Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Making Salt Refined Organic Linseed Oil

A fresh batch of raw linseed oil made from organic flax seed oil, resting in the light

I recently completed another batch of SRO oil, or salt refined organic linseed oil, for painting.  It's such an interesting process and the results are truly worth the effort.  I like to make my own linseed oil because I am interested in the materials of the past, used by the old masters before modern oil painting materials were available.     

The image above shows the first stage of cleansing the organic flax oil to remove impurities.  The flax oil is mixed with water, sand and salt, and given a good shake.  The cleansed oil rises to the top and is siphoned off and the entire process is repeated again.

Here is the cloudy oil after the first cleansing.  I discard the dirty water, clean the jar, add fresh water, clean sand and salt.  I add the oil back in and shake, shake, shake.


The impurities and mucilage (stuff you don't want in your paintings!) have a molecular attraction to the other ingredients and separate from the oil, sinking to the bottom of the jar.  

 mucilage, yuck


This oil is fully cleansed and will clear as it sits in a sunny window in the light. 

I currently depend on my SRO oil for making oil paint.  I use half of the raw SRO oil for mulling pigments.  I tube the hand made paint in 50 ml tubes that last a long time.  I take the other half of SRO oil and pour it in a shallow glass dish and place it in the sun to thicken.  After a month I have a beautiful, clear and thick oil that is perfect for mediums.

The completed jar of raw oil, ready to make paint!

At the moment I make about half of the colors on my palette from my own oil and pigment.  I have adjusted the ingredients for each pigment to suit my particular needs.  I am slowly making my way through each color and experimenting with the pigments to find the best balance of oils, pigment and fillers like calcite or fumed silica, to create a beautiful tube of oil paint perfectly suited for my indirect layering process. 

~my favorite white~

~my dependable 'warm light mix' that sits right next to white on my palette~

It will take a long time to get through all my colors to have a full palette of handmade oil paint, but in the meantime I'm really enjoying the process!

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Monday, July 24, 2017

Mulling Paint, Grind Your Own Oil Paint

Here is a demo on how I make my own oil paint.  In the pic above you can see everything laid out except my dust mask.  Particles can become airborne and a dust mask is important.

To make oil paint you need:
glass plate
glass muller
linseed oil-cold pressed
(I use my own hand made linseed oil)
a couple palette knives
paint tube


First I lay out an amount of dry pigment that I think will fit my empty paint tube.  I lay the tube next to my pile to measure.

Next I make a pool of oil in the middle of the pigment.  The white in the pigment is a touch of calcite that I've mixed in.  I like adding calcite to my oil paint, it adds a touch of transparency and extends the paint.  That is a definite bonus for creating your own oils, you can customize them to your liking.  I also add a touch of sun oil to raw umber, in combination with the calcite I get a very specific texture that is great for under-paintings.

I use a palette knife to mix the oil and pigment into a dry mixture and place it in the upper left corner of my glass plate.  I will now mull small amounts at a time to the proper consistency.  

I continue until I am through the entire mixture, placing finished paint to the top right on my glass plate.  I sometimes go through the mixture twice, in case I need to add more oil if it's very dry, or more pigment if it's too wet.  Once you start mulling the paint it changes texture and different pigments react differently after coming in contact with oil.  Some will thin out considerably.

A 50 ml tube will take about an hour to mix correctly, it's time consuming but not difficult. 

A finished mixture of raw umber, ready to tube!

Below you can see the dramatically different textures of different pigments, each unique in particle size and handling ability.  Not all paints I make end up on my palette, but when I discover something that works for me it becomes a staple that I rely on in my painting process.  I have learned how amazingly unique each pigment is, and how you can manipulate the handling properties by using different oils and extenders.  Experimenting takes time but is completely worth the effort.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

"Wit and Whimsy" Show

My work is up at Sage Creek Gallery for a show that lasts until June 25th.  I have many new paintings in the gallery and have been stocking away work for months.  I am super pleased with the final pieces and seeing everything come together is very rewarding.

Preparing for shows takes a lot of time, energy and planning.  I like to make lists of ideas, and thumbnails of possible series and groupings, all throughout the creative process. 

Abundance  11"x14"  oil/panel

I was especially pleased with the paintings for this show.  I felt the surfaces and colors have developed more in the past year than in previous years.  I am seeing the results of working with my handmade paints and mediums and relying on the unique quality of the individual oil colors to contribute to the final look of the painting.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Passing Storm, landscape demo

desert landscape oil painting
Passing Storm  24"x24" oil/panel

I completed this landscape after working out issues with it for several weeks.  When I begin a landscape it is all feeling, intuition and memory.  I felt something when I gazed at a the clouds and sky during a stormy evening, it is that emotion I am intent on capturing...  I do not think of color or shapes, I think of luminosity and the grandeur of the New Mexico landscape.  How small I feel in the wind and oncoming storm.  The vastness of the desert landscape and how the rolling hills are empty and quiet, beyond civilization and human's reach. 

First I begin my painting with a concept; I see something that inspires me to paint.  Usually that is the spectacular light of the sky against the desert horizon as in “Passing Storm”.   I paint from memory, using thin layers to wash in the cloud formation.  For the foreground I use a large ratty bristle brush and umber with impasto medium to build texture of the grass and desert growth with thicker paint.  The beginning of a landscape is just prepwork for the effects I want to achieve in the final painting.  I add a few spots of juniper bushes to establish my darkest dark and a strip of light along the horizon for my lightest light.  This first step is just a whisper of what I want to capture.  

After this dries I continue the painting with photo references or often going out to my own backyard for direct observation.  I add more details.  I refine the shape of the light and bottom of the cloud mass and distant hills.

Finally the sky is glazed with transparent color and semi-transparent color, and the top of the clouds are carved out alternating soft and hard edges to retain the loftiness of a storm cloud.  The lightest  light is layered one more time to create the most lightfast paint quality and luminosity.  The warm glazes in the clouds and light radiating out across the low hills and foreground create the atmosphere I had envisioned in my first inspiration and concept.  All the previous work has come together to create a sense of the grandeur of the desert sky during a summer storm. 

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Reflections on Teaching in 2016

student working on the underpainting

This year has been an exciting journey in teaching.  It has been such a wonderful experience!   As an artist I feel I've grown so much by sharing my classical method of painting with students and the feedback has been amazing.  It began last April when I traveled all the way to Virginia to Deb K Art Home Studios and taught an intensive five day workshop to a full class.  At the same time I also became a member of the faculty at the New Mexico Art League and started teaching Classical Still LifeIt has been a joy to work with students and introduce many to a way of painting that is completely new to them.  The classical indirect method of painting is growing in popularity and I'm glad to be part of a new generation of painters interested in techniques of the past.  Many are amazed at the paint quality that results from layering paint and glazes in oil and continue to study this method by signing up for more classes. 

 finished and signed!

Here are a few examples of students' work:


My next class at the New Mexico Art League begins January 9th, Mondays from 9-12 for eight weeks. click below for information (space is limited!):

                                        3409 Juan Tabo NE,  Albuquerque                               
                                                 P.O. Box 16554, Albuquerque NM 87191                                                   505-293-5034

I have developed a curriculum that begins with drawing and composition.  I teach how to use a basic armature and thumbnails to begin playing with design ideas.  I want students to think of objects as simple shapes, the simpler the better.  We study classical still life with the armature as examples.  We also study the importance of value by changing classical paintings to black/white:

Emil Carlsen 1853-1932 

Chardin 1699-1779

Next we move on to monochromatic underpaintings that concentrate on compressed values, we don't want the shadows too dark:

Once the underpainting dries we begin to study the local color and make individual plans for future glazes and scumbles based on the subject matter.

I introduce a glazing chart, illustrating how brilliant color can be created with a limited palette and knowledge of transparent vs opaque oil paint.

 Dennis Crayon's completed artwork

By the end of the class it is my goal to have students experiment with new ways of approaching oil painting.  Each day in class a new concept is introduced and practiced, from drawing and composition, value and color, to final details and color harmony.  I share different ways of applying and handling oil paint.  It's been quite a year, and I'm so thankful to have these opportunities.  Meeting other artists and talking about art has added a new dimension to my personal art life and I love it a lot!  I want to thank my students for allowing me to share their work here and hopefully inspire other artists to try new ways of painting.  Here are what a few of my students students are saying:

"I have learned more in this class than at the university."

"Great, the best art class I've had.  Would love to have and even longer study/class time to share with Sarah.  Her knowledge of materials and techniques and help with problem solving is truly helpful and valuable."

"Excellent-I learned a lot about composition, underpainting and glazing, as well as problem solving that will help me in whatever style I paint in."

"Excellent, well organized with a generous instructor."

"Thank you again for a fabulous 5 days. Sarah is an excellent teacher. Her calm supportive demeanor allowed for a stress free experience. I just want to keep painting in this style."