Saturday, December 3, 2016

Broken Aspen

When we set up to paint, we didn't know we were standing in the middle of the moose's salad bar. Luckily they left us alone. If you're getting this post by email, you may need to follow this YouTube link to see the video.

I'm focusing on a single broken aspen, selecting the central area for a lot of careful detail, and letting the detail module broaden on the outside edges.

Let me take a question from Philip Ackermann on my Instagram page:
"I was always wondering... is there any problem with the colors becoming dull/sinking in or darkening upon drying? Let us take a value scale from 0-10. Zero is glossy black oil paint. Relative to that - where is the darkest achievable value with casein on that scale? I hope this does not seem like a foolish concern, but it really bugs me when painting with acrylics."

Phillip, that's not a foolish concern at all. I've found that with gouache or casein, the darkest darks will never be as deep as is possible in oil, where you can use glazes and varnishes and keep a shiny surface.

You can varnish casein with a brush-on or spray-on varnish like Krylon Crystal Clear and get the darks back, but I think the paint lends itself to an aesthetic that's different from the tenebrism of Caravaggio and many oil painters.

Casein seems to favor a lighter approach, with the beauty in the variety of color in the lights. Here are a few tips:
1. Try to push your values into a light group (8-9 by your scale) and a dark group (1-2).
2. Avoid middle tones. That's where the dullness comes from. Also avoid pure white and pure black.
3. Always try to get color character in your darks. Make them definitely cool or warm, and alternate the colors within the dark group.
4. To practice getting the values right, work in grisaille or very limited warm/cool palettes.

Learn more with these links
Previous blog post: My Favorite Gouache Masters
Wikipedia page on how an aspen forest is one giant organism
Our painting companion is Carl Bork
Krylon Crystal Clear
Casein Explorer's Set
Gumroad video: Casein Painting in the Wild
Watch my casein video


Luca said...

Painting under the manace of mooses is a new chapter in the series "strange things that happened while painting", isn't it ? (by the way, i think nothing beats the arrival of the caribbean festival in the "painting amid chaos", to me :D )

Jokes apart, the thing that amazes me, with this sketch, it's how tridimensional it looks, the aspen really "pops out" from the background. And if we consider that the brightest colors are everywhere but on the tree, i'd say that the values are perfect. But (at least from what we can see on the video), you didn't spend a lot of time checking values before starting the painting and this is the part that really astonishes me: i understand you made choices for the sketch and you were not aiming to a photographic representation of what you were observing, but point is that you nailed the values on the spot. I understand that years of practice play a great role in that, but according to your experience, which is the best way to learn "reading" the values? It's like the mother of all questions, i realize that. :\ So far, i found of great help getting used to squint the eyes and i'm making my own value chart (actually, 6 value charts, one for each primary color of the YRMBCG wheel), but if you could travel in time, what would you suggest to the young James, on this subject? :)

Dan said...
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