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Yesterday's warmup: An ATC-size mini-painting using the ancient pigments. This particular paper (Strathmore cold press watercolor artist cards) started feathering at the underpainting, so I didn't try too much layering or detail, but I'm getting better at understanding how each individual pigment wants to be coddled.

I used all the pigments except the lapis lazuli blue. I'll save that for a fancier piece :)

Date: 2017-03-11 07:57 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] palusbuteo.livejournal.com
Makes me think of a Fayum encaustic portrait

Date: 2017-03-11 08:38 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] meritahut.livejournal.com
That's the goal :)

I'm not very good at encaustic (to be honest I haven't put enough effort into it yet), but I'm enjoying using the same set of pigments with watercolours--sourced from the same locations/mines for some of them, according to the pigment manufacturers, so that's pretty inspiring.

Tempera paints were also used on some Fayum portraits, so making tempera is next. I haven't made tempera paint since I was a little bitty kid at an art workshop at the Cloisters in Manhattan, and I don't remember them actually letting us play with the raw unmixed yolks....

Date: 2017-03-12 01:38 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] palusbuteo.livejournal.com

I only worked encaustic (and tempera) in a medieval painting class in college, many years ago.

encaustic is indeed challenging but mostly with keeping the wax melted consistently….And since modern paints are just so common and emphasized, anyone who tries encaustic already has a steep learning curve.

The "tempera" paint we used as kids is an acrylic…also sometimes called "poster paint". I think the only reason it's called tempera is because of the sheen of the paint when it dries.

Some of my art research since that class was working from Cennino Cennini's 1430s handbook, and details a lot of the prep that goes into tempera. Not surprising, trying to keep the egg yolk viable in a bottle for more than a few hours is impossible, hence the acrylic binders in the modern version, etc. It's a very challenging paint to use, it demands a lot of patience and a lot of prep-work/thinking ahead (having a team of apprentices help…Ain't nobody got time for that nowadays), since it's translucent you have to build layers of paint to get anything to look solid. It dries incredibly fast (faster than some acrylics), and because of that, you can only prepare a small batch of paint at a time, so color mixing/matching is difficult. (you may notice on Icons and similar tempera paintings, skin tones are pretty inconsistent, and as little "skin" is shown as possible; and colors tend to be very basic with 2-3 pigments, if that) Although the real problem with tempera in the traditional sense is the pigments themselves. Cobalt, cadmium, lead….All the fun stuff. It's the powders when they're dry that's the real danger, and it doesn't take much to send dust into the air and know you're breathing it in…..There is a vendor out there that deals specifically in traditional pigments…I'll try to track down the link. Working the [medieval] art techniques for me has fell by the wayside the last few years, so my sources have been neglected.

As an alternate to egg yolk, apparently honey was used as a binder (as well as for some inks), and since it never goes "bad", that can be an advantage vs egg, but as with egg, the honey wasn't kept mixed and stored, the paint had always been prepared just before being applied to the surface.

Another paint that apparently goes back to those wacky Romans is Caesin/Milk paint. I haven't had a chance to play with it yet, although I'm told it somewhere between tempera and opaque watercolors/gouache. (apparently it was a paint used for shields, and a few Legion groups are trying to push for using it…I admit I used acrylic for mine, but didn't know about casein at the time)

James Gurney talks about it on his Youtube channel. (I actually got to meet him once! Super nice guy. I hope I can catch up with him in the near future)

I've only been to Cloisters once, a few years ago. It's a fantastic museum, and hope I can get back there someday.

Date: 2017-03-12 03:43 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] meritahut.livejournal.com
Those wacky Romans! :D

My current obsession with ancient painting methods was amped up by research for Iusta's house tenant (and an upcoming plot line). I rediscovered how much I love to paint.

I'd heard that about the short working time/short brushstrokes with Tempera. I should get me to the library and have a look at Cennino Cennini's book. At some point, for Encaustic, I'd like to learn more about the Punic wax that supposedly stays a soft paste.

The Tempera formula I was going to try is 1 part egg yolk to 1 part olive oil to 1 part water, plus a couple of drops of vinegar (supposedly as a preservative). I'm trying not to be put-off by how challenging it seems. Or by my general fear of salmonella.

I hadn't noticed that about Tempera icons and skin tones--but I'm going to pay more attention now.

If I can't be trusted not to drink my brush water (which I can't), I definitely can't be trusted to mix arsenic or lead or mercury pigment. I have a big box of nitrile gloves and a big box of particle respirator masks for the pigments that aren't trying quite so hard to kill everyone.

Milk and I don't get along, and the idea of Milk paint sort of creeps me out :) I was thinking one could get pre-made Casein paints from a supplier for restoring old homes--specifically thought of Earth Pigments (http://earthpigments.com) (where most of my pigments came from, though a couple are from Natural Pigments (https://www.naturalpigments.com/) and Kremer (http://shop.kremerpigments.com/en/)--are any of those the place you were thinking of?). But it looks like they only sell the raw materials. I'll check out James Gurney's YouTube channel. Very nifty that you had a chance to meet him.

The watercolour formulas I've been using, depending on the pigment:
  • 1:1 pigment to gum arabic
  • 1:1:1 pigment to gum arabic to honey
  • 4:3:1 pigment to gum arabic to Sennelier's honey-based binder

Adding a drop of ox gall to a quarter cup of brush water for a couple of the earth pigments that refuse to play nice.

I <3 the Cloisters. I spent a lot of time there as a kid and teen becoming obsessed--do you recall seeing the rosary with the teensy carved figures (http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/works-of-art/17.190.475/)? In the Zombie Apocalypse I'm heading to the Cloisters to save it; or maybe I'll just move in there. It's a recurring daydream :)

Their workshops for kids were great. We dyed wool and wove tiny tapestries; made felt for Barbie-size gowns; dried lavender for sachets; made tempera art; and I recall making a little monk's cowl. Then we assembled everything into a bulky and fragrant scrapbook. Not sure what became of that....
Edited Date: 2017-03-12 03:47 am (UTC)

Date: 2017-03-12 08:07 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] palusbuteo.livejournal.com

All of those links are the ones I was going to look for! Kremer is one of those names [you'd] think would be easy to remember…But nope.

Try not to be intimidated by tempera and it's limitations/specific challenges. It's like watercolors, there's a learning curve and at times it can be unforgiving
and daunting, but once you get a feel for it and accept some of the quirks, you sort of find your own way with it. I still remember that painting class where a lot of us students were from [modern] oil and acrylic backgrounds and got easily frustrated with tempera's seemingly endless layers and tiny strokes. (I sometimes still find myself baffled that with (undiagnosed) ADD I still love Printmaking, intaglio, so much, yet it's one of the most challenging, detail-intensive and repetitive processes) It took me a little while post-college to realize the problem is this modern art instruction idea of the one-coat-wonder, and "fast" painting. As much as I adore Bob Ross and what he was doing, I think there was an unintended consequence of his wet-on-wet painting-in-a-day technique, and people assumed it was just that easy.

On a tangent here, I'm on the fence about this new "paint night" or "wine & paint" fad that's become pretty hot. I've contemplated the idea of looking into it for a job option, but, there's a lot of mixed emotions/reservations I have with it….But I suppose that's my "traditional/academic" background talking. *shrug*

Anyway, back to the old stuff. I honestly admit I have not heard of "punic wax" before, intriguing. A friend of mine in Leg XX in VA made me some wax tablets, and one he tried adding resin instead of just beeswax and coloring. A member of my group, Leg III, tried making his own, but something went odd with his mixture, [I] can't figure out what the cause is, but the wax is almost gooey and gets everywhere, smears very easily.

It all reinforces the notion these ancient people knew what they were doing. I try to remind people who are perplexed by [my] interest in "obsolete" (hahahaha) techniques and media that they knew enough about their materials that so many of them still exist, thousands of years later, whereas Joe Schmuck Paint Splatter from 1968 is literally melting/disintegrating, and conservators are losing their minds (and the race) to stabilize this….Artwork….

I don't think you'd need to worry about salmonella….It's not like you're licking the panel after painting it. (despite Cennini mentioning using spittle as an ingredient for gesso for silverpoint….)

As for Cennini, you ought to be able to find a copy online on Googlebooks, but ought to be able to find an affordable copy on ABE Books (I'm trying to wean myself off of that other big-name online store….)

anyway, blah blah blah art art art :D

blah blah blah! art art art!

Date: 2017-03-14 01:30 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] meritahut.livejournal.com
You say, "endless layers and tiny strokes," and I think, "this could turn out to be the perfect medium for me" :D

On the tangent: I think of the explosion of wine-&-paint nights--and scrapbooks and journals and youtubers--as a healthy hobbyist thing, a way for people to express themselves, be social, keep the brain expanded and occupied. Very 19th century. If you did decide to run some wine-fueled workshops, I'd imagine groups would appreciate having a bona fide fine artist give them real insight. Before everyone gets plastered.

But I understand your reservations. It's like tfw you hear someone say, "oh, anyone can play piano," since it seems so simple and quick to get a melody (or a picture of some sort) out of the tools.


"There's nothing I enjoy as much as a jolly catastrophe"
—J. G. Ballard

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