For the truly serious artist…

Well, we spent an amazing weekend with George and Tania of Natural Pigments!

“Painting Best Practices: a Technical Workshop” was a mental workout for all involved; for we students, who constantly felt our brains explode, and for George, Tania, their family/slash/staff, who packed our time with knowledge, pastries, demos, sandwiches, hands-on paint making, more treats…

The first day was all about supports… you know, what you paint upon. George went through the different types of supports, traditional and new, stiff and flexible. He is a big proponent of stiff supports that will keep the paint from stretching and contracting, and was enthusiastic about a new aluminum sheeting, sign painting sheets to be exact, as the almost perfect support. Not what I expected from a traditional processes kind of guy!

Paint making by hand
George O’Hanlon making paint by hand

He also dove deep into the kinds of grounds to layer onto supports, all with a strong bias towards creating a painting ‘system’ that follows good art conservation vs later art restoration.

Natural Pigments
The warehouse and part of the paintmaking station

The second day was all about paints (what they are made of and how to make them), mediums (he answered many of my questions during this portion of the workshop), and varnishes. My notes are so exhaustive and my retention not optimal, I will have to sit down and type up all of my notes, just so I can remember what I now know!

Milling the paint
Tania’s father milling the paint… he uses the knife to split the paint (like a rising loaf of bread) as it is pushed up through the grinder wheels.

One thing I remember about varnishes: make sure they are of a different substance than the painting itself. Many mediums include damar varnish, so it is better to use a different medium if you plan to use a damar varnish final, or instead, use MSA varnish from Golden. The same applies to re-touch varnish.. if you ever have to remove a final varnish that contains damar, you might end up removing layers of re-touch treated paint!

Also, Natural Pigments makes their own brand of oil and watercolor paint under the name RUBLEV. Among their paints are numerous lead-based paint colors that are hard to get anywhere else. Since they are committed to using single pigments used before 1850, lead is a necessary part of the line. But George feels it is also the best and only white worth using. He has very negative views towards zinc white, backed up by some pretty strong research, and he is not that fond of titanium white either.

I have worked with lead paint in the past (although I do not allow it in my classes), and can attest to their lusciousness. However, I don’t plan to eat them! Notice that George and his father in law are using gloves while they make their paint…

I ended the day grabbing up 5 new tubes of paint (plus the one we made!). I’m hoping to get a painting done using his suggested methods from the support, through the ground and paint, all the way to the final varnish. WHEN I finally get that done, maybe by the end of the year, I will revisit this topic…

Color swatches at Natural Pigments
A wall of paint swatches to later cut and use for displays
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