Tuesday, February 26, 2008

My painting cont'd XV

Late February 2008

When I supplied a version of this commentary as Episode I of a contribution to Turps magazine [www.turpsbanana.com or coming soon to your nearest esoteric outlet] I appended, in place of the hoped for cliff-hanger, the following dry account of such technical data as a professional journal might expect...

Technical Notes

Technically there are no mysteries. The fabrication is simple and the means austere. Andy has now provided me with panels for the whole work based on the one I started with (now replaced). The surface of each is 3.2mm untempered hardboard braced by pine battens 27mm x 27mm glued on with Titebond (aliphatic resin wood adhesive). They are primed with Golden Acrylic white primer toned down with Mars Black (Tri Art). The primer has been given some ‘tooth’ by the addition of pumice (grade 250 grit) which also makes for a more matte surface. Proportion is approx one teaspoonful to a litre of primer, which is applied in 4 or 5 coats with 24hr hardening time between each application. The final surface is then lightly sanded with 400 grit wet and dry paper (silicon carbide) used dry.

Each panel is underpainted with an all over, hastily brushed, random field of muted colour with mid-tones predominating and the occasional accent of purer hues amongst the general diffuseness. This is what happened with the second panel I started and became the general practise, though not too much effort is made to achieve the same effect with each.

As for the oil paint itself I now tend to use Michael Harding’s rich pigments for the most part though I retain old favourites from Winsor & Newton’s range, notably the pungent Winsor Green and the potent Winsor Violet. There are of course other tubes occasionally brought into play variously bought at various times, some as long as thirty years ago, including a seemingly inexhaustible tube of Indian Red from Spectrum, a relic of art school days. I don’t use any fancy driers or extra mediums, relying on white spirit. Only in the world of art mags is there no substitute for turps.

For the underpainting I’m happy to use any medium size brush that comes to hand. The delicate tracery and detailed patterning that rapidly became the norm of the second stage called for small fine brushes that would retain their point and have the necessary spring. In my schoolboy days this would have evoked the hushed mention of Kolinsky Sable. One knew that for really fine painting only this treasured hair, gathered from rare and rufous rodents in the Steppes of central Asia, would do. This is a myth, or has become one. I have tried the ever improving range of artificial fibres which started a generation ago with very floppy nylon but now firm mixtures of hair are used, which keep their spring and shape after repeated use and only need a brisk rinse in white spirit at the end of the day. Prolene (Pro-Arte) and Cotman (Winsor & Newton) are excellent in small sizes but I have a slight preference for Sablette made by Utrecht, which I found in the shop opposite the Chelsea Hotel. In all the surface painting so far I have used up no more than three such size 1 brushes. No weasel fears my easel: let mustela sibirica scamper free.

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