Sunday, February 6, 2011

February 5, 2011 A winter painting day.

With the temps up around +30ºF... it was the day to get outside and paint. I wish it were that temp with sun, but at this time of year warm usually means overcast and moisture. The morning was stunning with everything covered in a frost from the fog that formed the night before. I was really pumped to paint that.

Leaving my tripod home and not realizing it until I'd driven 20 miles to paint, and then back home to get it, cut down on my paint time. When I finally retrieved the tripod instead of making that same drive back, I wandered just outside of town and found my subject, one that I've painted in the past in different seasons. It's a neat little fenceline mixed with growth of all kinds for variety.

The first painting is a 12x24 and the second painting is a 14x18. Both of these took a little extra time, hence cold toes. I didn't wear the Arctic rated boots because it wasn't that cold out. But it was cold enough to make a warm up before heading out for number two and a stop at Olive's in Marine for a glass of wine and a pizza following the second one, just the medicine needed.

"Frostline" - oil on primed panel - 12x24 © Marc R. Hanson '11
I used a horizontal format on this one because of the subject and theme of the painting, it required it. I also painted this on an acrylic primed MDF panel because I wanted the paint to have a more opaque look and this kind of panel is best for that end result. I wanted it opaque because the color was so close in value, all in the upper range of the value scale, and as I saw it... very opaque. There was very little transparency to the light and the subject. When I see this happen, I use the materials in my arsenal to bring about that concept/effect as efficiently as possible. I had great fun painting this one.

"Rivulets" - oil on linen panel - 14x18 - © Marc R. Hanson '11
For the afternoon painting I wanted some water in the painting that wasn't frozen, like a stream with the snow banks along it to paint. I didn't find that, but while driving around down near Square Lake in between Stillwater and Marine on St. Croix, I found this low lying marshy area that had a plethora of little runs of water, ice and hummocks of snow along with the willows and grasses in the background and a few errant cattails hanging around. Seemed complicated, but it was so nice that I decided to go to work on it. By now the frost was gone and the light was about as flat as it could be, almost no indication of shadow anywhere. It was as pure a white on the snow as you'll see in the winter. However, when I began to analyze that, I could see that although the white of the snow was a 'colorless' gray of a very light value, it was not white! To mix it I added just a touch of blue, red and yellow to bring the spectrum to the light gray mixture in the snow. The darks were Very dark against that very light value creating a wonderful effect to paint. This one took awhile and by the time I was done it was time to head down the hill to Olive's for wood fired pizza in Marine... and a glass of Pinot Noir!!!


painthorsestudio said...

Wow, very beautiful work. I admire you for braving the cold - it sounds like you had fun!

Tina Concetta Revie said...

I love your painting "Frostline". I have experienced just such a morning as well where everything is covered in frost. It looks almost surreal.

Cobalt Violet said...

Gorgeous! ... and brrrr!

Marian Fortunati said...

Amazing atmosphere and notan!! You constantly delight with your beautiful work!
Hard to imagine 30 being "up" from anything.

Jala Pfaff said...

The top one is just so quietly lovely!

Sharon said...

Hi Marc: Interested in your comment about using an acrylic primed board to get an opaque look. What was your priming? If you wanted some transparent sections, what kind of priming would you use?
Thanks so much -they are both very beautiful, but I am especially taken with the first one.

Nancy Clearwater Herman said...

These are so good. It is so hard to find beauty in the limited palette available with snow and not sun but you have done a masterful job.

Concetta Flore said...

I agree with all the other comments. The first one is perfect and the tones so delicate...the second is more challenging but of course you mastered it beautifully. I wish I could be so brave to work out in the cold.

Daroo said...

Man! These are great.

I admire your forethought on choice of materials-- the way I interpreted your choice: A canvas is better for thin stains, while the mdf panel is better when you are building the surface with opaque paint. But I'd love to hear more.

You can't beat good boots -- but I find throwing down a piece of cardboard really helps keep the feet warmer.

Steve Baker said...

Great work as usual Mark. I don't really understand this though,
"I also painted this on an acrylic primed MDF panel because I wanted the paint to have a more opaque look and this kind of panel is best for that end result".

Judy P. said...

Lovely painting, and like the previous commenters I too would like more explanation of the priming of the MDF panel. I oil-prime my MDFs, is that very different from acrylic priming?

Marc R. Hanson said...

Thanks everyone. For cold, like what tomorrow is supposed to be, Saturday was balmy for sure! I'm happy that these efforts are striking a chord with you all.

There are several questions about what I meant about the priming of the MDF (medium density fiber board), or hardboard.

First for those who don't know, oil paint forms a bond with the ground in two different ways depending on whether you're using an Oil ground or an Acrylic ground.

The paint and an Oil ground, either the traditional Lead ground or the current Titanium/Zinc/alkyd grounds being used to replace the Lead ground, form a chemical and a mechanical bond. The oil paint binds chemically and mechanically to the Oil ground.

The paint on an Acrylic ground only forms a mechanical bond... the paint does not structurally become part of the Acrylic ground, it only dries on top of the ground. The oil can't merge chemically with the acrylic ground.

This means that any disturbance to the surface, like bending, extending or contracting, stresses the grip that the paint has on the ground it's on.

I don't like Acrylic primer on stretched fabric, linen or canvas, because I'm afraid of the long term bonding between the very flexible acrylic and the oil which grows more brittle with age. We don't know what the acrylic ground will do, it hasn't been around long enough as a ground, hanging on a wall with all of the changes in humidity and temperature that a painting goes through. We have hundreds of years of experience in seeing what happens to a Lead ground, the traditional primer for oil paints, and it's not all that pretty. But at least we know the faults and can do something about it in our preparation and are of the paintings we paint.

That said, I'm not quite as worried about using the Acrylic Primer on a hard, inflexible surface like a stout hardboard or good cradled wood panel. Without all of the flexing involved on a stretched surface, the bond between the Acrylic ground and the oil paint is less likely to be disturbed. Time will tell, but all we can do is do the best with the knowledge we have now and hope that in the future all of that knowledge was good.

Beyond the technical info... I much prefer to paint on a Lead ground first, the newer Oil grounds next followed by the acrylic ground on hardboard.

Lead, and to some degree the oil grounds, depending on brand, allow the paint to be applied in a way that lets you take full advantage of one of the most beautiful attributes of oil paint... Transparency and Opacity. If you lay down a dark wash on a lead ground, let it set up, and then apply an opaque stroke on top of that you end up with a beautiful separation between the two. It's what we see in the Master's paintings in the museums that we love so much. It's a quality that is specific to oil paints and is one reason why those paintings have such depth and drama in tone and color.

Paint on an acrylic ground all sits on the same level because the ground doesn't lend itself to allowing the paint's thin or thick qualities to play against each other. The paint layers are homogenized (not sure that's the right word?), they blend into each other. The paint doesn't set up as fast on acrylic. On a lead or oil ground the paint takes on a stiffness very fast.

Basically, I don't feel that paint looks as rich on an acrylic primed surface as it does on a lead, or oil, primed surface. But, the acrylic surface can be used for a specific reason like I did and that makes sense to have as a tool for a painter.

Marc R. Hanson said...

That's why on the 'Frost Line' painting I used the acrylic ground. All of those colors are very soft and milky. I didn't want a surface that broke up the application because of the tendency of an oil or lead primed surface to allow the brushstrokes to push through the oil down to the ground.

I've painted similar scenes on L219 and L600, two lead primed linens that I buy from New Traditions, that are portrait grade linen with a Lead Priming (hence the "L"). The paint looks rich on both of these, I love and use them when they're appropriate.

I wanted the paint to be applied, and stay on, one level, almost like a veil of high value color with out any undue textural qualities to cause the viewer to forget about how soft that light was that I was trying to paint. The acrylic ground was what would give me this.

When I do use an acrylic ground, I buy a good one, like the Blick Professional or the Liquitex top end version. They have more calcium carbonate (marble dust) or titanium in them, making them more absorbent than the cheaper versions.

I hope that answers the questions about this. It's like picking the brush you like, the way you hold the brush, your favorite paint brand, or paint brand per color used... These are all just little things we pick up as we put in the years painting. And it changes over time. I've never lost the appreciation for materials and how important that they can be for my expression.

Erik said...

I need to experiment more with different grounds to see the effect. So far I've only painted on alkyd or acrylic primed surfaces since the lead-primed canvas is hard ro get here in Europe. The acrylic primed panels seem to absorb more oil giving a more matte/opaque finish.
Thanks Marc for that excellent explanation.

Marc R. Hanson said...

Erik there is an amazing primer that I buy from Zecchi's in Florence. It's a titanium primer that they make. It dries in a day, I wait about 4 to paint on it just to give it time to cure a little bit and become harder. But it's almost like painting on a lead surface. It's not too slippery, not too absorbent.

One thing I do to keep that matte drying from happening, is to apply 5 or more coats of the acrylic primer. That seems to stop the paint from loosing the oil. That's another reason why the acrylic isn't a good one to use. Because it only sucks up and absorbs the oil, it's creating a paint film that is really not a balanced one, making it a weak one.

I will also sometimes add a drier like Liquin or Galkyd to the paint when painting on these boards to keep that from happening.

Jesse said...

Amazing paintings as always Marc. You really know how to make diffused light shine!

When you prime your own, what type of Titanium/Zinc/alkyd ground brand do you like?

Erik said...

Thanks for the tip Marc, I will look up their website. I've also ordered a Winsor & Newton oil painting primer, will see how I like that one too.