Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Blue Rooster Art Supply Company

At one point I was buying Grumbacher oil colors from Michaels- way back in 2002 before I decided on painting as my major.  Later in March 2003 I started to become bougie when it came to paint and I started to order from Blick- Sennelier Oil colors during the time when France opposed the US invasion of Iraq. Buying Sennelier was my protest against the folks who wanted to rename French Fries "Freedom Fries." Actually I thought Sennelier would be a pretty good brand to try, but I could be political too.

Over the years Blick was my number one source for art supplies. Blick's selection allowed me to try many artist grade brands such as Gamblin, Williamsburg, Old Holland,  Blockx, and M.Graham without paying retail prices elsewhere. Only when it was an emergency would I hit up Plaza Art on the VCU campus.

Then in Fall 2009 I discovered Natural Pigments. In February 2013 I decided to try the Rublev line after nearly avoiding the brand because of a review on unsaid forum. It's the best decision regarding my materials I ever made. I still order from Blick to purchase drawing materials, Gamsol, Gamvar, etc. But Rublev is now the line of paint I prefer. Unfortunately Blick doesn't carry Rublev. Then again if it did I'd be paying WA state sales tax.

Several years ago I discovered Blue Rooster Art Supply Company. They carry the Rublev line of oil colors including a few of their mediums. Their prices are lower than Natural Pigments and orders over $25 get free shipping. Customer service is excellent. One time I ordered a tube of Lead Tin Yellow. They only had one left in stock and were reordering. They said the tube they had was "ugly" because oil had leaked on the tube and they offered it to me for a discount. I gladly accepted it saving myself some cash. I still have the tube and it is perfectly usable. 

I recently placed an order which I do several times a year especially when I need more lead white # 2 or Venetian Medium. Here is a recent order to replenish colors I use often plus a couple of new additions to my palette- French Red Ochre and Bone Black. I was running out of Velazquez Medium which I plan to use more extensively this year. Blue Rooster had to order more 130 ml Venetian Medium tubes and they sent me three 50 ml tubes so I wouldn't have to wait. No extra charge on that plus I get an extra 20 ml of medium. Super cool people! I also ordered a 32 oz jar of Golden acrylic dispersion ground to prep some ACM panels. No sales tax on that one! Also Blue Rooster started sending stickers with their logo. I stuck one on my sketchbook and I gave two others to a couple of my atelier students today.

Even though Blue Rooster is my number one source for Rublev oil colors I still order from Natural Pigments. Recently I ordered a 50 ml tube of Cobalt Chromite Blue, malachite pigment, and Italian Varnish. Later this year I will order some Blue Verditer pigment to augment my 17th Century palette. 

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Rublev Lead Whites Part 3- Ceruse

When I began the post on Rublev Lead whites I had planned to discuss them all in at least two posts. However considering how much I wanted to describe each lead white I realized that combining three per post would be too much. Today I am discussing Ceruse a lead white mixed with calcite. Technical info can be found on Natural Pigment's site.

The test samples were painted on canvas toned with Orange Ochre. For the swatches painted with medium I used a low viscosity linseed oil thinned with odorless mineral spirits. This is not the medium I use in my paintings, but a common one used by most oil painters, especially beginners. To test the tinting strength I used it with Venetian Red.


Back in February 2013 when I started to paint again after deciding not to pursue a Ph.D. in classical archaeology, I resumed my research of painting materials as I had done when I was in art school. About this time I began using Rublev paints and I dropped Titanium white altogether from my palette. I also dropped Zinc white, that pigment of dubious permanence still supplied by all the artist grade paint makers. For years I had known that Zinc white becomes brittle when it ages but I had not known that it can cause de-lamination of paint layers. It's indiscriminate use in the 20th century has caused headaches for conservators and it's puzzling why paint makers still churn out this stuff. Oh yeah that tube of Flake white from your favorite paint maker contains Zinc white. Check out info on Natural Pigments site-

In a world where Titanium white is used by most artists, Zinc white is often used because it is not as opaque as titanium. Zinc white can offer the artist lower tinting strength and scumbles that Titanium is not capable of. When Rublev's Lead White # 2 became a mainstay on my palette I wanted another white that had Zinc white's translucency. After reading about Ceruse I decided to try it out. 

Ceruse is lead white combined with calcite(chalk). The calcite gives the paint greater translucency and enhances it's textural qualities. Several books I have read such as "Art in the Making: Rembrandt" state that during the 17th Century lead white mixed with chalk was common and used by many painters including Rembrandt. The Dutch referred to this as "lootwit" which translates to "lead white" and makes no reference to it's chalk content.

Here we see a nut of Ceruse which had been manipulated with a paint knife. It's not ropey like Lead White # 2 and this bit has held it's peak nicely. If you look closely you can see the slightly gritty texture provided by the calcite.

Straight from the tube with no medium you can see the textural possibilities it's capable of. Ceruse can hold the strokes of brush bristles and it creates soft scumbles. However when it dries it has no sheen and looks dry and chalky.

Here it is used with medium which gives it a matte sheen. It's not apparent in this photo but it has a very nice semi-translucent quality. In fact Ceruse has the greatest translucency of the 7 Rublev lead whites.

This photo shows some Ceruse on the schnauzer's ruff in one of my recent paintings. I apologize for the lower resolution and I will get a better photo when I have a chance. I can't remember much about how I painted the Ceruse parts so I don't recall if I used a medium to apply it or straight out of the tube. I did view it recently and it appears to have yellowed a bit. Maybe I mixed it with a bit of expoxide oil gel medium. I have no idea. For those of you in the Seattle area this painting is on permanent display at Hellbent Brewing in Lake City, Seattle.

This is my second tube of Ceruse since 2013 and it really wasn't one of my favorites for awhile. I think it's chalky finish wasn't appealing to me. However my work is increasingly featuring textured passages and I am currently exploring the possibilities offered by Ceruse.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Rublev Lead Whites Part 2- Lead White # 2

Last week I introduced the topic of Rublev Lead White oil colors. Today I will discuss Lead White # 2's characteristics and working properties. Technical info can be found on Natural Pigment's site.

The test samples were painted on canvas toned with Orange Ochre. For the swatches painted with medium I used a low viscosity linseed oil thinned with odorless mineral spirits. This is not the medium I use in my paintings, but a common one used by most oil painters, especially beginners. To test the tinting strength I used it with Venetian Red.

Lead White # 2

This is my favorite lead white of any brand I have used. I first used it in February 2013. Upon receiving it I was amazed by the weight of the 50 ml tube. It was nice and heavy. I was extremely pleased how it felt when manipulated with my brush in combination with my chosen medium of bodied linseed oil and odorless mineral spirits.

Lead White # 2 is made with walnut which gives it the smooth, ropey feel. You can see from this photo how manipulation with a paint knife shows how ropey it is. Last year I gave a demo on oil painting to my 4th/5th grade class and I showed them the difference between M. Graham Titanium white and Rublev's Lead White # 2. Using a paint knife I manipulated both colors. The titanium was short and buttery, not much to get excited about. When I started manipulating the Lead White # 2 one of my students said, "What the heck?". She was intrigued. So basically titanium white= boring and Lead White # 2 is the opposite.

I've tried Lead White # 1 which is ground in linseed oil. It's pretty good, a bit stiffer than Lead White # 2. However I prefer Lead White # 2. I can use it without any medium to create thin stringy effects.

In this photo I painted out some swatches of Lead White # 2. The first swatch is straight from the tube. Using it like this had the feel of using paint with a high viscosity oil meaning that it has some drag as I applied it to the canvas. You can see a ribbon of lead white and the textural possibilities using paint without a medium.

This swatch shows the paint combined with a common medium of low viscosity linseed oil and mineral spirits.

If there is a standard lead white you need for your palette then this is the one. Of course you can try the Lead White # 1 and that may suit you. This lead white is bright, a nice balance between opaque and semi-transparent, and the textural possibilities can be easily explored. So far I haven't had any problems with yellowing because it is ground in walnut oil.

Next time I will discuss Ceruse. 

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Event at Hellbent Brewing Company

There will be a public unveiling for my three 17th Century Dutch banquet painting inspired pieces at Hellbent Brewing Company at 6 PM, Monday March 21. The paintings will be part of the brewery's decor. Hellbent is pet friendly and dogs are frequent guests. It has been said that Seattle's dog population outnumbers children and a brewery that welcomes dogs is a boon for our city.

Hellbent will also introduce a new beer to their selection of beer on the 21st. 

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Rublev Lead Whites Part 1

I have been using Rublev Oil Colors by Natural Pigments since February 2013 and I absolutely love these paints. Before I say anymore I want everyone to know that I am not a spokesman for Natural Pigments nor are they paying me to rave about and promote their products. The cash flow goes from my pockets into theirs and I hope the company will be around for a long time so they can keep earning my money. That's how good their products are. Actually their products are exemplary and they have broadened my painting technique.

Rublev has an amazing variety of lead white paint. They carry 7 different varieties, each with unique working characteristics. What other artist grade paint company offers that? Most companies will offer titanium white, zinc white, a mix of the two, and sometimes flake white or Cremnitz white. Titanium is the standard white in the industry for most artists, and many of us know that zinc white should be avoided if we care about our paintings' longevity. The lead white offered by some companies-flake white- usually contains zinc white. 

Beginning artists may wonder what's the hype with lead white. Titanium white is non-toxic and easily available. Plus the news coming from Flint, Michigan reminds us of the dangers caused by lead poisoning. However, lead white paint used with safe studio practices can create a painting experience that titanium cannot offer. Read about the history of lead white paint used by artists and try out a tube. As long as it is used safely the threat of lead poisoning is minimal. Many of the old masters lived past 60 and off the top of my head I can only think of Caravaggio who may have suffered from lead poisoning. 

Back to the Rublev lead whites- I have tried all 7 of them and I have found each one useful. I do prefer several above the rest but that's my own personal preference. The textural effects these paints can achieve are matched by no other brand. I've tried Williamsburg and Old Holland since 2008 and I thought they were great at the time. Since I've converted to a disciple of Rublev oil colors I only use the Rublev lead whites. I still have a little bit of Old Holland lead white left but I haven't touched it for years. In fact I don't even want to use it for underpainting. It just doesn't feel right to me.

In a future post I will describe each of the Rublev lead whites working properties. You can see my tubes here. Most I've had for almost two years. The Ceruse was a recent purchase and I purchase at least 3 tubes of lead white # 2 a year. 

If you want to sample some of the Rublev line I highly recommend Lead White # 2. Take a look at this bit of Lead White # 2 straight out of the tube with no additives.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

First Day of Scholars Atelier

This afternoon I began my after school advanced drawing and painting program at First Place Scholars a private elementary school in Seattle's Central district. I was teaching drawing to the 4th/5th grade class this year and I decided to start a program for students who have shown great aptitude in drawing. I chose eight 4th and 5th graders for the program which is every Tuesday and Wednesday afternoon running through June 15. Today was an introduction to the atelier, discussion of the instruction my students will receive, and the issue of drawing supplies.

Here is their drawing kit which includes Tombow Mono pencils and Nitram Charcoal. The Prismacolor Ebony, Sepia, and Sanguine pencils were part of supplies donated to my general drawing class by Rubbermaid. Regarding the Tombow Pencils and Nitram Charcoal I believe that students who are learning to draw should use quality materials. In this case they will use the exact same brands I use as a professional artist. Later when we start egg tempera painting my students will make their paint from my personal supply of pigments from Kremer and dispersions from Natural Pigments.

As I talked about supplies one of my 4th graders did ask me if the class will be using silverpoint. She had seen my silverpoint in my drawing kit a few months ago and asked about it. I told her no silverpoint. But who knows, maybe in the future...