Posts Tagged ‘140306’

Studio Experimentation—A Casein Point, Studio Trial #3 of 3

Sunday, June 1st, 2014

For the past two blogs, I’ve written about my experimentations with casein paints, questioning whether they might provide a viable alternative to watercolor, acrylics, and oils. My goals in this third and final trial, were two-fold. I wanted to see how the paint behaved on a canvas panel, as opposed to the papers I had used in the first two trials. And I wanted to try incorporating some additional casein emulsion as a medium to thin the paint and increase the flow, in lieu of using just water, which dried too quickly in low humidity.

Trial #3: Because I had already been warned that casein would crack and chip off flexible canvas, even on stretchers, I chose a small (6”x8”) rigid pre-gessoed canvas-covered panel for my support. I began by mixing some of the emulsion into a pile of yellow as a primer for the sunset composition I had planned.

Using the emulsion, my initial wash was very easy to spread and applied smoothly in a gratifyingly even coat. Subsequent applications also applied more easily on top of the first when I included some extra emulsion in the paint mixture. I found I really enjoyed the feel of working on the canvas surface.

As in previous trials, if too much water remained on my brush after rinsing it, subsequent brush strokes sometimes lifted off underlying layers of even previously dried paint. So I learned to dab excess water off the rinsed brush onto an absorbent surface before picking up fresh paint from the palette. When I was careful to do this, glazing one layer over another posed little problem. I used this technique in the clouds.

140306c Casein Sunset

In the water area of the painting, however, I found it difficult both to control the saturation of the paints and to create a smooth transition between hues. In another situation, it might have been easier to create a graded transition by mixing glazes of the more transparent pigments in a higher proportion of emulsion. But with my limited color options, and to solve the problems of both saturation and transition, I turned to optical color mixing, applying one color next to another, which proved more effective than layering one color on top of another.

One benefit of the emulsion was that it served to slow the drying time, so the paint remained workable for a longer period. I hadn’t mixed it into all my color piles, which proved to be a mistake, because some of my paint puddles dried on the palette before I had finished the painting session. The additional water that was needed to remoisten them resulted in some color being lifted off the canvas when the rewetted paint was applied.

Even after allowing the painting to rest and dry for several hours, when I returned to it, intending to give it a buff, I found that wherever I had used the emulsion more heavily, the surface was not yet thoroughly dry. That in itself was a valuable lesson in how well the emulsion works to slow the drying rate, and how important it is to blend it in evenly when mixing it with the paint.

Eventually, buffing the canvas painting lifted a little of the color as before—in this case primarily yellow—which emphasized the weave texture of the canvas. Only the raised portions of the fabric polished up to a satiny gloss, of course, while the parts of the weave left untouched by the buffing cloth remained matte. This effect had not been so evident in the first trial on canvas-textured paper, probably because the texture of the paper was considerably shallower so the buffing cloth was able to treat the entire surface.

If you have ever worked with casein paints, I would like to hear about your experiences with it and about any techniques that you found helpful.