Category Archives: Painting

Gurney Journey at 10

James Gurney's Gurney Journey art blog at 10
Congratulations to James Gurney for 10 years of authoring his superb blog, Gurney Journey.

What started as a modest intention to chronicle his travels on a book tour — in a way mirroring the journaled adventures of the character Authur Denison in Gurney’s popular illustrated adventure series, Dinotopia — has grown over time into not only a superb blog among art blogs, but one of the most in-depth and useful sources of art information and instruction on the web.

Gurney has been unstintingly generous in sharing his experience as an illustrator, author, plein air painter, instructor, model maker, videographer, and restless experimenter and investigator of artistic topics.

Over the course of time his posts on painting techniques, equipment, paints, color theory, drawing, and related topics have been turned into instructional books, YouTube videos, and most recently, a series of full-length instruction art videos.

Gurney has been a proponent of misunderstood and often overlooked painting mediums like gouache and casein, and Gurney Journey remains one of the definitive sources on the web for information and instruction in their use.

Long time readers of Lines and Colors will know I’ve long enjoyed Gurney Journey and recommended it often, along with Gurney’s other projects.

For those who may be new to Gurney Journey, I will recommend that you take a look at the post he did in 2016 on the landmark of 4,000 posts. In it he links to a quick overview of some of the most prominent topics. You can also explore using the list of topics in the blog’s left column, or the search feature at the upper left of all pages.

If you take the plunge, I will issue my Timesink Warning, and point out that I fell down that rabbit hole myself for a couple of hours while preparing this post, bookmarking along the way numerous articles I had forgotten about for future reference.

 
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DIY Pochade Boxes – make your own cheap pochade box from simple materials

DIY Pochade Boxes - make your own cheap pochade box from simple materials

As I pointed out in my previous post on making DIY pochade boxes out of cigar boxes, the cost of a commercial pochade box can sometimes be prohibitive, particularly for those on a tight budget or who are as yet uncertain if they want to commit serious resources to plein air painting.

So blog posts and videos in which artists share their designs for Do It Yourself pochade boxes are becoming more common. Though the cigar box conversion is the most common, there are also more ambitious designs either built from scratch materials or from larger found wooden boxes, as well as some unorthodox starting points like office form holders and even a laptop computer shell.

I’ve gathered a few of them here — certainly not comprehensive, but hopefully representative and useful. Some are quite detailed and extensive in their descriptions and instructions, others are a bit sketchy, but I’ve tried to include those that have techniques of interest. Some even offer printed plans, either for free or for a reasonable fee.

Though there are some exceptions, most of these posts and videos are less than professionally presented. For an alternative with details and high production values, see my recent post about James Gurney’s new video on How to Make a Sketch Easel.

Look around with a search engine (particularly by using image search) and you will likely find more posts and videos on DIY pochade boxes; even those without details can offer food for thought. For those who have accounts, you may find additional resources on sites like Wet Canvas or Pinterest.

I’ll follow up this post in the next few days with a refreshed version of my original post on Pochade Boxes, that offers an overview of commercially available options.

Blog posts

Jim Sterrett - Sterrett Box, DIY pochade box Jim Sterrett
This influential 2009 post on how to build a “Sterrett Box”, as it came to be called, was the second DIY pochade box I remember seeing on the web, after Ellie Clemon’s cigar box pochade box post in 2004 (see my previous article on DIY Cigar Box pochade boxes). Sterrett also published a post on diy pochade boxes by others inspired by his design, and another on his plans for making a wet panel carrier.

Sketchin Dan, DIY pochade box Sketchin Dan
Not really a blog post, but a series of annotated photos on Flickr, this is also one of the older examples I’m aware of in which an artist shares their home made pochade box design.

Darrell Anderson, DIY pochade box Darrell Anderson
Made from cut lumber, this box will take panels up to 18 inches and includes a camera mount for taking time-lapse shots of paintings in progress.

Jeremy Sams, DIY pochade box Jeremy Sams
This 9 1/4 x 11 1/2″ box, meant to handle 8 x 10 panels, features a tip-out hinged brush holder.

David Gluck, DIY pochade box David Gluck
This box starts out with two 12×16 cradled birch painting panels, and provides a large mixing area. Directions are fairly extensive and it looks like the size could likely be easily reduced by using smaller panels.

Carol L. Douglas, DIY pochade box Carol L. Douglas
In this unusual metal design, the starting point is an aluminum form holder and the end result is very lightweight.

YouTube videos

Hugo Dolores, DIY pochade box Hugo Dolores
In this two part video (part 2 here), the artist starts out with a found wooden box (larger than a cigar box, eBay maybe?), but gives worthwhile ideas and details for the hardware and compartment adaptations to make a pochade box suitable for either oil or watercolor.

J Geekie, DIY pochade box J. Geekie
Geekie has apparently gone through several iterations of his design, and you may find additional details, as well as alternate designs in other videos. Videos are hand-held and a bit shaky, but I thought the designs interesting enough to be worth sharing.

Karen McLain, DIY pochade box Karen McLain
In this unusual bit of recycling, McLain takes the screen and components out of a defunct laptop computer and turns its case into pochade box without a tripod mount, simply held on a lap, table or stool.

Larisa Carli, DIY pochade box Larisa Carli
In this annotated time-lapse video, Carli starts with a found wooden box, but gives enough information to be useful in building a pastel-specific pochade box.

, DIY pochade box Mustafa Jannan
Video is wordless and annotated in German and English, with enough interesting ideas to be worthwhile.

Richard Kooyman, DIY pochade box Richard Kooyman
In this basic design, panels are held in place with a simple spring clamp, but the box looks sturdy, has double brackets to hold the lid in place and features panel storage.

Scott Ruthven, DIY pochade box Scott Ruthven
Ruthven’s video is more an annotated demo than instructions, but the box is quite nicely designed. Tension for the panel holder is provided by a bungee cord.

WBarts, DIY pochade box WBarts
A short, wordless annotated video, but the details are in the Comments area — Click on “Show More” under the video. Includes links to additional detail photos on Flickr.

Blog posts & videos with printed plans

Bob Perrish - Artist Easel Plans, DIY pochade box Bob Perrish – Artist Easel Plans
This long running site started with a set of plans for a pochade box that the author called “The Ttanium Easel” (at left). It features slide-out shelves and a lift-out under-palette tray for either panels or materials. Perrish has expanded the offerings over time to include plans for a dedicated pastel box, a watercolor box and a lighter variation pochade box without the storage compartment but with a detachable side tray. He also offers plans for actual in-studio easels. He describes the plans here.
As of this writing, his pochade box plans sell for $20.00.

Christopher Clark, DIY pochade box, with plans Christopher Clark
In addition to his blog post, on which he offers free PDF plans, Clark also has a YouTube video about his DIY pochade box.

Howard Lyon, DIY pochade box plans Howard Lyon
In an extensive post on the Muddy Colors group blog, Howard Lyon gives detailed instructions, a parts list and free diagram images with materials and sizes. The box features extra strong hinges, and an adjustable panel holder system using magnets to position the base and an extendable top holder tensioned by rubber bands.

Zan Barrage, DIY pochade box Zan Barrage
After some initial versions and revisions demonstrated in YouTube videos (and here), Barrage outlined his DIY pochade box process in a blog post, and now offers downloadable plans for $2.99 through Lulu.

 
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DIY Cigar Box Pochade Boxes – make your own cheap pochade box from a cigar box

DIY Cigar Box Pochade Boxes
As I described in my original post on the subject (which will be updated shortly), pochade boxes are small, usually wooden boxes, meant to serve as a portable artist’s palette and easel for painting on location. Many also contain storage for supplies. Most are equipped to be mounted to camera tripods, but some are simply meant to be held in one’s lap or set on a table when painting.

Pochade boxes have become the defacto standard for plein air painting, largely supplanting the larger French easels and being more common than the field easels and plein air systems meant to handle larger canvases.

Most commercial pochade boxes represent an investment, often a barrier for painters unsure if they want to commit to plein air painting on a regular basis, or for those on a budget.

As of this writing, the least expensive commercial pochade box of which I’m aware is the Guerrilla Painter Pocket Box — a small handheld “thumb box” for 5×7 panels that retails for between $70.00 and $85.00 USD. It has no provision for mounting to a tripod (though holes are drilled for adding a proprietary mounting bracket for an additional $24.00). Most other commercial pochade boxes range in price from $125.00 to $400.00 and up.

So Do It Yourself instructions have gained momentum in recent years. By far, the most common type of these are cigar box to pochade box conversions.

Most cigar stores continually go through cigar boxes as they sell individual cigars, many of them are wood and some are quite nicely finished and well suited in size and shape for making a pochade box. You can usually pick them up either for free or for three or four dollars. Most are made of lightweight wood. When you go looking, you may want to bring a tape measure or typical painting panel to be sure the box you choose will fit your chosen panel size (usually set into the lid).

If you don’t have access to a cigar store, new cigar boxes and similar wooden boxes can be purchased on Amazon (and here), or from craft sources like Michaels or Joann Fabrics for $7.00 or $8.00, though some of these may be too shallow to allow much storage under a palette. You can also check eBay and/or your parent’s attic for any kind of wooden box that seems suitable.

sketch boxYou could also do a similar conversion from an artist’s sketch box (and here), which would be a more expensive start, but would include a correctly sized palette, stronger hinges and latches, and often a handle.

Most cigar boxes have weak, inexpensive hinges, not likely to hold up under the stress of holding a panel while painting, so they usually need to be replaced or supplemented. Also, some accommodation must be made for holding the lid open at a usable angle when using it as an easel. Most DIY versions will also add a stronger latch and often a handle of some kind. Usually, dowels or small wood blocks are cut to length and glued in the corners of the base to provide a palette support, with space underneath for supplies. Wooden, acrylic or glass palettes must usually be cut to size. Existing wooden palettes can be cut down. Palettes can also be made from masonite painting panels coated in gesso and sanded smooth.

T-nutThe more complete versions will include a “T-nut“, a threaded mounting that allows for putting the box on a photographic tripod, like most commercial pochade boxes. The appropriate size to match tripod mounts appears to be 1/4-20 (1/4″ diameter, 20 threads per inch). Usually, additional wood must be added in the area of the T-Nut to provide a more solid mounting than the typical cigar box’s thin, light wood.

The boxes without provision for tripod mounting are meant to be used in your lap or on a table. Some have a thumb hole cut into the bottom of one of the compartments, making a “thumb box” that allows the box to be held in one hand like a traditional artist’s palette.

I’ve tried to provide an overview here of some cigar box to pochade box conversions. This is by no means comprehensive, it’s just meant to be a representative sampling with an emphasis on those that I feel convey enough DIY information to be useful. In the listings below, I’ve linked the author’s name to their post or video describing the project.

Most of these instructions are casually presented rather than laid out in comprehensive detail, so you may have to hunt a bit for the relevant details, but we should be appreciative of the time taken by these artists to share their experience and ideas.

I will follow up this post with another devoted to more elaborate DIY pochade box instructions not based on cigar boxes, most of which are larger and can accommodate larger panels, with more adjustment and room for storage, and sharing more features in common with commercial pochade boxes.

Cigar box pochade box conversions –
no tripod mount

, cigar box pochade box Ellie Clemens
This was the first mention of building a cigar box pochade box I encountered on the web, and at the time the only one I knew of, so I think of it as the original online instruction for building one, and it is still one of the best. Unfortunately, the original website no longer exists, so I have linked to a version on the Internet Archive.

Two strips of lath support the palette, which is cut with a thumb hole so it can be held separately. Brass mending strips and a small bolt hold the lid up and four blocks glued into the lid make a holder for a 5×7 panel.

Plein Air Muse, cigar box pochade box Plein Air Muse
This is a pretty basic cigar box conversion, with some dowels supporting the palette and a couple of braces for holding open the lid.

Lori McNee, cigar box pochade box Lori McNee
Another straightforward conversion, with wood or plastic blocks for palette supports and wing nuts for the lid. Plastic surface savers and one of the hinge bolts hold the panel in place. There are better photos of her box on Empty Easel.

PJ Coo, cigar box pochade box PJ Cook
This cigar box came with a divided tray which sets in the box upside-down to become the palette. A block on the back supports the lid and framing clips hold the panel in place.

Sharon Will, cigar box pochade box Sharon Will
A clever use of canvas stretcher keys to support the palette and an unusual slide hinge highlight this conversion. A small L-shaped fastener holds the panel in the lid.

Stephen D'Amato, cigar box pochade box Stephen D’Amato
A nicely done cigar box pochade for both watercolor and oil. Metal brackets and a wing nut hold the lid. L-shaped fasteners hold the panel. A leather strap holds the box closed and keeps the panel from sliding out in transit. Plastic watercolor trays have been cut down to fit into the compartment and the oil palette rests above them.

Thomas Jefferson Kitts, cigar box pochade box Thomas Jefferson Kitts
This conversion is a “thumb box”, meant to be held in one hand like a traditional palette while painting. The bottom is compartmentalized and one compartment has the thumb hole, placed so the box can be balanced in the hand. Everything but the palette surface and panel are removed when painting to keep it as light as possible. A wooden ledge and simple office clips hold the panel in place.

Cigar box pochade box conversions –
with T-nut or other tripod mounting

Marla Goodman, cigar box pochade box Marla Goodman
A box with a larger than usual mixing area, but too shallow to provide much storage. Techniques are applicable to other size boxes. A cut-to-size piece of masonite in the bottom provides the extra depth and strength necessary to use the T-nut. A unique clip and plastic tubing arrangement holds open the lid. Paint stirrers are used to brace the painting panels, which are simply held on with binder clips. Closure is velcro.

Gabrielle Sivitz, cigar box pochade box Gabrielle Sivitz
A two-part post. Not exactly a cigar box, but the principles are the same. A wood block holds the lid up. Four corks cut to size hold the acrylic palette in place, with room underneath for supplies.

Austin Maloney, cigar box pochade box Austin Maloney
Metal “mending strips” and a wing nut hold the lid in position. Another bolt and wing nut in a slot in the lid hold the panel in place. A commercial tripod mounting plate from Guerilla Painter is used instead of a T-nut.

Linda  Schroeter, cigar box pochade box Linda Schroeter
This looks like an unusually sturdy cigar box, but the instructions are pretty detailed. Dowels are hot-glued in the corners to support the palette, which is made from a masonite painting panel, painted and cut with a thumb hole to use separately. L-shaped brackets can hold panels in the lid, which is held open with metal braces and a wing nut. An extra piece of wood has been glued to the bottom to support the tripod mount; four rubber feet raise the box above that for use on a table.

Frank Hobbs, cigar box pochade box Frank Hobbs
A clever extender for the panel holder, made from lattice, is a highlight of this functional box. Another piece of lattice provides the extra thickness and strength in the bottom of the box necessary for the T-nut tripod mount. A piece of v-shaped molding serves as a trough to keep the fresh paint separate from the mixing area. A wood strip on the back supports the open lid.

, cigar box pochade box Jeff McRobbie
This is probably the best tutorial and most sophisticated design I’ve seen for a DIY cigar box pochade box. The wooden block on the back of the box that holds open the lid in use is set in a slot with a wing nut, allowing the angle of the lid to be adjusted. A square of plywood in the bottom of the box provides the extra depth and strength needed for the T-nut mounting. Strips of narrow wood support the palette, and another is adapted to be a removable brush holder that plugs into the outside of the box with lengths of clothes-hanger wire. The panel holder looks sophisticated, but seems easy enough to construct, and features a wooden adjustment knob on the back of the lid. The panel holder and knob extend a bit from the box when closed, but still make a compact design.

smoothie77, cigar box pochade box smoothie77
This YouTube video (w/skipable ad) shows an interesting conversion with double slide-out trays. A little short on the how-to instructions, but food for thought.

, cigar box pochade box Bart Charlow
This YouTube video (no ads) features an unusual configuration with two cigar boxes stacked together. Two mending strips and a thumbscrew hold open the lid. Cork in the lid allows pushpins to hold watercolor paper. A third, shallow cigarbox tucks inside the top of the first and acts as a removable tray that can be attached to the outside of the box with additional thumbscrews and L-brackets. The bottom cigar box is a storage area, and a slide out piece below that holds a brush washer when in use. The tripod mount has not been added at this point.

Look around

I will follow this post with another about more elaborate DIY pochade boxes, as well as updating my original post on commercial pochade boxes.

But when looking for ideas for a cigar box conversion, don’t limit yourself to those presented here. Look at the more elaborate homemade boxes as well as the commercial ones to see how they’ve solved the basic problems of storage, palette arrangement, easel adjustment and panel or paper holding for inspiration. You will also find variations aimed more at watercolor or pastels.

If you come up with some clever ideas, consider sharing them with others the way these artists have.

 
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James Gurney’s How to Make a Sketch Easel

James Gurney's How to Make a Sketch Easel
As I will point out in an article soon to follow this one about DIY pochade boxes, there are a lot of blog posts and videos out there that offer do-it-yourself instructions for making outdoor painting kits, from simple watercolor kits in a bag to complex pochade boxes with drawers and panel carriers.

Unfortunately, most of them, however well intentioned, suffer from poor, spotty or incomplete instructions. In the case of YouTube videos, they are often shaky, handheld clips with low production values and little or no editing. There are a few exceptions, but not many.

At the other end of the spectrum we have James Gurney, who has been creating a series of instructional videos with high production values and an eye to teaching in a manner that is well thought out and pays attention to detail.

Though not free like most of the YouTube videos, these are very modestly priced as digital downloads, and well worth it in terms of actual usability.

Gurney is not only a painter, illustrator, videographer and writer, he is an inveterate maker and inventor, constantly searching for better, more clever ways to do things related to painting and illustration.

Gurney’s latest video is How to Make a Sketch Easel, and he provided me with a review copy. (I chose the digital download version; there is also a DVD version with an additional slide show.)

A sketch easel, as opposed to the more common pochade box, French easel or field easel, is a portable painting platform that mounts to a photographic tripod and is primarily associated with sketching and painting on location with water media rather than with oil.

Instead of a recessed palette surface for oils, the provision is usually for holding a plastic or metal watercolor tray. The easel back is designed to lay relatively flat and is suited for holding a sketchbook or watercolor block rather than a plein air oil painting panel.

Here, Gurney has given instructions for creating his own painting setup, one that he has refined over time and that you may be familiar with if you have seen his “Painting on in the Wild” videos, or are a visitor to his always excellent blog, Gurney Journey.

In this hour long video, Gurney gives detailed specifics of how to replicate his portable sketch easel, from materials list, to layout of the wood, to cutting and finishing the pieces, making inserts for hinges and tripod mounting hardware, as well as his method of quickly mounting and dismounting a metal painting tray and water cup with embedded magnets.

He also details creating sun diffusers — both a small one mounted directly over the easel, and a large one held on a separate tripod (he even builds one out of a tree branch and a sheet).

At the end of the video, he shows his finished sketch easel in action in some location painting clips.

These plans and instructions are very specific to Gurney’s particular setup and way of painting in the field, and are best suited to someone comfortable with DIY projects and hand tools.

However, they can also serve as a springboard for other ideas and designs, and Gurney has several posts on his blog featuring some of the variations of related designs created by readers: “Your Sketch Easel Designs”, “Your DIY Pochade Easel Designs.”, and “Your DIY Watercolor Pochades”. (Gurney is in the earlier posts referring to any tripod-mounted easel as a “pochade easel”.)

The HD digital download of the video is $14.95 and includes a link to a PDF parts list. The DVD version is $24.50 and includes an additional slide show. There is also a materials list on Gurney’s blog.

[Addendum 6/27/2017: Another round of readers’ New Easel Builds has been added to the Gurney Journey blog. That’s one of the great things about Gurney’s books and videos, he keeps adding depth to them with subsequent blog articles.]

 
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Painting with casein paint

Painting with casein, Samuel Coleman, John Molnar, unknown ancient Egyptian artist, Harry Anderson, Gustav Klimt, Jane Fisher, Len Guggenberger, John Berkey, Walker Moore, David S. Costanzo, Anthony Martino, James Gurney, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Alan Bray, George Mclean, Colin Campbell Cooper
Casein (pronounced “kay’ seen”) is a water based paint in which the binder is the milk protein of the same name.

Casein is one of the least familiar of the water based painting mediums available to contemporary painters, even though it’s one of the oldest painting mediums known. Casein’s use can be reliably traced back over 9,000 years, with evidence of the formulation in cave paintings, and examples have been found in ancient Egyptian tombs from several thousand years ago.

There is new evidence that casein as a binder for paints may have been present in the oldest known examples of human use of painting materials, recently analyzed traces preserved in caves in South Africa from 49,000 years ago. (For reference, the oldest known examples of human writing — i.e. language, not just numbers — are only about 5,000 years old.)

Casein has a varied history, frequently used as an underpainting for oils and achieving its greatest modern popularity as a stand-alone medium in the mid 20th century, when it was popular with illustrators for its quick drying time, workability and easy-to-photograph matte surface. Like it’s gum arabic based cousin, gouache, the use of casein by illustrators was largely eclipsed by acrylic, which quickly dries impervious to water and subsequent applications of paint layers.

Casein has been in use as a decorative paint for furniture and other items, where is is generally referred to as “milk-based paint”; I’m not sure if the formulation is different from the artists’ paint. Casein has also been used as a ground for oil paints and for silverpoint drawing; the binder itself is a glue, used in undiluted form to glue furniture.

Casein has an interesting place in the spectrum of artists’ paints. It most closely resembles gouache as an opaque water based medium that dries to a beautiful matte finish. Like gouache, it changes value somewhat — generally lightening — as it dries. This can take a little getting used to and it can take multiple layers to produce satisfactory darks, but I find that more than offset by casein’s other qualities.

Casein is more full-bodied than gouache, and can be used a bit more thickly (though not in heavy impastos like oil). This makes it a little more like oil in terms of scumbling and creating interesting surface textures, and it can be particularly appealing to oil painters who want the speed and convenience of an alternative water based medium.

Casein also has a particularly nice characteristic of flowing off the brush, and can be applied to a smoother and more even flat color surface than gouache.

Some have said they’re not fond of the scent of casein paint, but others, including myself, find it quite pleasant. Your mileage may vary.

Unlike gouache and watercolor, which can always be reactivated with water (either an advantage or disadvantage, depending on the artist’s needs), casein eventually dries to a surface more resistant to water.

Varnish can be applied to paintings that have dried for two weeks or so, either matte or glossy, the latter application bringing out the darks and giving the painting a look closer to oils. Care must be taken, though, not to disturb the surface when applying the varnish; you’ll find more detailed information on some of the sites I’ll list below.

Like gouache, casein is being “rediscovered” by contemporary artists, and appreciated for its unique characteristics. It is particularly suited, I think, for plein air painting.

“True” casein must be made up frequently by the artist, as it goes off in a day, or 4 or 5 if refrigerated.

Modern adoption has been greatly boosted by the availability of casein emulsion, a formulation of casein and drying oil that does not readily spoil and is available in tubes.

To make “true” casein, vinegar is used to separate out the liquid whey, leaving the curdled milk protein — essentially cottage cheese. This is dried and ground to a powder for future use or used immediately, and usually mixed with water and ammonium carbonate or clear liquid ammonia (though there are other formulations using lime or borax). The result is a milky fluid into which powdered pigments are mixed to make paint.

Already extracted and dried casein powder can be purchased from suppliers like Sinopia, Kama Pigments or Earth Pigments (recipe here).

The tube casein seems to have most of the wonderful working qualities and beautiful surface appearance of the fresh made version, and is certainly an easier approach to the medium.

Casein emulsion tube paint

Jack Richeson & Co. is the most prominent provider of commercial casein paints, having bought the “Shiva” line and name from the previous manufacturer. Their casein emulsion paints are available through most online art supply houses, though I understand that they may be difficult to find outside the U.S.

Plaka, by Pelican, is another brand of casein based paint, that I know is at least available in the UK, though it may be aimed somewhat more at decorative artists than painters.

Casein is generally less expensive that gouache, perhaps because the binder and formulation of pigment is less costly, I don’t know. It comes in large tubes of 37ml, similar to oil, as opposed to the small tubes favored for watercolor and gouache.

Casein, even more than gouache, is brittle when it dries, and if used thickly, should be used on a heavy watercolor paper, or ideally on illustration board or panel. Ampersand, which makes familiar painting panels for plein air artists, makes a line of Claybord, that they promote as being ideal for casein and gouache, largely because the clay infused primer is absorbent, rather than non-absorbent as is favored in surfaces for oil painting. I haven’t tried it yet, I’ve been working successfully so far on 140lb watercolor blocks and hot press Bainbridge Board (I use hot press because I prefer a smooth surface).

To a point, casein washes up like watercolor or gouache, but because it hardens to a water resistant form over time, more care must be taken to wash out brushes after painting, or keep them suspended overnight in a brush washer. Casein is also a little rougher on brushes than watercolor or gouache, and it might be considered preferable to use synthetics. Because of the thickness of the paint compared with watercolor, casein painters often use brushes labeled for acrylic, somewhere in between stiffer oil brushes and softer watercolor brushes.

It can also be a little more difficult to get brushes clean, I use a little Murphy’s Oil Soap, I’ve also heard Greek olive oil soap recommended.

Casein is well suited to be used with gouache, the former giving body and texture, and the latter being even better for fine detail and sharp lines (though casein does well on its own in that respect).

Casein is often used with other paints, notably acrylic, in which acrylic plays the role of thin, transparent application and casein provides the ability to easily create thick, opaque passages — similar to the way watercolor and gouache are often used together.

There is a National Society for Painters in Casein and Acrylic, which sounds promising, but the navigation in their online galleries of competition winners is so terrible as to be almost unusable. You have to click to enlarge an image in a pop-up just to see the artist’s name, and even then there is no indication of the medium. You have to either look up each artist in Google and go to their own sites to look for the medium, or look for the winners of the “Richeson/Shiva Award For Casein Painting” as you wearily pop-up and close, pop-up and close, pop-up and close, in an attempt to find the few casein painters among the predominant majority of acrylic artists. Unfortunate; it might otherwise be a good resource.

Also unfortunate, and similar to gouache, is the dearth of information on casein use and painting techniques compared to other painting mediums. The Richeson site provides some information, and you can find casein mentioned in art materials compendiums, like Mark David Gottsegen’s The Painter’s Handbook, as well as in older books on illustration materials, like Rob Howard’s The Illustrator’s Bible.

A number of artists who work in casein feature short informational pages about the medium on their websites, and I’ll list some in my links, below. By far the best source I know of is James Gurney’s blog, Gurney Journey.

Gurney has for several years been working with casein, as well as gouache and other mediums, and has been sharing his experience and findings in the form of articles and short videos.

He has just released a new full-length instructional video, Casein Painting in the Wild, which I cover in a separate post.

One of the segments of his video demonstrates painting in a very limited palette of four colors, and artists who are curious about casein may want to try a similar approach to simply try out the medium.

Personally, I find casein to be a genuine pleasure to work with. I like the way it flows and handles, the textural possibilities and the appealing color and matte surface in finished paintings.

Artists who try it may be surprised at how nice it can be to work with.

Cave walls optional.

[Addendum: David Clemons, who has painted in casein for many years, has been kind enough to add some additional information. Please see this post’s comments.]

(Images above, links to my posts: Samuel Coleman, John Molnar, unknown ancient Egyptian artist, Harry Anderson, Gustav Klimt, Jane Fisher, Len Guggenberger, John Berkey, Larry Seiler, Walker Moore, David S. Costanzo, Anthony Martino, James Gurney, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Alan Bray, George Mclean, Colin Campbell Cooper)

 
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Casein Painting in the Wild, James Gurney

James Gurney's Casein Painting in the Wild

Casein is a water based paint that uses milk protein as its binder. It shares many characteristics with gouache; both are water-based, opaque and dry to an appealing matte finish. Both dry quickly and can be used in concert with other water based mediums. Both are neglected step-children of watercolor and are somewhat on the fringes of awareness among painters — undeservedly so.

Partly, this may be because they don’t get much attention in popular media, and they suffer from a shortage of instructional material.

This is where contemporary painter, illustrator, writer and instructional materials creator James Gurney comes in. Gurney has long been an advocate of the use of casein and gouache, and his blog, Gurney Journey is one of the best sources of information of both mediums.

Gurney has just released the the latest addition to his excellent series of instructional videos on painting “in the wild” with water based mediums, Casein Painting in the Wild.

In it, he takes you through 7 location paintings, discussing the process in his laid-back, conversational manner, with lots of helpful close ups of paint application and brush handling, as well as occasional split screens of the subject and painting. He also discusses materials and gives and overview of the medium in general.

Though it’s focused on painting in casein on location, the techniques are applicable to gouache, which is readily used in conjunction with casein, and many of the basic principles he covers are relevant to other painting mediums.

Given the frequent $70 – $100 or more price range of other artist instruction videos, Gurney, by acting as his own camera operator and post production studio, can offer quality videos like this for a bargain price of $15 (for the downloadable version).

I purchased my copy as a downloadable file from GumRoad, though the video is also available as a disc from other sources (see this article for information).

As always, the video is generously supplemented by additional material on the blog, such as a specific post about readers’ casein questions. There is a trailer and excerpt videos on YouTube as well as in several articles on Gurney Journey.

Like Gurney’s other instructional videos on water-based mediums, Casein Painting in the Wild leaves you enthused to load up your brushes and have at it, indulging in the unique qualities and pleasures of this unfairly overlooked method of painting.

 
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