27, March 2015 § 1 Comment
I wrote a few notes to myself at the beginning of this semester about what I expect from students in my classes. These include a desire that they engage deeply with their work, that they find ways to discuss their progress and their process. I want them to take more responsibility for their learning, to risk more and to be able to play with the material to allow spontaneity. I place similar demands on myself as an artist and an educator. This semester is no exception. I am introducing a new painting method which involves hand refined linseed oil and chalk. This method is somewhat complex at the beginning to explain but allows for more freedom and energy in the paint handling. I wondered what details I need to add and when and how they would adopt the information I was giving them. Would they be able to handle the complexities of the system? All my energies are devoted to communicating clearly the nuances and the particulars.
I take a risk altering my teaching methods each semester. There are some moments that feel as though I were on a high wire without a net. I prepare my lessons but go off in various directions as the moment takes me. I throw away the script and sometimes improvise wholesale. I suppose all teachers with years of experience can do this but I have often felt that vertiginous drop in the lower stomach when you realize you are in free fall. But I am willing to take the chances and the students benefit. I’m not bored and hopefully neither are they.
Hand refined oil and chalk as additions to painting have been researched by Louis Velasquez and Tad Spurgeon, each of whom have valuable insights into this historical method. It involves purifying the organic flax seed oil with alcohol and using psyllium husks to hold and retain the mucilage which is released from the oil. I have been playing with it for just about a year and I find it redefines oil painting. It requires some investment in time for the preparation of the oil but speeds up the painting process considerably as the oil dries quickly and with great body and gloss. It creates effects which resemble early master works which I have been unable to achieve with modern manufactured paint. I felt it was worth the extra work and effort to introduce this new paint to students. As it is my first semester doing so, I await their results before I can judge. The risk will probably pay off, but at any rate allowing the students to watch me take the risk could be just as instructive.
30, January 2014 § 2 Comments
In the spirit of sharing our brush stories here are some of my own. This post will focus on my watercolor and ink brushes. You can follow Aegean Center for the Fine Arts painting teacher Jane Pack’s brush stories here.
I get very attached to my brushes. Like actors in a play each brush has its own role. Some are used far more frequently than others, but if I’m missing a specific brush for a specific task I may just scrap the piece altogether. When a brush starts to wear down or even fall apart it can bring an irrational amount of stress and dismay. At times I talk to my brushes like a coach would to his players, alright kiddo, go out there and get the job done. What can I say, they are more than just tools, they’re the means to express myself. I usually take them for granted but I love my brushes. Here are some descriptions of my main team.
A 1 inch Hake brush. Soft and wide, it’s great for washes: skies and seas. The softer the brush the easier it is to move a watery wash over the the paper without affecting the surface.
A goathair Chinese ink brush. It’s a very versatile brush, useful for washes and moving the color into small tight corners: negative space!
My Taking Care Of Business brush. Like “Big Timer” another Chinese ink brush, but because of it’s smaller size I use it very often for washes, tight detail work, and just about everything else. I could do a whole painting just with this brush.
I love using this brush–The point can get very fine and the bristles splay out in a very natural manner, perfect for leaves, water, rocks, hair, etc.
A half inch square brush with a firm shape and bristles. I mostly use this brush to lift color off the painting. Useful for editing and lightening up a passage of color.
A plastic brush with synthetic bristles that you could fill up with water. Holds a great shape and makes a very thin line. Very effective for detail work.
I never use this brush but I like that I have it. Rigger brushes are traditionally used to paint the riggings of boats in maritime paintings.
A round brush that I once used very often but has since been worn down a bit. I almost never use it anymore but when I go out to paint I always have to bring it out of habit.
Do you have brushes that you love? Share them with us on Twitter, @aegeancenter, #brushstory.