Monday, March 28, 2011

Painting in prime time

Finally, that show about fascinating paintings is going to premiere this week with its pilot episode featuring, in "Kate's" office (Jeri Ryan), several paintings by me! I think there's some secondary plot about a medical examiner-something-something, but let's hope they don't stand in front of the paintings too often.  Alas, by the time the pilot was picked up for the series, my paintings were recast so it's a mystery as to what will grace the office walls for subsequent episodes. That's why you can't miss the premiere on Tuesday, March 29, 10pm Eastern, 9pm Central on ABC unless you have a good excuse, like me, who still doesn't have a TV! 

But I expect it will be available somewhere like Hulu, so if I find it, I'll publish the link in a gesture of shameless self promotion.

PS - For you Rhode Islanders, there are also bound to be lots of inaccurate arrangements of familiar places, or in other words, a view of "Philadelphia" that looks eerily familiar. 

PPS - How'd I get my paintings on TV? Like this. 


Friday, March 25, 2011

Timeless techniques - and less time to do them.

My egg tempera demo was a lot of fun, thanks to everyone who came even though parking was a challenge and the action looked more "spirited" across the street in the 3 bars celebrating St. Patrick's Day. Above is a little panel I did using egg tempera of the yellow mounds in the South Dakota Badlands where I was artist in residence back in 2002. I'm hoping to keep working in egg tempera, but it might be more of a winter medium. I'm anxious to get back to oils now that the weather is more reasonable and my studio less frozen.

I've also taken some printmaking classes this winter at the AS220 printshop:
Walter Feldman at the Vandercook press
The first was Woodblock Printmaking with Walter Feldman. It's such a treat when you sign up for a class and it exceeds your expectations. I knew Walter Feldman was a master woodcut artist, but I didn't know he would be so inspiring as a teacher. It's not that he gives and exhaustive blueprint of the printing process, but he imparts a love of the medium, a respect for the tools, and an appreciation that woodcut is an art form onto itself. "Let the block speak to you" he says, as he runs his printer's hand over the wood's surface. But don't get the idea that he's one of those artists who hear voices, he's down to earth enough to warn you not to get a fingerprint on the paper "Then you won't be able to sell it".

I took another woodblock class last year that taught how to use a laser cutter to cut the block, but while interesting, is not the way I'm going with this. Laser is surely capable of cutting just about any line, but the hand is the better tool, in my opinion.

I'm also now taking a refresher etching class, the toxic kind. I took the non-toxic intaglio class but once again, toxic is better. The concession to health and environment is to use ferric chloride instead of acid, but I even miss hanging over the acid bath brushing the air bubbles off the plate with a feather.  Not good for you though.

Why am I learning even more techniques when I don't have time to use the techniques I already use? 

No answer to that question but to change the subject. Hey, look over there! Wonderful landscapes, check them out!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Don't chicken out, egg tempera is easy!

I haven't posted for a while, I've been busy learning a "new" technique called egg tempera, used by artist Louise Marianetti who is showing till Saturday at the Bert Gallery. As you might know from a previous post, I inherited some art supplies from her over 50 years in the studio. Included was a barrel full of packages of dry pigments, so Cathy Bert asked artist Frank Gasbarro to take them and try his hand at egg tempera.  Last week I went to his studio to see what he was up to and I decided to try some for myself.
Egg tempera, of course, starts with the egg. Specifically the yolk. After separating the yolk from the white and rolling the yolk on a paper towel to remove any remaining white and slipperyness  you can actually pick it up like a little sack. Hold it over a bowl and puncture it and the yolk will pour out. That's the binder for your paint. How simple and pure is that?

Next you need to prepare your pigment. Besides pigments from the Marianetti stash, I was able to purchase some beautiful colors from Kremer Pigments in New York City. Some of the dry pigments are toxic and at their most dangerous in powdered form, so check out the Material Safety Data Sheet, don a dust mask and gloves appropriately, and be conscious of where you dispose of them.  I've made an effort to buy non-toxic colors, but we always want what's bad for us, so some cadmiums and cobalts insinuated themselves onto my palette.  I did contact Kremer to see if they had a list of non-toxic pigments, and they said they would try to make one up. If they do, I'll post it.

Before you mix your pigment with the yolk you make it into a paste with distilled water. You can mix up most colors and store them for awhile, so decide if you want to make just the amount for your painting, or enough to store in a jar with a little distilled water on top. The RISD store has some nice inexpensive palette cups with lids by Loewell Cornell and glass jars with plastic lids for only 60¢.  Once you've turned the pigment into paste, you don't need the mask but you might want to keep your gloves on.

You can mix most pigments with a palette knife since they are already ground very fine, but some are more difficult; either light and fluffy like baby powder, or gritty, so if you can spring for a glass muller (about $65.) it really helps. And it's so pretty, especially with the pigment reflecting through!

When you get a good selection of pigment pastes, put a small amount on your palette and mix with an equal part egg yolk. To test whether you've used enough yolk, paint a swatch on a piece of glass. It will dry quickly and you can scrape it with a knife or blade to test. If it's powdery, you don't have enough yolk, it should be more like a thin film. When you have the mixture right, you can add water to it to get the consistency you want to paint with

Painting with the tempera is a pleasure. It dries so fast that you won't be able to do a smooth wash, but you can build up layers and glazes, and really fine detail. Most colors have an amazing covering ability and the tempera will not lift off when painted over. After it cures for a few weeks it will be impervious to water and can even be polished with a soft cloth.

If you want to try it, there are some great instructions on this site. If you want to see two artist's experiments with it, come to the Bert Gallery this Gallery Night (Thursday the 17th, St. Patrick's Day!) at 6 when I and Frank Gasbarro will give a little demo on how to start to paint with egg tempera.
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