Thursday, December 27, 2012

Color Explained

This is a beautifully animated short about the physics of color.  It also happens to explain why Metalheads don't come out in the sun.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Melting Bones

Any decent Victorian garment is going to need bones. I'm making a quick bustier for one (quick is the important word here), so I'm using that plastic boning that comes in a roll. The directions advise that you cut the ends to round them, but I find that it's very difficult to get them smooth. They catch in the casings and are a complete pain. But I tight to myself, there's no reason I couldn't get the help of my friend, Fire!

I removed the bone from its casing, and cut it into a roughly roundish shape.

Hold it in the blue part of the fire for a couple of seconds. If you hold it in the yellow part, it will get sooty. (I learned that in chemistry class. I don't play with fire quite THAT much.)

You'll see the edges start to soften.

While it's still warm, press the end against the table or your finger to smooth it.

Slipping your bones back inside their casings will be a dream!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012


Unfortunately, this post has nothing to do with actual snow.  It's 50 and raining here in the Midwest.  Whatever that's about.  Fortunately, this post is a handy painting tip I just learned from my sister.  My sister who hates painting.  Why this didn't come from anyone else I know, I have no idea, but it's good so I'm sharing!

Back in school, I was taught that white paint was pretty much evil.  It killed all the transparency in an oil paint.  Rather than mixing it with other paints to make them lighter, one should lay out all the values on your foundation layer, lay down thin glazes of color letting the lightness come through where necessary, and hitting the super bright spots with white at the very end of the painting.  This is a very traditional way of painting, and somewhat similar to a watercolor approach.  I tend to like my paintings to have more energy, be less polished, show more brush strokes.  Doing both is a pain.

But my lovely sister gave me this clue:  use Zinc white instead of Titanium white.  Think about it.  What's in  natural sunblock?  Titanium oxide.  The stuff blocks light.  But not Zinc!  Mixing with this will lighten your paint, without making it pastel and opaque.  (I can't tell you how many times she said "I can't believe you didn't know that!")  But now I do, and so do you!

There are many other white pigments as well.  Windsor Newton even has this article on the subject:  Choosing the White that's Right in Oils.  I think I'm going to pick up small tubes of various ones and test them.  What have your experiments taught you about white paint?

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Tricks for Tonal Value

For any artist, there are things we can handle instinctively and things we have to think about a little more.  For me, including a full and dynamic range of value takes more time and thought.  Thankfully, I had a painting teacher who was full of fun tricks, who gave me this idea. 

I took a plank of luan, and gessoed one side of it.  I marked the center and taped it off.  I then painted one half of it a middle grey (a 1:1 mix of black and white).  After it was dry, I centered the glass with the wood extending past the glass about 1/2 inch on all sides, and caulked it into place.  This is then what I use as a palette.  As I mix paints, the grey helps me judge the value of these colors.  Everything looks dark against white, so the grey lets me see whether it's on the light or dark side of center. 

The same teacher had other interesting ideas, like
  • Marking a complete value scale on the palette
  • Marking lines or sections by which you could measure paint, to allow for accurate reproduction of mixed colors
  • adding a color wheel to the palette
He takes this analytical approach to mixing paints because he's colorblind.  And you know what?  His paintings are incredible, because of the wonderful range of value. The painting below is a model under satin sheets.  Would you look at that light?!

Another one of his tips was that if you use five evenly spaced values, we will interpret a full range.  Just five.  I try to make my big compositional decisions based on those five values. 

 Thanks, John Stewart!  Take a look at his faculty page on the school's site.