Saturday, March 24, 2018

Mr. West and the Night Watch

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At Christmas time I received a set of Richeson casein paints and I’ve finally had a chance to start working with them. This is my first work in casein. I call it Mr. West and the Night Watch. I worked entirely with tints and tones of blue with the only other color being the orange glow of the tip of Mr. West’s cigarette. Since orange is the compliment of blue, the tip of the cigarette seems to nearly jump of the painting. My reference source was a photo of James Dean.  

This is also my first attempt at a style of painting known as a nocturne (unless you count one of my earlier watercolor painting I called Tink). Nocturnes, when used of paintings, typically depict scenes at night or twilight. They can be lit by moonlight or street light or some other source but they are clearly scenes that are taking place at night. Nocturnes often do not display as much detail, colors are very muted and edges are less defined. The next time you take a walk on a moonlit night, notice how colors and details are different from what you would see in the daylight. Nocturnes can convey a sense of mystery, eeriness and a romantic moodiness that I find fascinating. 

As I said, this is my first time working with casein paints. Back in art school I did a fair amount of work with gouache, which are similar to casein paints in that they are essentially opaque watercolors. They behave similarly and they dry to a similar matte finish. However, I think I like the feel of working with casein better than that of gouache. The casein paints seem to have a slightly more “buttery” feel to them. They dry very fast. If I apply one layer of pigment over another too soon after laying down the previous layer, the brush will lift up some of that previous layer. I’ve found that if I resist the urge to keep working on one spot and instead came back to it after working on another area, then lifting was less of a problem. Waiting until the next day was even better. This characteristic of casein may take a little getting-used-to but it is a good characteristic when I need to fix something. It allows me to scrub out something I don’t like and start over. My understanding is that after about a 2 week curing time, the paint becomes significantly water resistant, though not entirely waterproof. I’d like to do some more work with casein paints as they seem to suit my particular style. I’m also hoping to do some more nocturnes. 

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