Lately I have been experimenting with new ways of applying paint and with new types of paint. Last week I did a painting using an interference color. This particular type of paint enabled me to paint with colors that produce visual effects based on two variables: the viewer’s angle in regard to the colors and how the light hits the pigment.
In other words, when viewed from different angles the paint appears differently. Painted over a dark color you can see one color, paint the same color over a light background and you see the complimentary color.
Over white- or light-colored surfaces the Interference color is more subtle and the flip effect is more obvious, over black or dark surfaces the color is more obvious and the flip is less obvious. Interference paints are not new. My artist friend Gail Suttelle has been using them for at least fifteen years.
“Most interference paint is made from transparent materials that come from titanium coated mica flakes rather than traditional pigments. As the light hits the mica flakes, it either bounces off reflecting the labelled color, or passes through to another layer and bounces out at a different refractive index displaying the complementary color.” I used gold on the following painting. If tilted at a different angle, it seems blue.
The effect is visually similar to a thin coat of oil floating on water.
As I experiment, it seems the things to know about interference paints are:
1. They are very translucent.
2. The particular color effect is angle dependent.
3. The best color effect is with a thin application over a dark valued color, such as black.
4. You can blend them with any translucent acrylic medium to create interference glazes.
Experimenting with this paint was interesting, but I don’t know how frequently I will use it.
During the workshop that I attended in Phoenix, I used imitation gold leaf for the first time. Gold leaf or metal leaf is exactly as it sounds. It is a more cost effective version of genuine gold leaf imitating the same metallic qualities.
The metals used to create the imitation gold leaf are an alloy of copper and zinc. Metal leaf is thicker than genuine gold leaf and is easier to handle. It commonly comes in squares of about 5 x 5 inches.
Real gold leaf is usually stored in a store vault. It is sold in squares of about 2 x 2 inches and costs about $10 per square. Imitation gold leaf comes in squares of about 5 x 5 inches, and cost about $0.25 cents per square.
The process of using the imitation gold leaf was to apply gold leaf fixative that was made specifically for this product. I put it in the places that it thought would make an interesting composition and where I wanted to see the shimmer. After applying the glue, I waited for it to dry until it was just tacky and then laid the leaf on it. Next I got the air bubbles out with a soft brush. The image was then ready for me to complete.
Here is how the painting turned out:
I like the process and result and since I bought a booklet of gold leaves, I can use them in more paintings.
This past week I was in Phoenix, AZ attending Art Unraveled, a creative week of workshops and an art retreat that takes place every year. I always like to take workshops and classes. It helps me to grow as a painter when I can be inspired by new ideas. It is an adventure for me.
I spent my time taking classes from the abstract artist Joan Fullerton. Her style was fun, interesting, and effective. It is her belief that “abstract art encourages the imagination to run free. Inner and outer worlds collide making a space for new awareness to grow.”
Joan taught several mark-making and layering techniques that were what I was hoping for. We worked in mixed media which included acrylic paint and medium, acrylic paint pens, oil pastel, charcoal and ink. Each work started with random mark-making. We then used our materials to create whatever inspired us.
I worked on stretched canvas and watercolor paper. The paintings above and below are on stretched canvas. They both developed rather quickly, in about 1½ hours. They may be finished, but I never know when a painting is done until I have lived with it for a while.
They seem a little busy to me. What do you think?
It seems that at least once a year I decide that I want to try some new painting technique or content focus.
I know that part of being a painter is having an identifiable painting style, that special something that enables someone to look at a painting and know that it is by you, regardless of what the subject of the painting is.
It appears that you develop your styles as you go through your life as an artist. I’d like to think you can have many different styles if you want to, and those will likely change as you grow as an artist. I certainly hope so, because I like to experiment.
The area that attracts me the most at this time is abstract art. I have been experimenting with new forms and ideas as I try to get more into the conceptual. As of yet I can’t say that it has given me any particular sense of painting freedom, I am definitely working a new area of my brain which feels exciting.
Here is another example of my exploration into the unknown.
How about You? Do you have any experiments in your future?
The look of paint when it comes out of the tube can be very different to how it reacts when we start painting with it. This is especially true with darker colors like blue and red. The lighter colors such as yellow often behave much as we would expect.
When we think about painting with the primary colors red, blue and yellow, we have to dig a little deeper. Small amounts of other colors are hidden within each paint pigment. This gives each color a color bias.
The Color Wheel is Can Be Misleading
The color wheel is an excellent tool. It is handy to have one in our studio for quick reference. I use mine often because remembering all the complementary colors when I am starting a painting is something that I am not interested in doing.
If we take color theory at face value, however, we could be in for frustration when trying to mix the color we want.
What is Color Bias?
Almost all colors have a bias towards another color. For example, blue pigment can have a red bias or a green bias in comparison to another blue pigment.
Color theory states that we can mix all three secondary colors with the three primaries, red, blue and yellow. However, this will only work if a pure primary color is used. Pure pigments are materials that are usually mineral based and are taken from the earth. Examples are lapis lazuli (blue) and iron oxide (red).
We can’t find a pure red paint, for example, that will make both a good orange (when mixed with yellow) and a good purple (when mixed with blue). This is because the red will have a bias towards either orange or purple due to the chemical impurities found within commercial pigments.
In the above painting I wanted to use the complementary colors of red-orange and blue-green. I chose Golden cobalt teal and Liquitex cadmium red light. I chose this particular red because it is a red-orange right out of the tube. It is made up of naphthol AS-OL, arylide yellow and titanium oxide.
So a red that has an orange bias (cadmium red) will mix a bright orange, but will not mix a bright purple. A blue that has a red bias such as ultra-marine blue would not be good to make a bright green, but it would be good to make a more muted green.
The secret to effective color mixing is understanding the different pigment qualities of paints so we can match the color we want every time.
One of the basic rules of color theory is that blue mixed with yellow (or yellow with blue) produces green. And it’s true. What needs emphasizing though is that the green you get depends not only on how much of each you use in the mix, the proportion of blue to yellow, but which blue pigment and which yellow pigment you use.
Green in nature demands variety. Few things are more problematic to a landscape or botanical painting than a monotony of green. That is why there are more premixed green tubes of paint for sale than almost any other color.
In the painting below, I used ultramarine blue & cadmium yellow light for my greens. Because I was painting a scene from nature and I wanted my greens to be somewhat realistic, I used various combinations of green tones, tints and shades of my mixed green. Those differences can be seen particularly in the background trees.
Integrating a Painting
I also used tints, tones and shades of ultramarine blue and cadmium yellow light for the water. I didn’t introduce a blue for the sky that was different for the water. The entire blue and green in the painting is some combination of ultramarine blue.
The yellow mid-ground is a mixture of cadmium yellow light and cadmium red light. I also used cadmium red light for highlight effect that can be seen throughout the painting.
When mixing green, another way to make it more suggestive of nature is to neutralize it. If you’ve never added red or purple to a green, you’re in for a pleasant surprise. It doesn’t produce a vibrant green, but rather works to neutralize it, to shift it more towards a brown-green or grey-green. This mixing possibility is great for landscapes.
Do you have any favorite greens or interesting ways to create green?
“Painting is a process of discovery. Trial and error. A search for self.”
I can’t remember where I found this quote, but it describes my painting process.
I try to choose subjects that make me ask, “What’s possible?” It’s not about how to best copy what I see. It is about stirring up ideas and possibilities. What moves me about the subject? What do I have to say about it that is unique?
When working from photos, I play with the reference image before I decide that I want to paint it. Sometimes I try cropping it in different ways or I think how I could change the colors that I see to make a more interesting painting. Some people use filters in photo editing software to create different effects and see what gets triggered.
Once I have decided on a subject or scene that I want to paint, I start with a very loose sketch. After I start creating the composition, I stand back from it often. It is easy to get sucked into the ‘doing’ and forget to create space for your muse to offer input. I need that contemplative distance to connect with what’s wanting to happen as the painting unfolds. This is not a place of knowing, it is a place of listening and seeing what the painting needs.
When I am stuck, instead of worrying that a wrong move might wreck the painting, I just try something. To me, painting is all about problem solving. It is about what works and what doesn’t. Originally the above painting stopped here (below) because at the time, I didn’t know what it needed.
After I think that I am finished with a painting, I put it somewhere that is easy for me to view. After a day or two I may decide that it is indeed finished. Other times it tells me exactly what it needs to actually be ready to face my friends and collectors.
It is all a process like so many other things in life.
While I was in California, it was difficult to not be inspired by almost everything I saw, especially when I was out of a city. I spent time letting memories from my childhood wash over me. I loved how Sonoma County felt. It was a pleasure to soak up the familiar fragrances, light and feel of the air.
I was particularly reminded of California poppies and brown rolling hills. I was drawn to the various shades of green and the reflections on the small lakes on the property. I had never painted a vineyard before and I enjoyed capturing the grape vines in their first stages of bearing fruit. Also importantly, I had never painted in California before. It was a wonderful opportunity for me.
I am not sure when I will be back in California, but it was a “going home” experience for me and I have many memories from my time there as well as some new paintings. I did enjoy creating Sonoma County paintings for the first time.
Have you had the opportunity to go home after being gone for a very long time?
I spent the last three weeks at an artist residency in Healdsburg, CA. The Chalk Hill Artist Residency is located in the rolling hills of Sonoma County on 250 acres of vineyard. It was a beautiful location and what made it especially lovely for me was that it is about 12 miles from where I grew up.
I stayed in an old 5-bedroom farm house complete with a covered front porch with spectacular views. I also had a large studio that looked out over a nearby pond. Since I was there alone, I had nothing to do but create, walk along the Russian River, read art books look for wildlife and meditate.
My only responsibility was to paint whatever I wanted. I choose to paint the landscape that surrounded me. I had never painted grape vines before or California Oaks. It was enjoyable for me to try to capture them both.
There are many artist residency programs available both nationally and internationally. If you ever decide to pursue one, I hope that yours is as meaningful as mine.