New Year, New Painting

At the end of last year I decided it was time to go back to painting.  During 2020 I made failed attempts; to be honest I have been failing at it for quite some time.  I had lost interest, not in the process, but in the kind of work I was making.  Things had become stagnant and predictable, and I became bored.  Drawing was my new focus and it has been the reason why my following on Instagram has grown  (two days ago I hit 40K).  The more likes and follows I got the more drawings I made.   

Slowly I began immersing myself back into painting.  First by re-tubing old paint that needed salvaging, or by mixing colors.  I looked at unfinished paintings to see if I could continue work on them or if I needed to scrap them.  A 24x30 inch landscape I invested many hours in has been completely covered to make way for new possibilities on that linen.  During 2020 I had also been listening to podcasts and picking up tidbits that could help me in my own work.  An advice from a painter in an interview was to shake things up by introducing a new brush shape or size, or maybe a new color.  I think the podcast with most significance in helping me get back to painting has been the Art Grind Podcast.  Their recent interview with George O'Hanlon and Tatiana Zaytzeva awoke the interest I've had for art materials and their history.  They spoke about their paint, the way it's made and the way it handles.  I've always known about their paint being good and also being the closest we can get to the kind of paint the old masters used.  Their oil colors are nothing but linseed oil and pigment, no other additives are mixed.   I have used their paint before but only in small amounts, and mixed in with other modern color makers.  So I decided to snap out of my painting funk and try a new color palette, and using mostly Rublev colors in one painting from beginning to end.  So far this is working like magic and I am happy to report that my new painting is coming along nicely.

Current palette: 

  1. White - mix of Rublev Lead White #1 and Williamsburg Titanium White 
  2. Williamsburg Ultramarine Blue
  3. Rublev Chrome Ochre 
  4. Rublev Vicenza Earth 
  5. Rublev Lemon Ochre 
  6. Rublev Hrazdan Yellow 
  7. Rublev Ercolano Red
  8. Rublev Chrome Green 
  9. Rublev Nicosia Green Earth 
  10. Rublev Cyprus Burnt Umber (Warm)  

Over a year ago I made an attempt to paint a landscape from imagination.  I was inspired by a Marc Dalessio painting of Italy, I loved the composition and the feel of the colors, and I thought I could take some elements from it and use it in my work.  After the first layer I set the linen aside.  Painting from imagination is very hard, I have always had a drawing or photo as reference if I am painting in the studio.  A successful painting, at least a landscape, needs to be well planned for it to be successful.  Here I was winging it and it is no surprise that I was not happy with the outcome.  The canvas has been leaning in a stack on the floor for quite some time, and a week ago I thought it was time to see it through.  Putting my new color palette to use I applied another layer of color, still searching for what will be the final image.  Things started falling into place and I reached a composition that could work.  

The new colors are interesting, and I'm surprised as to how much chroma I can get from a mostly earth tone palette.  The great thing about using Rublev colors is that I have had no need to dip my brush in my medium cups.  The paint flows in a way I have not experienced before.  Because I was not diluting the paint, the brushwork became more rich.  I was beginning to see the kind of paint consistency I admire when looking at paintings in museums.  This paint is allowing me to get the painterly texture I have been seeking in recent years.  

So what is the problem with using mediums?  Modern oil paints are made stiffer, and 99% of the time are mixed with fillers, extenders, and preservatives to extend their shelf life.  Nobody wants to see a tube of paint oozing oil in the store, so to keep the paint nice and thick additives are mixed in.  Additives change the way oil paint behaves, it becomes short, and to make them flow on the canvas we've been taught to use solvents and mediums.  Solvents can weaken the bond of the oil and thus compromising the strength of the paint film as it hardens over the years.  Too much oil in the medium will cause color discoloration over time, and even cracking.  I'm always afraid that I might be using too much oil in my paintings, even though I barely touch the surface of the paint medium with the tip of my brush.  Using Rublev is a nice welcome change to my practice, although I should warn that because their paint is so pure, the pigments do separate from the oil in the tube.  Every time you squeeze paint out you will get a substantial amount of oil.  I either let it drain on a paper towel, or place a small piece of paper towel on top of the mound on the palette to let it soak up the extra oil.    

In all, I am very happy with the results I'm getting from this new paint.  I'm getting some nice textures without trying, which I am very excited about.  I will continue posting both here and on Instagram about the progress of this painting, so make sure to keep checking back.    


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