Friday, May 10, 2019

Using black and white as a learning tool

When I'm experimenting with a painting medium, I like to reduce the variables to the zen of just black and white.

By ignoring color at first, I can concentrate on the basic mechanics of paint mixing and application.

And if I'm tentatively exploring a new medium, I don't have to invest in a big set of colors.

Here's an extended YouTube video of my new tutorial Unconventional Oil Techniques. The video officially premieres publicly at noon, New York time, so join in then on YouTube and we'll try a Q and A chat.

In this 22-minute sample, I demonstrate a variety of methods of paint application, and then I apply those techniques to three paintings of T.rex that I produced for Ranger Rick Magazine.  Some are time-honored painting techniques, such as glazing, scumbling, and oiling up. Others are more unusual, including pre-texturing, side-dragging, and palette-knife blending.
For those who have purchased the video, thanks! Please ask any questions you might have in the comments, either here on the blog, or in the comment section of the YouTube video.

And if you don't have it yet, here's where you can get your hands on the full video and the supplies to do your own experiments with oil paint:

Available as a DVD

Available on Gumroad



GerryD said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
GerryD said...

Hi James, great video and work! Thanks for sharing so much of your knowledge and process (and at such a reasonable price). It's been very helpful to someone like myself who is new to oil painting.

While I'm sure that the responsible use of solvents/thinners is quite safe I was wondering if you had any experience painting solvent free. Is it practical or limiting to your process and do you know of any alternatives to OMS and turpentine worth trying?

Tom C. said...

Hi James
How does one develop an eye to mix the colors they see? Or should one just focus on value and temperature
Is there exercises so I can practice and develop myself?

James Gurney said...

More Ovaltine. Good question and great topic for another post, but it's too big to answer here.

James Gurney said...

GerryD, No, I haven't painted solvent-free in oil. I use as little Gamsol as possible.

Luca said...

I think you had a great idea showing the techniques with "simple" brush strokes and reducing the variables to few elements (a simple shape and just black and white): i'm slowly convincing that what really makes the difference between mediocre art and great art is the brushwork.

I'll be waiting to the answer to More Ovaltine question too, it's a great subject and it will be precious to read your advices on it! "Color and Light" was an eye opener for me!

I can't be of any help with mixing, but to mix one has to understand.
My way to understand the color is remembering that what my mind perceive is not what my eyes see: the context alter colors and tricks our mind. It looks black, but looking carefully i can see the occlusion shadow of wrinkles on it: so, it can't be black. It looks a vivid red, but it's surrounded by colder and muted colors: is that red actually so vivid as i perceive it? And those colors, are actually colder or am i just perceiving the chroma contrast?

I find that being trained with digital art is a great help to understand color, for me, since digital art relies heavily on the Munsell system and this makes reasoning in terms of hue, chroma and value very obvious. Besides, softwares are based on the "yurmby" wheel and real light is based on that, not on the traditional one. I know that it sounds quite eretic to the ears of a traditional painter, but to me the complementary of yellow is blue, not purple. And since God created the world using with the yurmby, i'll stick to that, ah ah!

For once, digital art may help traditional artists and not the contrary! :)

CerverGirl said...

My question is about the Liquin medium. I have seen many professional artists use it, but another commented that it kills color.
Have you noticed a difference in hue or chroma after drying/affect on particular colors? And since this is a fairly recent formulation of a medium (not that older or newer has anything with good/bad) but my concern is that we don't get to jump ahead 200 years to see any detriment or benefit. Thanks in advance.

James Gurney said...

Ovaltine, What Luca says is right: the color you need to mix for a given spot in a given painting is contingent on many factors, including the surrounding colors and the key of the painting. But let's suppose you're just trying the exercise of mixing paints to match a flat paint swatch in the hardware store. I'd say you might start by approximating the hue, then adjust the value, and finally the chroma. And yes, I agree that digital art (and photography) have given all of us new insight into visual expression that painters who use physical paint can learn from.

CerverGirl, I haven't heard of any such issues with Liquin and haven't had any problems with conservation personally.

Virginia Fhinn said...

Thank you so much for your dedication to sharing your insight and experience, it is very inspiring. What a gift this blog is and the resources you've created! I found a copy of "Imaginative Realism" in a library about an hour and a half away from my home in the Halifax Public Library. I thought that was so cool to find that!
I've been painting in oils for a few years now, and your readers may be interested to know that I found a product called "Green for Oil" that I use in place of odorless thinner to clean my brushes, and they make a product that can be used to thin paints also. It works pretty well, not quite as we'll as the real thing but if you forget your can open (like I do, all the time) you wont find yourself feeling queasy!

I'm trying out gouache for the first time and having a hell of a time with it. I enjoyed your "gouache in the wild" video... Any chance you'll do a video with techniques similar to the oil techniques video? What a steep learning curve! It really is like learning to speak in a new language. ... The advantages for plein air and the ease of transporting it around make me want to stick with it, but I'm just about to throw it into the creek!

James Gurney said...

Fhinn, When you say you're having a "hell of a time" with gouache, I take it that's not a good thing. I sympathize. Gouache has its quirks and challenges. And yes, I am planning to do a video with a similar format for gouache painting, and specifically using colors in new ways.

Gary said...

James--thanks once again for your clear and concise explanations and excellent demonstrations. Well done. Do you commonly use this much Liquin? I ask only because of being taught to use mediums very sparingly. For me, if more than a touch works well, or differently, I'd love to try it. Regardless, thanks for the free clip.

Gary Hoff

Virginia Fhinn said...

That's great news, I look forward to it! Thank you !