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The Art Geek

Thoughts on technique, experiments with new ways of working, works in progress, or general ramblings. Much of the material posted here relates to SketchUp, to painting in various media, and to drawing. Your mileage may vary. Enjoy!

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Sunday, Dec. 19 2010 2:29 p.m. UTC

Whether in preparation for my coming South Pole trip, or just the seasonal blowing of the winds of my interests, I’ve been taking lots of photos lately and upgrading my blog software to use Flickr to host images (the new iPhoto on the Mac makes sync’ing with Flickr insanely easy, and reduces the footprint on my server).

I seem to enjoy photography more in the winter, and tend to go out wandering in the morning to nearby Promontory Point.

I got a new camera this week — a Canon PowerShot S95 (test shots here) and love it so far, in particular the “miniature mode” (used for the last two shots, above).

More Problem Solving

Saturday, Nov. 6 2010 6:30 p.m. UTC

An image sequence putting this idea into practice. I wanted an airborne mechanical shape which would graphically connect the burning building shape with the aircraft.

Original state of painting

Mockup in SketchUp

Overlay for image transfer

Current state of painting


Today’s discovery is that nib pens and ink work on top of water-soluble oils, even when the paint is wet. I am always looking for ways to combine drawing and painting, since I tend to “think” better through drawing.

Compositing 2D and 3D

Sunday, Oct. 31 2010 10:43 p.m. UTC

Test image, putting 3D images onto a 2D scene with SketchUp

I have been curious about how to make adjustments to paintings or drawings, by adding 3D objects which might otherwise be hard to invent and/or draw. The question boils down to how to 'composite’ 3D objects into a 2D scan or photo of an existing work.

It turns out the 'place photo’ option in SketchUp (Import… -> JPG or PNG / 'Use as matched photo’) works like a charm for this. (You can align the perspective of a given view in your model to that of your imported image, though that doesn’t really apply for this image.)

Once the 3D modeling is complete, just remove the background image and do an image transfer of the contents, or project or otherwise draw them directly on the painting. The new “Open” acrylics are a perfect match to this approach, since once can draw or transfer photos much more easily on top of acrylics than onto oils.

Playing around with Golden Open Acrylics

Wednesday, Oct. 27 2010 1:44 a.m. UTC

Test Painting, Golden 'open’ acrylic on laser-printed paper

Been playing more with the Golden Open Acrylics I wrote about last week. The new paints are definitely not oils: they lack the precise, stiff, cool whipped-butter consistency of undiluted oil paint, for one thing, and run over the palette a bit, more like half-melted butter. And acrylic glazes still look a bit 'plastic’ to me compared with oil (someone needs to study whatever reflective/refractive properties are so attractive in linseed oil).

But they are amazing nonetheless — they stay workable on the palette for hours, and I can see using these to carry out most or all painting stages with these paints. Certainly some of the paintings I’ve done previously in acrylics would have been a lot easier with these.

Initial source image (preliminary SketchUp “drawing”, as usual):

On the Drying of Various Polymers

Tuesday, Oct. 19 2010 2:09 a.m. UTC

I may have stumbled across the solution to a painting problem which has vexed me for a long time. It involves the rules for mixing different kinds of media in the same work.

As most painters know, oil and acrylics are fundamentally different beasts with different properties. Oils dry slowly and are therefore matchless for smooth, blended transitions of rich colors; they also tend to yellow slightly, more so if a lot of medium is used. Acrylics dry quickly, never yellow, and, since they stay strong and flexible, can be layered and textured in ways that would be detrimental to the longevity of one’s paintings if painted in oil. Unlike oil, acrylics can be painted over “unprimed” supports such as wood or canvas. Acrylics also have more 'tooth’ and are wonderful for drawing, collage and photo transfers. But the time usually comes in a painting when the longer “open time” of oils is vital, for blending layers and making richer, more subtle paint surfaces.

The biggest problem with traditional oils is that they require turpentine or other organic solvents to make washes and glazes; these solvents are hazardous and even the mildest of them are best avoided or minimized by folks (like me) with some level of sensitivity to their vapors. Water-soluble oils such as the excellent “Holbein Duo Aqua” colors reduce or eliminate the need for solvents and have kept me painting in oils for the past few years. The problem is that it is a major no-no to paint acrylics over oils. This is because the experts insist that adhesion of the porous, flexible acrylic film is not reliable on top of the waxy, smooth surface of oil paint.

As a result, I often do some sort of acrylic underpainting when I want to add texture, do extensive drawing, or do an image transfer. My dilemma occurs when, partway though a painting, I want to add more texture, more photo transfers, or do more drawing. One solution I have played with recently is the use of gouache in underpaintings. Gouache dries quickly like acrylic, is water-soluble, and allows for subtle color transitions; but I have my doubts about its suitability as a long-term permanent underpainting (it dries water-soluble, after all).

Enter Golden’s 'Open Acrylics’, which I stumbled across the last time I made it to Dick Blick to get art supplies. This is a new paint formulation which dries much more slowly than ordinary acrylics, yet is fully compatible with acrylics. This means that one can think in terms of drawing or photo transfers, then get more “painterly” (blended colors), then go back to drawing or add more texture or photo images. I have just started playing with these paints, but so far they seem pretty promising! They don’t show the rich, buttery handling of oils, but they do stay “open” quite a long time and so far seem to combine well with the other acrylics and acrylic mediums I already have. I still expect to use the water soluble oils for the later stages of many paintings, but in the mean time I’m excited to have ways of staying in acrylics longer.

Now if only I could finish the batch of paintings I’m working on.

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