Monday, February 13, 2012

On Gamblin's Chromatic Black Pigment

Sometime ago, I wanted to explore the use of black in drawing and redrawing shapes in my work such as the French Impressionists employed in their work.  At first, I used Ivory Black but did not like the intensity of the color in that it appeared too bold for what I was attempting.  In frustration, I wrote Robert Gamblin at Gamblin Colors and asked what he might suggest.  His response was to try their Chromatic Black, a transparent dark rated at lightfastness 1.  I loved the transparency of the pigment and was delighted with the results.
"Study of Grapefruit", 12x9", oil on panel

As time passed I eventually dropped my original idea but found that I thoroughly enjoyed Chromatic Black's (CB) versatility. As a result, I am now using it to tone many of my panels prior to painting as well as creating lovely warm and cool gray mixtures during the painting process. "Study of Grapefruit" (above) was painted on a CB toned canvas. Many of the colors within the painting have varying amounts of the transparent black added. The result is a lovely, moody image that represents the subject very well in the cool light of the Conservatory where it was growing.

The beauty of CB is that it is not "black" at all but rather a mix of chlorinated and bromated phtalocyanine and quinacridone red The color tints out to a lovely grayish mauve and is supportive to many of the more vivid color combinations found in nature. I've found that adding colors to CB creates beautiful subtle variations that are very pleasing to the eye.  It has become a most welcome and frequent addition to my regular palette.

Painting note: "Study of Grapefruit" was painted en plein air in the Conservatory at Matthaei Botanical Gardens, Ann Arbor, Michigan on a CB toned Raymar Panel in the afternoon on February 13, 2012.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

On The Rhythm of Painting

Wow!  I think this has to be one of the most unusual Michigan winters on record for plein air painters. Each year some of us look forward to the snow because of the fantastic abstract subjects it provides us.  However this year, Mother Nature has played some really nasty tricks on us.  Since last fall, it seems like the weather has seesawed between cold and snowy to warm and balmy spring like weather on an almost day to day basis.

Ingham County, Meech Road
9 x 12", oil on panel

I'm finding that my palette has fluctuated daily between my usual winter palette and a much grayed fall color palette.  It's kept me on my toes as we never know from day to day what Mother Nature will deal out.  Last weekend I enjoyed a beautiful sun-filled snowy day with lots of blues and violets contrasted with high key warm lights.  Today, no snow, lots of sun and a perponderance of warm oranges and warm grays in the vegetation. It's a challenge to say the least.

Ingham County: First Ice,
11x14", oil on panel

By the way, getting back to painting after almost a year of little plein air work due to family concerns has been just about everything but easy. Even after regularly painting outside over the past month I'm still don't feel consistent.  It's frustrating to say the least and I'm getting impatient with myself.  Some days paintings almost paint themselves  like the"Barry County: Charlton Museum" painting (see newsletter) painted in the snow last weekend.  I come away excited thinking that I've finally made a break through.  Then I have a couple of days like yesterday and today when I don't seem to be able to nail my usual style of outdoor work  Getting back into my rhythm is proving harder than usual. I'm sure the weather fluctuations affecting subjects hasn't helped nor the length of time since I've been able to paint en plein air on a regular basis.

Do you ever experience the loss of rhythm in your work?  How do you deal with overcoming it?  I'd love to get some tips on how you work through this problem.

Don't forget, you can now subscribe to my monthly email newsletter at and stay updated on my plein air and studio paintings completed each month. Frankly, I'm finding that keeping my blog updated is a real chore with my current teaching and painting schedule. For this reason, my focus has changed to doing a quality newsletter each month instead of frequent blog posts. Perhaps when my work levels out a bit and I don't feel so pressed to paint instead of write I'll be able to get  back to blogging again.  I suppose, time will tell.