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Skin tones with a limited palette

I’ve been studying a book on portrait painting and decided to try a limited palette of:

  • Naples Yellow
  • Yellow Ochre
  • Burnt Umber
  • Venetian Red
  • White
  • Black

I cheated and used a little Ultramarine and Alizarin Crimson in the background to get a  quicker control of colored darks. But the face is almost exclusively Naples Yellow and Venetian Red. That red is very powerful and must be used in small doses. The muted nature of those two face pigments makes them much easier to use than mixing up from raw primaries like Cadmium Yellow and bright red.

I feel I am approaching real skin tones. Thanksgiving Self Portrait, 11 x 16 oil on board.

 

self portrait
self portrait

 

 

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Homemade wet canvas carrier

I’ve been combining hiking and painting for a couple decades now and have come up with a lightweight system to carry wet canvases (boards), and the easel a few miles from the car.

Pastels have been my main medium until this fall, when I switched to oils. I bought the Raymar wet canvas carrier, and it is ok, but my boards were a little too thick for it. I started out painting on 3/16 inch plywood left over from lining my truck bed.

So, rather than ordering more from Raymar, I made my own, and made them a skosh wider to accomodate both standard 1/8 inch Masonite (MDF) boards, and the 3/16 inch furniture grade plywood, both of which can be found at Home Depot.

If you have ever tried to backpack several wet paintings, you know that you basically need a shelving unit, with the paintings being the shelves that slide in and out. They should only touch the shelving unit (wet canvas carrier) on their unimportant edges…preferably only the outer 1/4 inch or less.

Home Depot has 1/4 and 3/8 inch square “dowels” in lengths of 3 feet. I used the 1/4 inch size to make rails for my 12 x 16 inch carrier, and 3/8 inch size to make the rails on my 16 x 20 inch box.

I figured the 16 x 20 inch size would be more likely to sag. But I didn’t want the rails to mark the painting any more than necessary, so I rounded the 3/8 inch rails with a rasp file. I glued the rails in with wood glue, and short nails, pre-drilling the “dowels” so they wouldn’t split. I used oak for the side frame.

The big 16 x 20 inch wet canvas carrier weighs 3 pounds empty, and it can carry 8 paintings.

This big box may turn out to just be a storage box in the car for wet paintings. I may still try to figure out a way to carry 2 big boards face to face in my backpack. I’m thinking about some kind of 4 cornered elastic thing that holds two wet paintings face to face, rigidly without allowing them to touch.

This is my 16 x 20 box, 3 pounds empty including lid:

wet canvas carrier 16 x 20
wet canvas carrier 16 x 20

 

wet canvas carrier 16 x 20
wet canvas carrier 16 x 20

In case you’ve never seen one of these, in the wider slots (1/2″), you put two wet paintings back to back.

wet canvas carrier 16 x 20
wet canvas carrier 16 x 20
wet canvas carrier 16 x 20
wet canvas carrier 16 x 20

As you may be able to see here, I used 3/8 inch wood rails, glued and nailed in place every 1/2 inch. I also left a 1/4 inch gap for a single painting on the outer edges, for a total capacity of 8 wet paintings. I’m hoping the paintings themselves can form the outer sides of the box, but if not, I may glue on some outer plates of 1/2 inch foam core.

wet canvas carrier 16 x 20
wet canvas carrier 16 x 20

The photos below show my 12 x 16 inch box. I made it big enough to handle 12 x 18, and built an adaptor to make it work with 11 x 14 as well. I got this idea from Raymar, and the other wet canvas box makers who all sell adaptors.

wet canvas carrier 12 x 16
wet canvas carrier 12 x 16
wet canvas carrier 12 x 16
wet canvas carrier 12 x 16

I use a full size carbon fiber tripod called the Gitzo Mountaineer GT-0531. It weighs 1.6 pounds without the ball head. It is amazingly rigid, but priced accordingly around $500 if you can still find it. I bought it back when I was working full time in web design.

Gitzo Mountaineer GT0531
Gitzo Mountaineer GT0531

With any camera tripod, you need a shelf. Since this is thin walled carbon fiber, I decided the shelf should attach to the metal head where the tripod is strongest.

I like to mess around with sheet metal and drill presses, so I built a little clamp on shelf pictured below:

easel shelf
easel shelf
easel shelf
easel shelf
easel shelf
easel shelf

I had an old steel Italian easel sold by Daniel Smith from last century. I loved the way it allowed me to paint any size from 5 x 7″ up to 24 x 36″. But those steel legs had to go, too heavy!

I took just the important part (slider bar with painting clamps) and mounted a 1/4″ aluminum plate that would allow it to connect with the quick release plate on my Manfrotto ball head. I drilled and tapped several holes of 1/4 x 20 in case I stripped one out in the field.

easel
easel
easel
easel

The whole easel, which weighs 4 pounds ready to paint. This thing is solid, no wiggles at all:

easel
easel