Thursday, August 22, 2013

Mediums and historic wisdom from rock and roll

Black Moumtain  Stapleton Kearns 24 by30, 2006?
I threw a few fall images of my own into this post.

Here is an ask Stape question, I received recently. I suppose I am repeating myself , but many readers have not read the archives and for them this is a magazine rather than a book. The blog is searchable via the little box up  in the left had corner of the page. But with over a thousand posts the archives are so vast that even I don't really know where things are back there. It was intended to be an exposition of everything I had learned in my time in the painting world, or my corner of it, New England traditional painting.

Arthur D Shroudpak, of Minot, North Dakota asks;
So what should I use for a medium when I’m painting outdoors ?
Is there a preferred brand of paint ?

Stape ........
I think you will want to use one of two mediums, either an alkyd like Liquin, or a varnish, turpentine and oil mixture often called VTO.

The ideal medium is probably no medium. Many of the painters of old New England had only a small cap of oil on their palette. To make many kinds of paint strokes though, it is nice to have the paint thinner, slipperier and more mobile.That is usually why a painter uses a medium. Varnish and oil mediums were pretty much standard practice for many years and artists often use them today for that reason. Their long and common use justifies confidence in their  permanence. When I was a kid we all mixed our Grumbacher paint. or Permanent  Pigments with Taubes Copal medium, which is an oil medium although made with the now scarce copal varnish. If you buy a bottle of copal medium today the small print on it's label will tell you that it contains not copal but alkyd.

  VTO medium is 1 part damar varnish, 1 part linseed or stand oil, and 4 or more parts turpentine ( not mineral spirits!). It has a little more glow than  an alkyd medium and  but it is slower drying. .It is easy to make yourself and Utrecht or Jerrys Artrarama can sell you big bottles of the damar varnish and stand oil very inexpensively. Get a plastic funnel and a big glass jar with a screw top like mayonnaise comes in and make a years worth of medium in about five minutes. This is a good medium for cheap Yankees too. Buy it retail in those little bottles and it will be more  expensive than The Glenlivet.

Or you might choose an alkyd medium, these are very common and promote quick drying and reduce "sinking in" problems.  Liquin is one brand name and Galkyd is another.Alkyd is an oil, often soybean, that has been modified with acid and alcohol. It dries insoluble, at least in artists thinners, resilient and a little rubbery.It makes a very tough paint film BUT it looks slightly different and I think not quite as "rich" as a traditional medium. Alkyds usually add a satin finish that has less glow than a VTO mixture.Some formulations are shinier than others but none have that deep luster of an oil medium.

Recently I have been using the VTO  rather than my usual alkyd medium. I am trying to use a lot less medium too.

There is no preferred brand of paint.


 I use a lot of RGH (link in my sidebar) but I buy many of colors in quarts and tube them myself. All of the professional brands are fine, such as Winsor Newton, Rembrandt, etc. Every paint maker also produces a lower priced "student" brand. Those are absolutely unacceptable. If you want to know which colors I use , that's behind us about a thousand posts somewhere. Search "materials for a workshop".
Owls Head Light, Stapleton Kearns, 30 by 40 about 10 years ago.
I have a friend who is a rock and roll guitar hero, Kim Simmonds, founder of the band Savoy Brown. I enjoy talking to him, our "jobs"  have a surprising amount in common, and the discipline of daily practice and creation are very similar for each of us. Kim paints too, I don't think I actually know anyone who doesn't. Kim has a lot of stories, he started his band in London in the sixties. I want to share with you something he told me recently that I think has a lesson in it for painters.

Kim was at the home of John Lee Hooker .many years ago. Evidently John Lee Hooker's California home was a crossroads for musicians and lots of them visited and played together there. Someone asked Mr. Hooker "what do you think of so-and-so? ", another hotshot guitarist? And John Lee Hooker answered;

 "I LOVE him! LOVE him! I'm a big fan of his, and he's a big fan of mine!"

This was a standard response for him evidently. It is positive,witty and self promoting all at once. I am adapting this reply for my own use. I am frequently asked what "I think of another painter". I try  to always give a positive and nurturing reply . When I was young I used to blurt out exactly what I felt that artists shortcomings were, it's easy, everybody has em! It made me look small, and it served an insult to a stranger who might someday repay the favor. It usually disappointed my listener and it might have taken the bread from the mouth of a brother artist.

When you are out in the field with your painting buddies, say whatever you like. But in a professional setting, I think it is better to promote any artist who is mentioned to you. People will judge you on your work and form their own opinion of you. Dismissing another artists work won't make your listener like you and usually does the opposite. I believe this to be professional behavior. Knocking another artist (well except for Alex Katz, who is sure to survive it ) should be avoided

 When you are dealing with the public, that is a business setting and not a personal one. By "with the public" means when you are painting out in the field and someone approaches you, or when you are doing a demo or at an art gallery or event. A plein air paintout would qualify.You are there to get paid, not to feed your self esteem, educate the public or take the other guy down a notch. People want to like an artist they do business with, and if they feel you are jealous or negative they might not. I have a hard enough time getting people to like me anyway, being abrasive and all.

What goes around comes round seems a hackneyed phrase but it is appropriate here. In the long run, you will receive about the treatment from your brother artists that you dish out yourself. Sometimes people will hear that you had a good word for them or  promoted them heartily, they never forget that.

When next you are asked what you think of another artist, if you know their work at all, I suggest you answer:


Stapleton Kearns 218 by 24 2010

Chromium thingy?

Here is another picture of last weeks chromium colored device . Someone guessed it as a paper towel holder. But it is a 2.50 cent toilet paper holder from Walwart that is supposed to hook onto the tank and beari an extra roll. That's a little to nakedly utilitarian for my bath, but it is a handy and cheap way to hang paper towels within easy reach of your easel.

Leaf Season workshop
September 23-24-25

The Fall workshop filled weeks ago now and I have received a bunch of e-mail  from people who would like to have come. So I am scheduling another fall session. .. I have scheduled this workshop midweek rather than across a weekend to secure room availability. Inns are busiest in the leaf season in New England . Peak fall is a beautiful time of year here. Notice those mountains behind the inn in the picture below. I can't wait, it's going to be so cool!

This is the Sunset Hill House in Franconia, New Hampshire. I have been teaching workshops there for  years and it is the ideal location.  Because I have taught so many workshops there the inn keepers have learned what painters at a workshop need and they are now practiced at hosting my workshops and making sure we have what we need to operate without any distractions or responsibilities other than painting.There is a broad rear porch that overlooks the mountains so we can still paint outside no matter what the weather does. The lower level of the inn  is ours to store our paints and canvas so we don't have to haul it all to our rooms and it makes a good place to teach too. The view of the mountains is spectacular and in the fall it will be even better. The inn takes good care of us. We have our own private dining room too. They handle  our meals and even bring us lunch so  we can work all day uninterrupted. The inn is one of those big old historic affairs from the 19th century and is homey and informal. Most of the rooms have gas fireplaces, and it is cool in the evenings up in the mountains in the fall, so that is nice after a day outside. It is necessary to stay in the inn to take the workshop.

I love teaching workshops. Everyone is always excited to be there and hang out with the other artists. It is like a three day party. We go from breakfast until bedtime. This is a total immersion program and I run the class about 12 hours a  day. I do an evening lecture while we wait for dinner to be served.
. We don't need to leave the grounds of the inn  to find great subject matter so their is no problem with hauling easels around or caravanning cars to daily locations. We just walk out the back door and the whole Presidential range is spread out before us.

The schedule includes;
  • a demo every morning, on the first day I explain the palette and the various pigments.
  • In the afternoon the students paint and I run from easel to easel doing individual instruction and try to diagnose each students particular barriers to better painting.
  •  after the demo each day I run  a series of exercises  teaching root skills like creating vibrating color and the parts of the light (that is what you need to know to establish light in a painting) I will also teach how to most effectively "hit" the color of nature outside.
  • I do a presentation before dinner with images from my laptop. One is a history of White Mountain art so you can see what the greats of American painting did with the same landscape we will be painting during the day.  In the 19th century all of the great Hudson River painters made a point of being there too, just a few miles up the road from the inn. The other lecture is unpacking out  the design ideas in the works of great landscape painters, particularly Edward Seago and Aldro Hibbard, two favorite painters of mine.
  •  I will work you like a borrowed mule.

 The cost of the workshop is 300 dollars. Sign up here. I charge a 150 deposit up front when you register. In return for that I will hold your place in the class. I wont give away your place to anyone else, so I don't return deposits.
 Lodging reservations must be made with the inn who will provide a discounted room package deal to my students, it is absolutely required that you stay at the inn to take this workshop. Well, actually, if you must stay off "campus" call them and they will arrange a day rate for you which will cover your meals etc. Here is the Sunset Hill House web site


Anonymous said...

Think this is such great advice Stape. Enjoyed seeing these older paintings. The one of Owl's Head is a favorite of mine.

Laura said...

Thank you so much for continuing to share these valuable tips--I'm taking notes!

barbara b. land of boz said...

Hi Stape, Thanks for the post. As always their is something we can learn from you! Hope all is well with you, take care and keep on keeping on......barbara b

john pototschnik said...

I love you, I love you. I'm a big fan of yours, and your a big fan of mine. There, I said it. All the best Stapleton.

Robert J. Simone said...

Just cuz I get these names thrown at me when I'm out there I wanna hear how this sounds: "I love Bob Ross. I'm a big fan of his. And he was a big fan of me, too!" "I love Thomas Kincade. I'm a big fan of his and he was a big fan of me, too!"

And I was right. It is a paper towel holder. It holds Charmin or Viva!

Susan Renee Lammers said...

Thank you for the information of mediums. I use galkyd sometimes at plein air events when I need my work to dry fast. I would like to try VTO. Your fall painting workshop is so tempting! You are one of the best teachers I have met. Very few painters can paint so well and teach well too. I agree with your advice. It is always better to be positive.

Unknown said...

I AM a big fan of yours!
And guess what? we are moving back to New England!
I will have to start mixing green again. Yikes!

I have been using no medium for the most part, but I wonder if using it in winter conditions might help paint be more pliable?

Unknown said...

Thank you so much for continuing to share these valuable tips

Roberto said...

Good advice, Stape.
I’m a big fan of your blog and strongly suggest everyone take advantage of your deep archives (Still waiting for the book). You are one useful Dude!
BTW, that ‘Owls Head Light’ is an outstanding painting, very good job!
Abrasively yours -RQ

Philip Koch said...

Stape i see your point about not running other artists down in public. I was recently at the Colby College Museum of Art which got a big donation from Alex Katz and devotes several very large galleries to a permanent display of his paintings. I immediately thought of you.

By the way, I love , love, love Damien Hirst's sharks and I'm told they love me too.