Ah, technical experiments…the last refuge of an unproductive artist.

If someone hasn’t said that already, consider it said.

I got nuthin’. I got a painting 3/4ths done and no motivation. I’ll finish it–James likes it–but at the moment…nuthin’. So I went over to the art supply store, grabbed some more pen nibs and some oil paint sticks–one of the few readily available media I haven’t tried yet, without getting into crap like egg tempera and boiling lead–and now a set of 5 x 7 gessoboard, clayboard, and textured clayboard samples have acrylic dryin’ on ’em round the studio, to see if I can do the scratchy inky thing over the top–and possibly, if I get very very ambitious, see how the paint sticks work. They’re supposed to be a lot less trouble than oil paints to work with, without getting into the problem of water soluable oils, which, after multiple experiments, I find I just don’t like. They go chalky and muddy too easily. I mostly want the paint sticks for very delicate smeary background color, but if they prove workable, they may find their way into the last bits of the foreground.

I have a particular vision for what I’m trying to claw out–sort of Christensen-swaps-brains-with-Palencar-and-there-are-no-survivors–but the key is the textures. The key is always the textures.

The big problem, being a mixed media fiend, is finding a surface that takes everything I want to throw at it. My usual surface must take ink wash, ink pen, colored pencil, acrylic–fine, I’ve got illo board for that. But if I want to use oils, I have to find something else, because illustration board is not archival with oil–the oil will eventually eat right through the board. So I’m trying various Ampersand clayboards to see if I can get what I want on one of those–gessoboard is probably the best bet, it’ll take a lot, although the colored pencil is occasionally iffy, but if it takes the nib pen well, I can dispense with a lot of the colored pencil work.

Of course, I may hate the oil sticks as I have hated every oil thing so far, rendering it moot, but you never learn if you don’t try.

Round 1: All three surfaces will take dip pen and india ink fairly gracefully.

Round 2: All three will take white ink, but clayboard doesn’t take it as well–the individual strokes stick out more, and parts are blobby, whereas the two textured boards suck the ink right up.

Round 3: All three will take colored pencil. Clayboard gets a smoother and crisper line. Textured clayboard builds up much quicker and gets harder to work with, but does get a nice solid color.

Deathmatch: We have a winner! Gessoboard, not to my surprise, takes the oil stick very well. That’s no surprise–oils and smooth clayboard don’t mix at all. The textured clayboard wasn’t bad, but you couldn’t get good coverage over a dark color, whereas the gessoboard could (although you had to work at it.)

The paint sticks are kinda neat. I used them more or less like pastel–lay a swath, blend with fingers. Had a nice creamy consistency, and they actually dry, unlike oil pastel, which only hardens. They’re big clumsy things, though–although you can apparently use ’em with brushes as well–so I don’t see much hard detail there. But they go lightest-to-darkest, instead of the other way around, which is definitely a plus. I have a bloody hard time going darkest-to-lightest, the way you’re supposed to with oils for some reason.

I could wish that gessoboard took colored pencil better–it will, but not half so well as the clayboard–but you can’t have everything.

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