View Full Version : Old and New Fangled

07-28-2013, 06:13 PM
I've been having a blast working with my mom and step-dad in their studio, combining their lifetimes of art materials, knowledge and experiences with my fancy-schmancy techno-era gadgets, modern tools and paints! :smug:

My dad is a wealth of knowledge and talent, and has led such an interesting life. After the marines and Vietnam, he got his bachelor's degree in art at the University of Washington, then went on to get his MFA at Claremont. He taught art for a while, then went into the merchant marines and sailed the world for a few decades, working on his art, writing and music during off-hours on the tramp steamers that were his home for so long. He's seen all the exotic places that I can only dream of visiting, and gathered art materials from all over. He's been stockpiling for years, preparing for his retirement studio, and now that he's home for good, I've had the tremendous good fortune of being able to share in the decanting of his treasures. :clap:

I think I've pilfered a dozen books out of his library and they're strewn all over the house and studio. I can't read fast enough! None of his treasures are available on the computer or Kindle, so I'm having to get re-aquainted with turning pages by hand and not having electronic search or two-fingered copy/paste functionality.

I fell asleep on the couch the other night while reading his enormous and well-worn copy of the History of Modern Art. I had it propped on my chest while I was reclined, fighting to breathe with the weight of the book on my chest, and was more content than I've been in a long time. As I drifted off, my hands relaxed and the book hit me square in the face. I was hoping for a Newtonian-level, art-related epiphany when I came to, but, alas...just a sore nose.

For day-to-day art, he's just been using whatever materials he had handy, cheap brushes and mediums (he saves all of his 'good' stuff for production-level pieces), and I've been showering him with a bunch of goodies from my stash of the ohmygoodness, which is ridiculously swollen with more supplies than I'll probably be able to use anyways. He's learning from me as well; I've spent a lot of time researching the technical side of the tools and materials, as well as hunting for the best deals on great items.

He's been wow'ed by the online availability of most of the things that he had to travel to the ends of the earth for. The local art store just closed down; the owners retired and moved to Hawaii, and had a massive 'clearance sale' shortly before I got here. The sale prices on the clearance stuff was about twice as much as most of us pay from our online sources, but Papa-san's perspective was relative, so he's got a TON of new treasures so share as well. :thumbsup:

While rooting around in one of the cupboards, my mom came across an old set of Marie's Chinese watercolors that he bought in Hong Kong from Yeu Hwa' department store in 1985 for 15 Hong Kong dollars. I haven't looked into what the region/time related conversion is, but I'm sure it was cheap. :p



I have been reading off and on about Marie's and the differences between English and Chinese watercolors, and had been wanting to get some to play with. Poof! There they were! After almost 30 years from the last time they were opened (incredibly thin tubes!), I cracked the lids and worked a toothpick into the hole in the spout. All but one tube were still plenty wet enough to squish into a palette, and even the dried up one (sap green) was easily reconstituted after I cut it open and pulled the chunks out. They're unbelievably heavily pigmented, and a little goes a long way. While stirring them in the wells with a toothpick, there's a grittiness to them, almost like there's a fine sand mixed in. They smell sort of like poster paints (like Van Gogh watercolors), but with some of them there's this underlying smell that's just a bit...off. I can't put my finger on what it is. It's not unpleasant, but I'm in no way tempted to get it close to my mouth, either. :rolleyes:

I've been playing with them until late into the night last night and a bit today. They're a lot of fun, and behave so differently! I'm not sure if the age of the paints is a factor (a couple of the colors are pretty funky looking when comparing them to their names and label swatches), so I quickly went online and ordered a new set of the Chinese AND American sets to compare. I also ordered some decent rice paper, both sized (for when I'm feeling lucky ;) ) and unsized (to practice with).

Using them on regular watercolor paper they do some interesting stuff. Even at a 90 degree angle, it's hard to get them to flow into a wash; they absorb very quickly into the paper and hardly mingle at all. I'm curious to see how the new tubes perform when they get here, as well as learning all about working with rice paper.

While they're drying, they absorb so fast and are so grainy that they do this really cool cracking and separating thing, even laying flat; It leaves pure white streaks that I'm going to try to incorporate into a piece:


My days are full of art and family. I haven't been this happy since before I can even remember. :smug:

Back to cross-fangling for me! It's good to be home. :)

virgil carter
07-28-2013, 06:51 PM
Welcome home, Karl. Just don't lick any of your brushes to point them!

Sling paint,

M.L. Schaefer
07-28-2013, 09:54 PM
Oh you Lucky Goose you! I bet your Dad has the best reference books! I have a couple really old ones, my favorite is Marine Painting in Watercolor by Edmond J. Fitzgerald. He's from the PNW, too, and I bet your Dad has it! No fancy schamcy photographs, but, WOW, a wealth of knowledge! Perfect book for the PNW and Alaska!

It seems the Marie's is Tempera...thus all the "funny" things happening. I don't know if the new stuff you bought is Tempera. Marie's has been used in the East a LOT for Chinese painting. Although you probably don't need it, but the definition of Tempera is:

Tempera, also known as egg tempera, is a permanent, fast-drying painting medium consisting of colored pigment (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pigment) mixed with a water-soluble binder (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Binder_(material)) medium (usually a glutinous material such as egg yolk or some other size (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sizing)). Tempera also refers to the paintings done in this medium. Tempera paintings are very long lasting, and examples from the 1st centuries AD still exist. Egg tempera was a primary method of painting until after 1500 when it was superseded by the invention of oil painting (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oil_painting). A paint consisting of pigment and glue size commonly used in the United States as poster paint (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Poster_paint) is also often referred to as "tempera paint," although the binders and sizes in this paint are different from traditional tempera paint

And, I'm thinking this is not the poster paint variety! So, check out the Tempera, etc. Forum! And there are a number of talented artists in the Watercolor Forum who also use it (and make their own! :eek: )

:heart: Margarete

07-29-2013, 12:37 AM
That sounds so fun, having a generational art thing going on. I had an artist grandmother who gave me some supplies and taught me some things when I was little, but she has been gone for decades now.

That Marie's paint looks interesting. I like seeing how old paint was, how it differs from how they make paints these days. They may call it water color "tempera" because they use hide glue (or some kind of animal glue) in the binder.

07-29-2013, 01:48 AM
That makes a lot of sense, actually, as far as the glue goes. I've been researching what I can find about traditional Chinese watercolors, and instead of gum arabic like we find as a binder in western paint, they use glue as a binder; a lot of times it's like a sack of chips (like shellac in the finishing industry).

The hide/animal glue would also explain the hint of 'off' that I'm catching in the smell of the paint. When I was restoring furniture years ago, a lot of the antiques that we'd tear down and re-glue stunk to high heaven as we were cleaning that nasty old hide glue off of them.

I was laughing earlier...after I was all excited about buying some rice paper, my dad says, "I'm pretty sure there's some up in the loft, too...". So we went hunting through that part of his stash and came up with hundreds of full sheets of very old, high-end authentic Oriental papers of all types. While we were organizing, we sort of took inventory, and there's a TON of full-sized handmade rag, too! A lot of it is almost impossible to find because the mills that used to make it are no longer in existence. Tons of Van Gelder Zonen (bankrupt in 1980), Basingwerk plate (the guy died and so did the paper, smoothest paper I've ever felt), Rives BFK, really old Arches (the watermark is the old one, kind of scripty looking), etc.

I feel like I'm getting to go trick or treating over and over to the house that's giving out full-sized candy bars! :p

07-29-2013, 02:01 AM
What a tonic your posts are Karl :)

You are very lucky to have artists in your family. What fun it must be exploring your grandfather's attic.


07-29-2013, 09:36 AM
OMG! What a wonderful opportunity to connect with your Father, have a blast while exploring and painting, and play with all these wonderful heritage materials! WowieZowie!

07-29-2013, 11:44 AM
Oh Karl.....I agree with Doug, your posts are a tonic, indeed.:thumbsup: I love reading your adventures and wow oh wow to have an artist like your Father in the family. What adventures you are enjoying talking to your Dad as you go through his stash. Wonderful memories for you all. Your enthusiasm is contagious!:clap: :clap: