whole two hour session. I have to adjust my brain to softening edges as I go.

Drew--awesome! thanks for the lead. If anyone else has links or lore related to the way illustrators and animators used casein in the '40s, '50s, and '60s, please share.

Daroo said...

I think Earle kept his casein in cups, at a thick soupy consistency . The artist Xiaogang Zhu uses gouache, but he keeps his in small containers at a "melted ice cream" consistency.

I've tried putting a damp sponge over the container that holds my gouache to try to slow things down and avoid that panic feeling.

Great music in the Vid by the way.

Anonymous said...

Top results, as always! And you say you're still only getting the hang of them?

The introductory post about casein perked my interest (the qualities sound interesting, and if James Gurney likes it...!) Pelikan Plaka casein paint is more conveniently available this side of the Atlantic than Jack Richeson colors, but the discount in the Amazon link here is very tempting and Plaka seems to be more of a 'craft' paint. Can I ask if anyone has, or knows of, any comparison between the two brands?

Christoffer Gertz Bech said...

That's really interesting to follow your casein journey. My knowledge of casein paints is limited to what I've read. When the Danish artist Joakim Skovgaard was given the task of decorating the cathedral in Viborg, Denmark, he considered casein for the task and made some tests with it. He eventually ended up doing it al fresco instead, but one of his test murals in casein was apparently considered good enough and was included in the final decoration.

I would love to give it a try some day.

Anonymous said...

I guess I am being thick headed and still not getting the open time. Once you have applied the casein to the ground how long do you have to work it? In one place you say a little longer that gouache - which is minutes and in another place you say 2 hours (but I think you are referring to paint on the palette?). Thanks for helping to clear up my confusion!

James Gurney said...

Yes, exactly, and it's a good question. The drying time seems to be affected not only by temperature and humidity, but also by thickness of the passage. Super thin passages seem to dry almost on contact, but big blobs of paint stay wet for quite a while.

Robert J. Simone said...

Impressive sketch! Really conveys a sense of the grace present in the song!

Anonymous said...

In case you might not know it, there are two types of casein: true casein and emulsion casein.
When dry, True casein becomes truly waterproof and "closed," it cannot be manipulated, which is good if you want to overpaint. Also, true case is a make it yourself paint, available in kit form from Natural Pigments.
Emulsion casein, on the other hand, will remain "open" even after it is dry. Available from Richardson/Shiva, it comes in tubes, along with an emulsion medium.

Connie Nobbe said...

Not about casein:
I really enjoy your painting videos. How do you make these videos? Do you use iMovie or something like that? They are very well done, with professional editing.

James Gurney said...

Hi, Connie,

Thanks! I shoot coverage while I'm painting, and edit in iMovie. I find that I get better results than if I have a crew tagging along. I enjoy editing.


James Gurney said...

Thanks, JZ Torre. This I did not know.

Chris Menice said...

I'm a little late here, but I was watching the video Drew posted and it's fabulous. It was very interesting to see how Eyvind Earle wielded the casein. It seemed he almost used it like a very thinned down acrylic paint and using one color at a time, but not really mixing on canvas.

I've been intrigued to try Casein paints because of you James. I found some information that Eyvind Earle stopped using casein because of it's fragile nature and switched to acrylic for preservation.

I'd love to hear if you have any thoughts on this.

Christopher said...

Hi, James, I've been reading your blog for a little while and I love every post! I noticed in the video that you sketched the face in paint, I've seen people do this a lot but no one talks about so I was wondering if you could elaborate on that, if you don't mind. Thanks!

James Gurney said...

Hi, Christopher,
Good question. I suppose the trick is to think of painting as another form of drawing. You're finding it in the paint instead of in the pencil or the charcoal. You probably noticed me dropping in dots for the placement of the features, just as I would have done with a drawing too.

If you check out Harold Speed's books, he has an exercise where you execute a head with a brush and monochrome oil, and he calls it "mass drawing."