Saturday, May 7, 2011
My New Best Friends
Every once in awhile, it's good to ask yourself why you do what you do. Here is an example. The other day I started thinking about why I use brights. When I first started painting again about 20 (!) years ago I used filberts because the artist I was studying with did. Eventually I switched to brights- tried flats briefly but they were too floppy for me, and I liked the square touch I got with a bright. Of course, I was painting in a direct, alla prima way at that time.
Fast forward to five or six years ago when I began exploring indirect techniques. My brush obsessions became about finding out what worked best for glazing (sable watercolor wash brushes) and for the drybrush transparent underpaintings I do (beat up versions of the aforementioned brushes).
Bristle brushes, at least the brights I was using, did not work well for the translucent and opaque passages that I layered on top of glaze layers and the scumbles I used in my skies and for forms in the distance. So, I used the sables and more recently some mongoose brushes made by Rosemary. But still, they were brights.
One of the challenges of the technique I use is to "marry" the transparent passages with those other ones- translucent, opaque, scumbles, drybush, etc. A heavy handed application will look out of place- like it should be on someone else's painting. And, worst, of all, it will destroy the atmosphere and mystery I work so hard to achieve. So I tended to keep those passages thin, which also tended to level the paint quite a bit. I use Liquin as a medium and it is a wonder for glazing- increases transparency and flow and in doing so-levels the paint. Even used sparingly, it still tends to bulldoze a brushstroke.
So, for no particular reason except I have been rattling these issues around in my head now for years, the other day I pulled out a couple of well worn rounds which belong to my husband and a tube of Galkyd Gel which I experimented with in direct painting about 10 years ago. And this is what happened. (click for a closer look).
The Galkyd Gel tube says it increases transparency and creates impasto. I thought upon reading that- "yea, right". Well, it does! Somehow, it combines high viscosity (no flow) with transparency to create a glaze impasto! Which means those particles of opaque-ish paint are suspended in a glaze like stroke- so it looks like it belongs with the rest of my painting. And the rounds were stiff enough to create a brushstroke, but gave me a freer, less angular paint application that suits my work perfectly.
I tell my students that it is important to make time for R&D (research and development) to explore new ideas and techniques. I guess I need to take my own advice.