Monday, January 16, 2017

How I start a casein painting

I often approach a casein or gouache painting with two passes: a semi-transparent lay-in of the big shapes, followed opaques, going for the details last.

The surface is a Pentalic watercolor journal. Here's a big blowup of the page so you can see the finished sketch up close. Note that "PALACE HOTEL" is painted dark over light.

The limited palette of the Gurney 6 Pack is enough for this subject: Colors include titanium white, ivory black, Venetian red, yellow ochre, and cobalt blue. The cobalt blue mixed with Venetian red makes a nice near-black that I use as a base for the shadow. Note the partial mixtures in the shadow..

(Link to watch video on YouTube)
My Gumroad tutorial: Casein Painting in the Wild
On Amazon: Casein 6 Pack
Casein six pack with travel brush set


Sheridan said...

When I attended art school (about 40 years ago) casein and gouache were thought of as "temporary" mediums. I have had several of my early works in gouache disintegrate over time. It was taught as an illustrators medium, because the work only had to survive until it was photographed for an ad or magazine image.
I was wondering what your thoughts are on this. I really like gouache, and have used it extensively in my career, but only as a temporary sketch.
Really like the blog. You seem like a modern day Da Vinci with all the experiments, modeling, cinematography, an whatnot.

James Gurney said...

Sheridan, some of the early "designers" gouache had some fugitive pigments, especially in the cool reds. And it's true that some designers in the '60s and '70s used gouache — and markers and rubber cement and junky board — without any thought to conservation. After the design served its purpose it was seen as disposable.

But that era has mostly passed. Most makers of paper are more careful about making them acid free, and paint makers have many more lightfast pigments to work with. It's usually called "artist's gouache" to reflect the intention of using it for permanent or "fine art" uses. A gouache or casein surface is still a little fragile, but there's nothing in the paint itself that's impermanent. In fact the oldest paint known to humankind is casein. Archaeologists have found casein paint in a cave in South Africa that's 49,000 year old.

Unknown said...

You said in the video that you didn't use black in the shadows, that it wasn't dark enough - but you've listed it as part of the palette you used, so I'm intrigued as to what you used it for in this painting? (If anything?)

James Gurney said...

Jessica, Yes in this case, I put a little black on the palette but didn't use it in this painting. I have it in case I need to spike an accent or two, as I did on the painting of Montreal.
I also have black with me because I like to paint with just black and white:

gyrusdentus said...

Lovely Inspiration . Thanks

Handmade Soap said...

Interesting _ real I like this

Michael Parker said...

Love your work and the blog! Just got my set of casein paint, and after using it a couple of days, found that my brushes were bright yellow green even after rinsing them thoroughly. It even started to leave a bit of the green color at the end of a stroke of any color. I was mixing flesh tones and other colors than green so it doesn't seem like the paint staining the bristles. The bright green also isn't rinsing out of the brush between mixing colors. It's a sort of residue that's left in the brush until I wash them with soap and warm water, and it seems to build up as I continue painting. I've got the Richeson Casein Shiva series paints, just the basic six. I'm using the Masterson's sta-wet palette, and synthetic water media brushes (protege, winsor newton, connoisseur). Have you experienced this at all using casein paint? I've used gouache and acrylics but those never did this. I've researched online and in my art materials books but haven't found anything that mentions this. I love the paint and want to continue using it, but this baffles me. Any thoughts?

James Gurney said...

Michael, that's strange....haven't heard that before. I'm not sure which set of 6 you have (they make a few different sets), but maybe it has staining organic pigments in it. That can get into your brush, but it should wash out at the end of the day. If the green is a phthalo, you can switch it for a weaker, less staining green.

Michael Parker said...

Thanks for the response. It's the one from Dickblick- ivory black, ult blue, pthalo green, rose red, naples yellow, and titanium white. The weird thing is it's not the same color as the pthalo green, but a brighter yellow-green, almost florescent. It's only really an issue when the paint is thinned out and the green forces through the color, and in dry brushing it leaves a little at the end of a stroke. It does wash out though with soap and water when I'm done. I'll keep working with it and maybe figure out what it is one day! Thanks!

Mary Aslin said...

Outstanding tutorial...thanks.

bernicky said...

It looks like the Vatican is using a variation of Casein to paint some of their buildings

Interesting story.

Unknown said...

James Gurney,
you have been my teacher via You Tube and your blog for years.
Your extraordinary skill and kindness towards us contiue to amaze me.
Thank you! I see at times the beauty of Jeanette's paitings. Please thank her.
I may have found a useful tip for keeping Casein "live" longer than it wants to
be: a drop or two of glycerin does it.
I use it with gouache to keep it moist since it's a humectant and hoped it would work with Casein.So does for a while. You will certainly improve on the idea if you like it.
As a filmmaker, I recognize another excellent Gurney skill: YOUR filnnaking.