Paintings of Van

Mountain Man Necktie - oil painting

Mountain Man Necktie

Here is a portrait painting I completed just a couple of weeks ago, which I’ve named Mountain Man Necktie. I figure it’s time for me to get back to what I do, to what interested me in becoming a fine artist so long ago – painting people. I’ve been spending a lot of time working on the experimental: making pigments, making gouache paints, researching historical techniques and colors, playing with different illustration techniques, etc. Which is fine: I’m not going to give up on that stuff. I’ve got the kind of brain that just can’t leave things alone – if I’m going to make art, I’ve got to think about how I’m making it, and why. It was the same way when I was writing music. But I can’t lose sight of the aim of all this, which is just to make art.

The egg tempera, by the way, is probably out for now, for a number of reasons. First of all, I have bad tendons in my wrists, and I must maintain good relaxation while painting, or I injure myself and need recuperation time, sometimes for weeks. Egg tempera doesn’t exactly lend itself to a relaxed painting technique. Also, I tried painting oils over a tempera underpainting – which is the main way in which I wanted to use egg tempera – and it presented some more unexpected challenges. As intrigued as I am by this ancient medium, I don’t think it’s for me, unless I figure out a different way of using it.

Arizona - oil painting

Arizona Daybreak

So, back to oil painting – and it feels great to be producing something again. The above is a picture of Van, a great model I took some reference pics of a while back. This is the second painting I’ve made from that photo session, and I’m working on a third. The first is on the right there, and it’s going to be the first painting I put up on Ebay to see if it’ll sell. I’m not going to sign it, since it was worked on a bit by an instructor of mine. But I’ll get a feeling for selling my art online – or not, depending! The others will follow.

The current one, about halfway finished or so, is below. All the research and thoughts about using more natural, more local and less toxic materials is beginning to have an impact on my work. These are both done with limited palettes – specifically, I’ve excluded any synthetic organic pigments. In Mountain Man Necktie, the one at the top of the page, I used yellow and red ochre, raw sienna, cadmium red, ultramarine blue, ivory (bone) black and titanium white. The one below is the same except that I’ve excluded the cadmium red and raw sienna, and added cobalt blue for the coat and rose madder for a few of the skin tones. One industrial toxic color each: cadmium for the first, cobalt for the second. Doing without the cadmium on this latest painting has been a bit of a challenge, but I think it’s working out all right, and it’ll get better as I explore more earth color variations for skin tones, Indian red, Venetian red, etc. The cobalt blue I’ll actually be happy to let go – regardless of philosophy I just don’t care for it much as a color. It doesn’t seem to do any of the things I need it to do on the palette. Obviously it worked out all right for Monet…

Work in progress - oil painting

Work in progress

I’m sure I’ll keep using the cadmum colors from time to time. The point isn’t to be purist about pigment use – the point is to be aware of it, and to reduce the use of industrial toxic chemicals when possible and convenient. If I can use cadmium red only for the necktie, and replace it with a red earth color for the skin tones – rather than using the cadmium for all the reds in the painting – then I’ve made an improvement in my materials: earth pigments are unquestionably more ecologically friendly than cadmium pigments. In this latest case, I think I’ll be able to do without the cadmium altogether. I’ll post the painting again when it’s finished.

Pigment stuff: I’ve mixed up my homemade madder lake and carmine lake both into oil paints to accompany the weld lake oil paint I made earlier. They are both extremely transparent, and beautiful. I haven’t used them in a painting yet, but will certainly do so when I can. I’ve been studying drapery, from life, so I will probably try these paints out as glazes for drapery studies. Soon.

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