Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Mulling Smalt PIgment and Crystal Glass Medium


Blue Morpho butterfly
 Blue Morpho  10"x8"  oil/panel by Sarah Siltala



I was reminded recently of a couple failed attempts in the studio, one: to make a medium with powdered crystal glass and two: make Smalt into paint.  In my previous experiments I had used linseed oil alone without any other additions to the mixtures.  This was a mistake, both Smalt and crystal glass are heavy particles that do not mix easily with oil.  They need an additional stabilizer to create a smooth consistency that will not separate or seize up.  I thought about my experience with both and suddenly a light bulb went off, I immediately pulled out my unusable tube of glass medium and ordered another batch of powered smalt pigment.

While I waited for the smalt to arrive in the mail I went to work on my tube of hardened glass medium.  I had it wrapped up in plastic because the particles of glass migrated to one end of the tube and the oil had separated and leaked out, a total mess.  It had seized up and I had to cut it open to scrape out the hardened mass of glass and re-mull it.  Below you can see the hardened chunk of medium and the oily residue.  It needed some sort of stabilizer but I did not want to use wax, and I did  not want to use alumina stearate-a paint stabilizer and cheap filler found in modern manufactured paints. 
I re-mulled the leftover glass chunk with my handmade linseed oil, below you can see the result, a nice smooth mixture.  
I divided the linseed/glass mix into two jars afterward.  To one of the jars I added fumed silica.  I've experimented with making my own medium with fumed silica before and thought if I added this as a stabilizer maybe my mixture would not separate like it did before.  Below on the left is the glass/linseed oil mix and on the right I am adding powdered fumed silica.  I have a post about my previous mixture with linseed oil and fumed silica HERE.  When fumed silica is mixed with linseed oil to make a medium it creates a lovely clear gel and is fantastic to add to oil paint.  It thickens up quite a bit and I'm hoping to have the same effect with my crystal glass mixture.
I also fill a third jar with linseed oil and fumed silica, to prepare for my later experiment...
 Here are my three mixes:
And, 24 hours later:  The linseed/glass mix is already settling and the oil rising to the top, the mixture with linseed and fumed silica is consistent and has not separated.  The fumed silica addition created a stable mixture.  I go ahead and tube it and label it.

You have probably guessed by now that I intend to mix Smalt pigment with linseed and fumed silica.  Smalt is incredibly difficult pigment to make into usable oil paint.  I've read that adding wax can help as a stabilizer, but when I asked the director of Natural Pigments about using the pigment in oil he recommended mulling and using it the same day.  In my first attempt to make paint with just oil and powdered pigment I found it to by totally unpredictable and when I let it sit for 24 hours to 'sweat' it had solidified completely and had to be re-mulled.  It never really became a stable consistency I could use for paint.

Smalt is a historical pigment and a beautiful, delicate shade of blue.  Very unusual.  It's incredibly transparent and has been known to fade or turn green over time.  Luckily potassium has been found to combat the discoloration and fading and Natural Pigments brand of Smalt contains plenty of potassium so no worries there.  Mixing with lead white will also help against future fading, but Smalt has such a low tinting strength I prefer to use it as a glaze.

I add the smallest amount of oil I can to create a thick chalky paste, this will thin out to an ink like consistency immediately.  I don't have to work hard at all to mull it and it's best not to over-mull this pigment anyway.
 
I'm surprised at how thin the oil becomes, but now I add my previously prepared mixture of oil and fumed silica which has become a thick gel.  After a quick mix together with the ink like Smalt I have an actual paint like consistency!
 The paint has become buttery and smooth:
 Here are my tubed up experiments, both with the addition of fumed silica as a stabilizer:


Below you can see them again, almost two weeks later.  I wanted to wait before posting to make sure the tubes wouldn't seize up again over time.  So far both the Smalt and the crystal glass medium have remained consistent in the tube and I'm really enjoying using them in my current painting.  So far so good


Friday, August 12, 2016

Western Tanager




 14"x18" oil/panel by Sarah Siltala

Last year New Mexico seemed to have a deluge of western tanagers through the state during migration.  It was exciting to see the colorful birds flit through neighborhoods all over the state, we travel a lot and they were everywhere!  I was inspired to create a painting with complimentary blues and greens to set off the fiery color of the bird.  This work will be headed to Sage Creek Gallery for my upcoming show opening September 23rd.




Wednesday, August 03, 2016

Mulling Paint


I recently spent some time in the studio replenishing my supply of handmade linseed oil.  After working with my own oil for the past year and testing several other store-bought brands along the way, I am convinced I will never be without my handwashed organic linseed oil for mulling paint and making my own mediums.  It has really revolutionized my painting process and I have not found a suitable replacement with the same working characteristics that can be purchased in a store.  The majority of art store linseed oils are extremely slow drying, and create short, bouncy paint.  My paint is long and stringy, smooths under the brushstroke and dries incredibly fast.  You can read about the water washing process here.  I also made a beautiful jar of sun dried linseed oil, nothing beats the hot New Mexico sun for creating the perfect bodied oil!



I have also discovered that different brands of organic flax oil have different properties when washed, I like the flora brand best so far but haven't experimented with a lot of other brands yet.  When I think of the old masters and the oils and pigments they created I wonder how we can ever reproduce the paint quality they created in their artworks!  I still have much to learn, but continue to experiment and enjoy being able to create different properties in my paints for different subject matter.

I've been experimenting with new pigments over the summer.  It has been tricky to work with some of the pigments I've tried.  Vicenza Earth is a pigment I purchased after reading about it's low opacity and glazing qualities.  It is also used as a pigment extender, and I love many of these types of pigments!  

I found the particle size to be so large and gritty it was impossible to use as a glaze, or extender.  It left a texture in my paint that I found undesirable, but this is because I choose to have very smooth glass like surfaces in my final paintings.  Sometimes it is difficult to spend time experimenting and end up with unexpected results.  I have had mixed results making mediums with powdered leaded glass, and also making paint with the Smalt pigment.  The Smalt was very difficult to work with.  I did not document those in photos, but I will continue to update my blog with my painting endeavors in the future.

Still life with Plums and MacGillivray Warbler  16"x16" oil/panel by Sarah Siltala