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View Full Version : How did you, finally achieve clean colors?


Mario
05-02-2002, 06:39 AM
There must be those artists out there who have had the same problem that I do (dirty colors) and have solved it for themselves. I'd love to hear how you did it. I am always in a rush and am too sloppy with my mixing...and so, my colors get dirtier and dirtier as I work on a painting, all suggestions greatly appreciated. :angel: :confused:

impressionist2
05-02-2002, 06:53 AM
Mario, I have been reading a lot lately about Ken Auster. He, as well as Christian White, my plein air workshop instructor, both wipe clean their brushes between EVERY stroke.

I actually swish my brush around in the veggie oil and then wipe all the oil out, to make sure the last color does not bleed into the new mix.

Eliminates mud right away.

Have your beautiful greys and all your mixes prepared beforehand, so your palette stays clean and organized.

Place your colors side by side and only bleed on the edges. It's the layering, mixing and dirty brushes that get an artist into the mud.

Renee

Leopoldo1
05-02-2002, 08:12 AM
I try not to move that paint around too much, where its contaminating up the neighborhood!....L

ArtistEnigma
05-02-2002, 08:17 AM
I used to dislike the mud. I now like when my colors are tainted because it just seems like it looks more realistic. Although there are times I want clean colors. What I usually do is let the paint become dry enough to where it won't blend and then go from there. I'm sure you knew that already but hey, I tried.

Linoxyn
05-02-2002, 10:50 AM
Mud? What's wrong with mud? Most Great artist's colour palette are/were made up in array of mud. Pure colour pigments alone cannot produce the luminosity that the earth pigments and the 'muddying' of paint mixtures, and/or layers, and/or scumbles, and/or glazes, and/or alla prima can allow.

I'll never give up my mud :)

It's not the muddy look of colour that's at fault, it's how the mud is arranged. Keep painting and one day the "mud" will make sense.

Artist's are not ink-jet printers, nor are we manipulators of the light spectrum - our choices exist within our paints. There are much too many choices of pigment in the market so it's easy for us to be tempted like a child in a candy store. A good practice that is mentioned over and over is to limit the choices, experiment painting with 3 earths plus black and white. This palette has millions of possibilities.

LarrySeiler
05-02-2002, 07:15 PM
By establishing my masses, my darks with my raggin' method (literally taking a rag wrapped around my forefinger...dipping in turps and then color, and wiping on the canvas or board), I am left only with the decisions of direct color that will finish with each stroke a bit more of the painting. I ascribe to the "brushstroke laid is a brushstroke stayed" anthem.

I dip my brush in paint, and do no more than three strokes. Any more strokes than that and you are no longer applying color from the brush. You are then risking the exposure of the hairs of the brush to dig in and remove existing color already laid down.

My paint is mixed up to a buttery consistency, and my Garrett's copal assures it lays where I put it, in the form I put it, and with optimum chroma brilliance.

When a brushstroke digs into the painting deeply, the hairs can make small routs or grooves. When light hits your painting, the routs or grooves have light hitting the highest ridges of paint, but they cast a literal shadow in the rut part. From a distance those shadows add up to grey a color down or remove its intensity.

This is one reason some artists use a painting knife to put a swatch of color in....in one smooth bold defined motion. The flat surface of pigment left behine there fore has not grooves for shadows to build, and leaves an impression of brilliant unimpeded unhindered color.

Having a wrag around to wipe you brushes is important. On the other hand...what I find fun to do sometime is take a dirty brush, dip it in a buttery mass of brilliant light color value and take my 2-3 strokes in such a way I'm painting with the paint on the brush and not digging in deep. I'm learning I can do this in such a way, I can even take a dirty brush of a dark value, and paint bright pure color on a canvas. Anymore than a few strokes, and the darker value makes its presence known. It lets you know in no uncertain terms you have no more of the buttery paint you last dipped your brush in.

I don't recommend doing that as a means of practice. Do clean you brushes. I just thought it was fun to prove I could do it.

Larry

Mario
05-02-2002, 07:52 PM
GREAT posts, very helpful, many thanks to everyone.
Here is an Email that I just received from Nancy Bea Miller, a fine Philadelphia based artist.
Hi Mario;
I can tell you what I do, if thats any help!
1) I use a large "paper" or disposable sheet palette.
2) I always put the colors on the palette in the same
order, so I don't have to muck around.
3)I have a smallish glass container of Turpenoid out,
always, and use it in several different ways:
4)I rinse the brush I've just used in the turp after
I've finished using it, even for the moment, and wipe
it on a soft cloth. If I feel I'm about to use it
again momentarily, I'll still swish it and give it a
quick wipe, then I put it into the turps, head down,
to wait for me. Otherwise, I put it aside, so I don't
get confused by a plethora of brushes.
5) If I'm using any intense, staining colors like a
cadmium red etc. I have a tiny container with linseed
oil, standing by, and after the swish-n-wipe, I dunk
the brush into the oil for a little further cleaning.
This all takes only seconds when you're used to it!
6) When you're done for the day, if there is still a
lot of clean paint on your palette, cover it with
plastic wrap.
When you go back the next day, rip off the painty
sheet, and transfer any still-fresh clumps of CLEAN
paint onto the fresh sheet of palette paper, using a
palette knife.
Add extra paint to the palette from your tubes, refill
your turp and oil holder, get a clean cloth, and away
you go!
7) I also always clean my brushes after I'm done for
the day, with a cake of Brush Cleaner and water.
If I'm out of it I use plain soap, or dish soap.
8) One other hint, if you are dissatisfied with an
area of your painting that is still wet or tacky,
scrape it down first, don't just paint right over the
muck. Your clean color will get mucky otherwise.
Lou Sloane got me started on this clean color path,
although I've modified his advice to suit my own
needs.
I hope this helps!
Probably other people have different habits, so just
use what works for you.
Good painting!
Nancy Bea

impressionist2
05-02-2002, 07:53 PM
Larry wrote: "By establishing my masses, my darks with my raggin' method (literally taking a rag wrapped around my forefinger...dipping in turps and then color, and wiping on the canvas or board), I am left only with the decisions of direct color that will finish with each stroke a bit more of the painting"

Larry, I meant to ask you, when you do the intial ragin, do you also establish several values? Are you wiping out to get some midtone values? If this is the case approximately how many shades are you going for?

In other words, your lightest lights, your darkest darks and how many in between? If so, how much time do you spend on that?


Renee

Linoxyn
05-02-2002, 08:59 PM
Originally posted by lseiler
I dip my brush in paint, and do no more than three strokes. Any more strokes than that and you are no longer applying color from the brush. You are then risking the exposure of the hairs of the brush to dig in and remove existing color already laid down.

When a brushstroke digs into the painting deeply, the hairs can make small routs or grooves. When light hits your painting, the routs or grooves have light hitting the highest ridges of paint, but they cast a literal shadow in the rut part. From a distance those shadows add up to grey a color down or remove its intensity.

This is one reason some artists use a painting knife to put a swatch of color in....in one smooth bold defined motion. The flat surface of pigment left behine there fore has not grooves for shadows to build, and leaves an impression of brilliant unimpeded unhindered color.

Larry, your passages here made me :) I can't argue with what you have written. It's very true. Although it's written in a such a way to make this more the rule than a way. Please correct me if I've misunderstood you.

There is nothing wrong in achieving grey or muddiness in much the manor in which you described. This technique is much like a scumble. A true scumble which produces wonderful grays is when a warm semi opaque passage is thinly applied or wiped down over a dried darker warm passage.

Without interesting contrasts and harmony, a painting can't reach it's potential.

I especially like what Nancy Bea Miller's email stated,"Probably other people have different habits, so just use what works for you". It's politically safe advice but it's also very true - all artists can find their way of doing it within the structure of art making.

Mario
05-02-2002, 10:26 PM
Larry, thanks to your observation on knife painting, I finally realize what it is about knife paintings that I like so much.:cool:
Also, yur description of painting (in another post) about it being a discovery of the "Aha!" experience; is another great obsevation, that will stay with me..

LarrySeiler
05-06-2002, 04:32 AM
Originally posted by Linoxyn
Although it's written in a such a way to make this more the rule than a way. Please correct me if I've misunderstood you.

There is nothing wrong in achieving grey or muddiness in much the manor in which you described. This technique is much like a scumble.

"Rules are meant to be broken"...how we love to quote that, and often...so so true, but don't we stress even to every child that breaking rules leads to consequences?

Here, no different. If the consequences that come of breaking rules result in a positive affect...then you will have discovered and will adapt to a "new rule" for yourself. The consequence of not following your "new rule" will mean not getting the result of the affect you've discovered.

any rate, now that I've totally confuzzled everyone....
the original question did not ask about achieving "grey" or the advantages of muddiness. I point that out not to be a smart alec, but to clarify since I know that interpreting a response as an attempt to state rules is something we many artists are sensitive to.

You are right about scumbling...there comes a place and time. When it comes to suggesting rounded edges, I will mix varying values...use brushstrokes that break that edge up using some adjacent color or background to cross over and into...etc; Scumbling would be one way to do that as a time tested/proven method.

Larry

LarrySeiler
05-06-2002, 04:51 AM
Originally posted by impressionist2
Larry, I meant to ask you, when you do the initial raggin', do you also establish several values? Are you wiping out to get some midtone values? If this is the case approximately how many shades are you going for?

In other words, your lightest lights, your darkest darks and how many in between? If so, how much time do you spend on that?
Renee

I squint my eyes...at the subject, and sense the darkest value present of the dominant color also present in a particular mass I'm about to wipe in. I don't really do anything "subtractive" as in wiping "out"...as I'm bookin' ....I'm movin' and everything put on the board is an attempt to get what's there down before the sun decides to mess with me!

It doesn't take me much time at all. The whole raggin' thing in roughly ten minutes time. Which means, in ten minutes I've established my composition, my major masses, how the eye will enter into the picture and travel about, etc; in other words, the painting as a structure is basically completed in ten minutes and the rest (1-1/2 to 2 hours) is finishing touches. hee heee heeee

I've learned to do that...(or shall we say forced myself to learn to do that)...which has given me a jump on discovering and nailing down what caught my eye so that even if the lighting changes so after painting only in this short time span...I have a painting sitting on that easel that I can confidently finish. It represents why I bothered to set up in the first place, which is somewhat a sacred moment for me and I don't want to lose that.

Once my values are ragged in...my entire focus is to think of pigment as various degrees of light. How light is having its effect on everything. I often don't have to go in too much in my shadow areas...allowing therefore some of that ragged in color to show thru. For one...texture is a result of the brush or knife with paint leaving its mark on the canvas. Let's think logically what that suggests-

Light reveals things as they are- detail, color...(including warm color temperature), texture, etc;

therefore, absence of light should mean absence of emphasis of- detail, color...(more cool temperatures), texture, etc;

Over the years observing the works up close of some very fine artists...I like to spend time seeing what is not happening in the shadow areas. I suggest many make that habit to do that.

This past summer, I spent an afternoon noting how Thomas Moran handled the shadows in his powerful national park paintings. Allow underpainting to come thru. Flat washes. Intentionally making an area to not compete by limiting viewer interest there, etc; such things have a psychological manipulating power to force the viewer's eye to follow where paint is suggesting the affects of light/sun; it demonstrates clearly knowing what not to paint, and how that actually leads the viewer to think more was painted and the image was more realistic than many of the works of others.

Knowing that, btw, helps speed up your effective range of time on location (plein air) to put your time where it is needed. The painting equivalent to simplicity and maximum effectiveness stressed in "Kung Fu!" Ahhh.... grasshopper, it is time for you to go paint!
Larry

LarrySeiler
05-06-2002, 05:02 AM
Originally posted by Mario
Larry, thanks to your observation on knife painting, I finally realize what it is about knife paintings that I like so much.



Important to me is the thinking though...that the artist needs to possess the gift. Not the gift possess the artist.

What I mean by that is....we tend to become enamored and obsessed with things new to the point that they dominate or take over. One becomes then in this instance a "knife" painter.

Its important in maturing to recognize one's propensity for this to happen and calculate a learning curve. Then, see it as one more tool and what that tool's real advantage is. I can do a whole painting with the knife. Some do, and do fine. Their works take on a unique character...but then they've lost the advantages of a brush, the end of a brushe's handle, a rag...etc;

The secret...is that the spirit of the "ah-Hah!" hit the viewer in the face before they are confronted and made aware of any technique used to do so. So long as that is our goal, it should help us from letting the gifts take over.

I have fun with that btw, when a painting I'm working on is finished in the classroom. Fun to hear the comments on how the work looks to students when they enter the room, and their reaction to the "mess" up close. Young people are not too concerned about being selective with their descriptive words! hahaha.....

At a particular ideal distance from the painting however, the overall presence of the "ah-Hah!" should result in a "wow!" from the viewer. The technique only as they approach closer. Yes...I know...a rule, and its mine! MMmooooo-hhahahahaaaaaaaa *evil rubbing of hands together :evil: "all mine!"
Larry

Scott Methvin
05-06-2002, 11:11 AM
Originally posted by lseiler
When a brushstroke digs into the painting deeply, the hairs can make small routs or grooves. When light hits your painting, the routs or grooves have light hitting the highest ridges of paint, but they cast a literal shadow in the rut part. From a distance those shadows add up to grey a color down or remove its intensity.

This is one reason some artists use a painting knife to put a swatch of color in....in one smooth bold defined motion. The flat surface of pigment left behine there fore has not grooves for shadows to build, and leaves an impression of brilliant unimpeded unhindered color.

Larry

Nice post. Very interesting. Thanks!