Thursday, July 30, 2015

Linseed Oil and Calcite

Bird Haiku  20"x16" oil/panel

I have an update on my calcite and linseed oil putty making project, comparing a couple different oils and also the Velazquez medium from Natural pigments.  Each putty was made by combining calcite with a different linseed oil.  My first introduction to putty medium was through the Velazquez medium, which is calcite mulled with a bodied linseed oil.  Bodied oils are polymerized, thickened and partially dried, with the use of heat.  Bodied oils do dry to a glossier finish than the other non-polymerized oils.  Some are oxygenated as well, others are created w/out the presence of oxygen; each have a specific personality.

I made two batches of putty to compare with the store bought Velazquez.  One batch was calcite mulled with Winsor and Newton linseed oil, a commercially processed oil.  The second batch was made with calcite and a water washed organic flax-linseed oil from Art Treehouse.  The water washed flax-linseed begins as a cold-pressed, organic flax oil and is hand processed and washed of impurities in the traditional manner of the old masters. 

The difference in the putties was surprising.  

The Velazquez medium with the bodied oil was thick and impasto like.  It had thixotropic tendencies, but was the least to settle out after agitation like the other oils.  It held up it's thick texture in the can and on my glass palette.

The calcite with regular Winsor and Newton linseed oil was also thick and impasto like but not as thick as the Velazquez.  It settled out a bit after agitation and I decided to add more calcite just to make sure I wasn't the cause of the thinner putty.  It was still a tad bit thinner than the Velazquez.

I believe that is the difference between using a bodied oil (in the Velasquez medium) and a thinner oil (the Winsor and Newton linseed)

Now the most interesting discovery.  The water washed linseed oil by Art Treehouse completely melted and oozed into a puddle on my glass palette.  No matter how much calcite I added to the mixture, thinking I had made it too thin, it leveled out completely after being agitated.  I added so much calcite to the mixture that overnight it seized up in the tube I put it in and I had to discard the entire mix!  The mixture in the jar also seized up and was very difficult to mix, but after some work it returned to the original puddly consistency.  I am still trying to figure out why there was such a drastic reaction between the water washed linseed oil and calcite compared to the other oils. 
You can see the settled out putty with the water washed oil on the far left of the picture, (pic taken immediately after the samples had been stirred with a palette knife) and also in the left jar above.  

I have had a harder time painting with the Art Treehouse linseed putty.  I put the concoction aside for now until I do some more research on traditional materials and hand processed oils.  I have learned so much about my materials on this journey!  I believe the old masters had much more knowledge about painting materials than we do today due to the fact that they had to process everything themselves.  Through knowing how the materials worked together to create different effects they were able to manipulate paints and mediums for their own personal expression.  While I may not continue mulling my oil paints and mediums forever, I have had a glimpse into the more intimate relationship past artists have shared with their paintings. 

***UPDATE 5/2018
I have since made my own water washed linseed oil from flax oil in the tradition of the old masters.  I water wash flax oil with a sand and salt mixture to cleanse the oil of impurities.  I make my own calcite putty with the oil and it is now my favorite medium.  My water washed oil produced the best calcite putty for my needs, not too puddly and not too thick-like the Velasquez putty in the can shown above.  I also learned that the Art Treehouse water washed linseed oil is filtered through psyllium, and perhaps this creates a completed different and more complex oil than washing oil with just sand/salt/water.

I have to credit Tad Spurgeon, whose incredibly informative website and book has inspired me immensely over the past year. 

Thursday, July 09, 2015

Grinding Paint

Recently I've become very interested in making some of my own paints and trying out different materials.  Earlier this year I began by experimenting with Rublev's Velasquez medium, calcite in linseed oil, and adding it to dry pigment and making my own oil paint.  see Here
I also add the medium, which is a painting putty, to my purchased tubed paint to create a more luminous paint quality, calcite adds a nice translucency to opaque paint.  I was attracted to using an extender like Calcite after reading about it being a 'colorless' pigment and how it was used by the Old Masters before commercial paints and mediums were processed the way we find them today.  I really like working with just pigment in oil with a little added extender and that's it, it is nothing like working with commercial paints.  Calcite also creates a thixotropic affect and the paint is just luscious.  

Commercial paints contain:
1. pigment
2. brightener
3. filler
4. vehicle (oil)
5. thickener/pigment dispenser
6. driers

That's a lot of stuff!

I've also started researching oils, and how they are processed before becoming the bottled oils available for artists at the local art store.  Linseed oil is heavily processed and loses much of the properties that made it attractive to painters prior to the 20th century.  That is when commercial processing changed the oil into the yellowing, slow drying medium that it is today.  Refining oils reduces the impurities and fatty acids, but overly processed oil loses all the behaviors that contributed to the painterly effects of the masters.  By hand processing the oil, using methods of the past to wash the oils of impurities, you create a product that is non yellowing and faster drying, and also dries to a harder paint film.  There are methods for taking organic, cold pressed flax oil and hand washing it yourself, but I chose to buy this Linseed oil from The Art Treehouse, it begins as a cold pressed, unrefined Flax oil and is water washed using traditional methods.  

In the photo above you can see the start of my own putty medium using the water washed linseed oil and calcite.  It is amazing!  It is gelatinous, viscous, and smooths out completely after being agitated.  Watch my video to see the thixotropic behavior as it settles out after being mixed, it's completely solid when you let it sit for a bit, yet will pool and ribbon when stirred.  This also affects the paints rheology, which is the way a liquid flows.

putty medium

 Grinding pigment

 a full day's work

I really loved the quality of my last batch of homemade oil paints, I'm excited to try out this new batch with the water washed oil and also using my own putty medium.  

In the meantime, I'm enjoying this reading,  this little book contains writings by well known artists and reflections on painting from Fra Angelico, Da Vinci, Velasquez, to van Gogh, Robert Henri, Andrew Wyeth and beyond...  it is a great look into painting through the artist's eyes throughout history, very insightful.

My studio, Happy painting!