Sunday, June 23, 2013

Creamer in Casein

I threw a couple tubes of casein—black and white—into my kit this morning on the way to the diner.
While waiting for my scrambled eggs, I did this little study of the creamer. Casein is well suited to this kind of rendering because you can match tones and textures very closely. 

It's also fitting because I was painting the milk container using paint that uses milk as the binder.
For Anton on FB, here's more about the tools I was using:
I was using Richeson / Shiva casein
1/4 inch flat brush 
Moleskine watercolor notebook
Waterman Phileas red fountain pen 
Lots of info on casein at Richeson's FAQ about casein


Jared Shear said...

Nice one James! Really loving these casein pieces you are posting. Going to have to give it a try myself.

pf said...

Love your site and blog. Do you ever, would you ever use a digital sketch method (touch screen pad, wacom tablet) for mobile sketching?
If so, what type of pad/tablet would you recommend?
Thanks much,

David King said...

I have to give you a big thanks James. I tried casein for outdoor sketching for the first time today and I have to say, casien may just be the closest thing we'll ever have to a perfect sketching medium.

David said...

You are making me wan to try casein, now. I always loved the old 50s illustrations which I presumed were in gouache... but never could handle the seeming instant drying time. Could never get the same look in Acrylics.

Learned the late John Berkey used casein, and just drooled over his work.

Can you describe casien in a comparative way? Compare to gouache and acrylic, and oil?

K_tigress said...

Oh wonderful. Love those shiny things especially coupled with other textures.

James Gurney said...

Yes, I was thinking of the 50s product illustrators who either retouched photos or rendered products so that the looked better in repro. Casein dries in a few minutes, maybe a touch slower than gouache, but that quick drying time is what makes it so versatile.

I pretty much agree with what it says on Richeson's FAQ (linked at the end)

The general characteristic and appearance of acrylic paint is bright, bold color, stretching flatly across the canvas. Casein is often described as quiet and subtle, having a color depth similar to oils. While some acrylics can be used to produce a non gloss finish, it is still different from the matte finish of Casein. Also, Casein can be used in mixed media techniques where acrylics cannot: as an underpainting for oil or mixed with watercolor.

Gouache is similar to Casein in that is an opaque medium that can be thinned with water, but unlike Casein, it cannot be reworked once dry."

James Gurney said...

Paul, no, I haven't tried digital sketching—you might call me an extremely late adopter (haven't gotten a TV or a smart phone yet either, for example). However, you might check out two blog posts that happened to come out today from my friends who do sketch digitally:

Paolo Rivera "Cintiq Tips":

Armand Cabrera "Digital Sketches from Life":

Tom Hart said...

As impressed as I've been with your other casein pieces, this great "little" sketch has done the most to hook me into seriously wanting to give it a try.

You mention that casein can be "reworked once dry". I'm a little confused by that, but I may be mis-reading the use of the word "reworked". Lower gouache layers are disturbed by overpainting, aren't they? (At least that's my recollection form my limited guache experience.) And one could consider that to be reworking. Do you mean that casein's lower layers can be painted over with out being disturbed?

James Gurney said...

Tom, yes, that phrase "reworked once dry" is a little misleading.

Here's my experience so far: Casein's emulsion begins to form a bond as it dries. That bond gets stronger—and more stable for overpainting—over time as the long milk protein molecules form (If there's an organic chemist out there, help me out).

So if you have laid down a layer and it has just dried to the touch, a wet layer laid over it might pick up the previous layer if your touches aren't light. After hours or days or weeks the emulsion gets tougher and less likely to lift up. Casein's emulsion is stronger than gouache, but not as strong as acrylic.

Arc said...

I've tried Shiva's casein product several times now and find them difficult to work with. The lower layers seem to lift and peel when working on top on them. How do you prevent this from occurring?

The pieces you've displayed so far really showcase the medium. I'd like to give it another try but find it very frustrating to fight the lower layers of paint.

Robb said...

Hi Jim!
I think Richeson might owe some $$$ you for their recent spike in casein sales - I also picked some up after admiring your work and have been loving them as a way to supplement my plein air studies while working at home in my living room.
Are you sticking the casein in your schmincke watercolor pans when you take them out on the road? I'm trying to figure out if I need to add a plastic palette or something to the field sketch bag if I wanna bring these guys along for a trip somewhere! Would love to see how you've incorporated them into your travel rig. As always - thanks for being such an inspiration and sharing all your goodness w/ everyone!!!1!!

Tom Hart said...

Thanks for that clarication on "reworking".

One other thing I've been wondering about is the brittleness factor. The Richeson site and others here have warned about cracking on flexible surfaces. I know that the Moleskine book you use is a medium weight w.c. paper, but in a sketchbook the work is held pretty flat. Have you tried a larger format yet? If so, did/would you move to something like panel or illustration board?

James Gurney said...

Thanks, Robb. In case anyone wondered, Richeson isn't paying me anything to talk about casein. I'm just having a blast playing with it, and I always like taking up the cause of the underdog. I congratulate Richeson for being pretty much the only art supply manufacturer to keep on making the paint—and making high quality stuff. When I met them at their booth at the Plein Air and Portrait conventions, they said the casein market was just a tiny niche and was actually declining. I'm sure they'd be happy if it's sustainable, but if anything, they kind of hope it doesn't get too popular, or else the really big manufacturers like Winsor & Newton or Grumbacher might step in.

As far as palettes, just about any plastic or metal mixing surface works OK. I sometimes borrow the mixing surface from one of my watercolor kits for the casein, then clean it off. I have also used white enamel spray paint to turn metal lids of colored pencil boxes into palette surfaces.

James Gurney said...

Tom, I was worried about that too after reading that. I actually showed my sketchbook to the folks at the Richeson booth and they said no problem--I wasn't building up any big impastos. They said they had to say that because some painters really cake on the paint, and if it's super thick, it will crack on a flexible support. To be extra safe, use a rigid panel, of course, but if you're painting with normal gouache-like consistencies, there shouldn't be a problem. That said, I'm just starting out with this stuff, so I want to do some more R&D, and would love to hear others' experiences.

Tom Hart said...

I couldn't resist. Just ordered the starter set - which is really quite reasonably priced, for 6 tubes of any type of paint...Looking forward to the fun. And I'm glad to support Richeson's championing of such a niche product.

James Gurney said...

Good idea, Tom. For those that are kind of new to opaque painting or new to any particular medium, such as gouache, casein, or oil, I would suggest starting with just two tubes: white and black. This lets you experiment with the properties of the paint, thinking only about lights and darks and thickness, etc--without worrying about hue, chroma, and the rest of it. I love painting in grisaille—it sort of clears my head.

Tom Hart said...

Excellent point, James. I would just point out that at the current prices on Amazon, the starter set of 6 tubes (which includes black and white) is virtually the same price as those two tubes bought separately, plus the set qualifies for free shipping, so it works out cheaper to go for the 6! :^)

Tom Hart said...

...slight correction: the 2 tubes bought together would still qualify for the free shipping, but there's no reason I can see to not go for all 6 tubes.

James Gurney said...

Thanks, Tom. Hadn't thought of that.

Unknown said...

Hello James, great painting. Do you make a grayscale of different tones before you start painting, or do you mix the greys as you go along? If you do make a a grayscale, what is your way of doing that?

James Gurney said...

Robert, no, I pretty much dive in with mixtures and try to hit them directly. Usually the problem is letting things drift toward middle tones, so I have to push the values toward the Light and Dark families.

David said...

Thanks you for your helpful answers to my earlier question.

I'm curious about the tube paint. DO you always squeeze out fresh paint, or can you used it again from a dried lump or dried "pan?"

James Gurney said...

David, good question. You have to keep squeezing out new casein, because, unlike watercolor and gouache, the dry paint is insoluble.