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"Plein Air Oil on the Shores of Lake Superior"
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Author: Larry_Seiler, Contributing Editor

I have set my palette against a rock to show you my color. I use more often the Winsor Newton brand, but intend to try the more noted higher quality pigments.

Note how dark the rock is, as the UP of Michigan is an ore mining part of the country, and shores show mixtures of granite, sandstone, manganese, and ore.

In laying out my colors as in painting, I think in terms of color temperatures, and my palette includes a warm and cool of each major primary- ultramarine blue, phtalo blue; alizarin crimson or rose madder, cadmium red medium; cadmium yellow light or hansa yellow, cadmium yellow medium; then I use Naples yellow a great deal, even as a substitute for mixing white; I do not use black pigment painting outdoors as I always see atmospheric light penetrating and reflecting even into the shadows. Thus, I include Maimeri Permanent Green or viridian which I mix with crimson for darks, or use crimson with phtalo blue. I also like the extra variation in hues the added green gives me in the treatment of foilage or water.

For white, I use primarily titanium white, but from time to time will use flake white for the effects that lead white offer. I wear rubber gloves when using lead white.

For my medium, I use Garrett's Copal medium, (see- http://www.garrettcopal.com ) which is a natural siccative, meaning it dries the pigment quicker. Yet, it does so by attaching itself to the pigment molecularly and drying uniformly throughout. This eliminates concerns of a dry surface but wet paint beneath, cracking, etc; Unfortunately, store sought and bought copals are imitations and do not offer the artist the genuine benefits.

In addition to being a siccative, copal is also a varnish, and technically I could allow a piece to be bought off the easel or within a few weeks and not worry about having to contact the buyer six months down the road to varnish it. It dries with a natural sheen to it.

I would still recommend a damar varnish should you manage to hold onto the piece, which makes it easier then for restorers to remove and clean and revarnish without effecting the paint itself.

I am really sold on Garretts copal because of its handling. If you play guitar, you've held cheaper models that even notes and chords played right sound minimal at best. You've also no doubt picked up expensive handbuilt models where even the wrong notes sounded warm and inviting. You just want to play and play that instrument! Well, that's what mixing Garrett's copal medium/varnish into my pigment did to me. The paint seemed nearly to paint itself. It applies to the surface without effort, maintains its shape and texture, and the color looks so brilliant. I felt like a painter inspite of myself the very first time I tried it.

No...hahahaha, I don't get any royalties from sales!

I prepare my paint with 1-2 drops per inch long ribbon of paint (37ml tubes), mixed in well, and about 8-12 drops to the white pigment. The white is most frequently mixed with other colors, so my thinking is it adds to a uniform amount.

I came to the amount I use by working for a whipped butter consistency, so you might want to experiment yourself.

When I first lay paint out on my palette, I put on a rubber glove, then it stays on until after my initial ragging in or block-in of the masses. Here you see a torn piece of cloth wrapped around my index finger. This I will dip into turps, then to the edges of pigment to create thin washes of color for blocking in.
This process is very quick. People are often surprized how much of the painting I do this way. Yes...hee hee, I've never given up finger painting as a child!

I squint my eyes at the subject to eliminate all details. I want only to see shapes, general values, and hints of the color. Then I rapidly apply and rub the pigment wash on, both drawing and blocking in.

With my method, I don't bother to tone a general color over the board first. In fact, I add a bit of black acrylic paint to the gesso to have a light gray surface. This way my lights and darks show up right away, and do so against a non-intrusive neutral.

I will then upon completing the block-in have what amounts to my underpainting for which to build thicker paint upon.

Now you see the block-in stage completed. All total about ten to fifteen minutes time. Such speed allows me to get on top of what the drama of the light is doing, and capture the essence of what attracted me to the scene at the start. My first pure paint intent from here, will be to record the effects of light and dark to lock-in the "ah-Hah!"

Experience painting here in the upper midwest has taught me that I have perhaps about 20 minutes to get it down before the sun is likely to change the feel of the drama. Once down in the early stages of the painting, the scene becomes merely reference from there on until completion of the painting!

  • Click here for an interesting video clip on the finished rag-in!
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