Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Janurary 2011 Newsletter

Hello and Happy New Year!

New For 2011

I have a new newsletter format, using a more reliable service. I think the look is cleaner, what do you think?  There should be links to subscribe (if this was forwarded to you) or unsubscribe at the bottom of the email.  This is now handled automagically, which saves me time spent squinting at spreadsheets and saves you hassle over human error.

I also have a new website of my very own, where I can organize all of my art and links online. It’s called The Nerdly Painter , and don’t forget the “L” in Nerdly. There is a companion blog The Nerdly Painter blog focusing on the Science of Art materials, and a new Facebook page (Nerdly Painter) to tie it all together. All of the in-text links in this newsletter will be spelled out at the end of the letter for anyone having HTML issues.

Whew! With all of this time at the computer, you may wonder whether there are any new paintings. I do have a few new paintings but no decent photos yet (I’m still trying to find a way to work around the snow for that good outdoor light.) I have 4 newly available high resolution prints, along with several paintings still in progress. During the winter I paint a lot of landscapes and seascapes because I miss the sun.  I thought that perhaps putting painted sunlight onto canvas would help bring back the Spring, but so far it seems to be having the opposite effect. Maybe the snow will let up if I switch back to abstracts?

Our cats experiencing “Snow”

Since I’ve spent such a big chunk of time setting up the new website, blog, etc, this will be a short newsletter. Wintertime is a slow time for Art events in the Boston area. I think the mounds of snow may have something to do with this (and I know some places got it worse – you have my sympathy!).

Monday, January 17, 2011

Oil paint as a polymer - drying

1.  That slooow drying oil paint
Oil paint can take a long time to dry.   When it's thinned with turpentine the turpentine evaporates quickly and the paint "dries", but sometimes that layer can still be smudged.  What is it about oil and oil paint that makes it stay "wet" and liquid for a long time and then - voila!  It starts to thicken and then dries to a hard film.

Think about the liquids you use everyday; water, isopropanol (rubbing alcohol), possibly even solvents like acetone and ethyl acetate.  Most of these liquids evaporate fairly quickly.  Even a drop of water doesn't take days and days to dry.  When these everyday pure liquids dry *poof* they're gone.

2.  Typical solutions and their drying
Of course it's possible to take something solid, for example salt or sugar, and dissolve it in a liquid like water.  When the liquid water evaporates, solid salt or sugar is left behind.  In contrast, when oil paint is dissolved or thinned with turpentine or another solvent, the solvent evaporates and the pasty paint is left behind -- and then the paint slowly hardens over time.  Step back and think about this - oil paint has an unusual property.

Solid particles (gray balls) dissolved in a solvent (blue "water molecules").  Instead of particles you can also imagine that the gray balls are molecules of something that would be a solid without the water dissolving it.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Viscosity, why does it matter?

Oil paint thinning and thickening
When we mix up oil paint, we sometimes make it thinner using turpentine or solvent so the paint flows more easily. Sometimes we thicken the paint using wax or impasto medium so that the texture of our brushstrokes is retained. Have you ever mixed up a batch of very thin paint for a wash, and then left it overnight in a sealed container? The next day the paint may still be fluid and usable, but often the pigment will have settled to the bottom or the liquids will have separated. Mixing up a more fluid paint for glazing reduced the paint's viscosity. This allowed the pigment particles to fall to the bottom.

Confused about artists' materials? 1. A very short and easy technical history of oil paint

Have you ever wondered what goes into artist grade paint? If you've ever shopped for artist's oils or acrylics you may have noticed that there's a lot of information surrounding those little tubes. Even right in the store, the paint displays are full of ratings, claims and data to take in. Dig a little deeper; look into articles and books for artists, and you'll find advice on how the individual colors behave, information describing good and not-so-good ways to use the media that mix with the paint, and lots of factoids and explanations about why this is so.

Does all of this information seem confusing? Sometimes contradictory? As if it points everywhere except towards the solid answers you need? If you've found yourself confused trying to make sense out of everything you've read, heard and been told about artists' paint, it may be because a lot of the information out there is out of date, or extrapolated from materials that don't behave like your paint, or simply well-worn paint mythology. Your confusion is not a lack of insight or knowledge; in fact it's a sign of a solid scientific intuition and curiosity taking hold.