Gurney Journey | category: Casein Painting


Gurney Journey

This daily weblog by Dinotopia creator James Gurney is for illustrators, plein-air painters, sketchers, comic artists, animators, art students, and writers. You'll find practical studio tips, insights into the making of the Dinotopia books, and first-hand reports from art schools and museums.

Painting the 1929 New Standard Biplane

In this new YouTube video, I paint a 1929 biplane at the Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome using casein paint. 

Art Supplies
Richeson casein paint set

I'm painting area by area, filling in the lines almost like a coloring book. With that limited palette, I can get most of the colors I want, but there are other colors in my bag if I need them. More about limited palettes in Color and Light: A Guide for the Realist Painter.

The light changes throughout the day as the sun moves from left to right and goes in and out of clouds.

In the video I consider how people imagined the future in 1929 when that aircraft was new and how close their predictions actually turned out to be.

Why Do You Paint Telephone Poles?

Why Do You Paint Telephone Poles?

Scraytonify asks: "Why do you choose to paint the scenes you do with telephone poles and wires and fire hydrants?" 

Answer: I like the stuff we normally overlook. We tune them out of our ordinary habitual awareness, but we'll be nostalgic for them when they're gone.


Watch the painting being made on my Gumroad tutorial "Casein Painting in the Wild."

Using a Yellow Underpainting

Starting with a yellow underpainting puts "fire in the belly" of a gray painting.

The yellow layer is made up of a thin layer of casein brushed on in advance of the plein-air session. 

The underpainting gets mostly covered up by opaque or semi-opaque paint, but it manages to peek through in a few places.

 This YouTube excerpt is from my new Gumroad tutorial "TRIADS

Art Materials 

Can you take casein on an airplane?

Paul asks: "Have you ever taken the plane with casein? Is it possible to travel with it (either checked in or in carry-on)?"
Can you take casein on an airplane?

Paul, there's no problem packing the tubes of casein in your checked luggage. If you want to take them as carry-on, it's also OK because the tubes are smaller than the 3.4 ounce maximum limit. The average Richeson tube is 1.25oz. But be careful because the big tubes of white are 5 oz. or 150ml. 

The good thing about casein for a remote painting adventure is that you don't need to worry about bringing mineral spirits or oil solvent, which you can't take on an airplane, checked or otherwise.

However I would not recommend casein for actually painting in airports, or other enclosed spaces. That's because it has a rather strong smell that not everyone loves. Another thing to keep in mind is that if you paint with it, you'll need to clean up fairly quickly after finishing the painting. If it dries on your brush, the dried paint can wreck the fibers. That's not such a problem with gouache because you can reactivate paint that has dried on your brush.

Painting a Backlit Parked Car in Casein

I painted this casein study while Jeanette was in the market, so I had about 45 minutes.

I took a gamble on the car staying parked, and lost the gamble twice, but kept going anyway.

(Link to video)
Over an underpainting color of Cadmium Orange casein, I used Cobalt Blue,Venetian RedIvory Black, and Titanium White and focused on a simple warm/cool 

Using Casein Over a Pretextured Canvas Board

Using Casein Over a Pretextured Canvas Board

Here are some details of the little portrait of my wife shopping for veggies (link to YouTube video).

Using Casein Over a Pretextured Canvas Board 

The painting is in casein, and the way I use it is similar to the way I would paint in oil.

Using Casein Over a Pretextured Canvas Board

You can see the underpainting texture made with acrylic modeling paste on the canvas covered board. 

Using Casein Over a Pretextured Canvas Board

You can see more casein paintings on the Casein playlist on my YouTube channel or the "casein" search term on this blog.

Jack Richeson 37-Ml Artist Casein Colors, Set of 12

Shopping for Veggies

Well, this time I didn't actually set up my easel in the supermarket, like I did last time. The aisles are too narrow and it's just too busy. 


So I worked from photos while I painted my wife Jeanette. This one is in casein, and I captured the process in this YouTube video.

More resources
Gurney tutorials on Gumroad

Painting a Postal Service Delivery Truck

What is the history and future of the USPS delivery trucks? I do the job of sketch-reporter to find out. (Link to YouTube view)

This truck is one of the commonplace things we've seen every day for 30 years. But once they take them all away, we'll miss seeing them, just like we miss the yellow Checker cab and the phone booth.
Watch the 11 minute video on YouTube

Can You Varnish Casein?

Scottie Jensen in my YouTube channel asks:
"I love watching your videos and have purchased a few of your “In the Wild” series. I am greatly inspired by you and have built a sketchbook easel, started painting in casein and have went out into the wild to paint all thanks to you. I have one question about varnishing casein, I read on your blog you use spray on varnish - is this to avoid smudging once dry?

Also, how long should I wait before varnishing a casein painting? Will a couple days after it is dry to the touch be sufficient or is there a longer curing process to avoid cracking? Thanks so much for your knowledge and infectious passion!"

Can You Varnish Casein?
Incident on Kelly Street, casein on board, winner of the NSPCA Award 
James Gurney: Thanks for the support and feedback. The main reason I varnish some of my caseins is to deepen the darks in an overall dark painting or to protect a painting that I want to frame without glass. It shouldn't smudge without the varnish, and I almost never varnish sketchbook paintings, because I can always deepen the darks in photoshop.

Keep in mind that casein paintings are not usually varnished. The matte surface is an attractive quality, especially in high key paintings. The manufacturers suggest buffing the surface of a dry painting using an old T-shirt to add some semi-gloss luster to the surface.

You should wait a couple of days before varnishing and during that time, put the painting in a warm place to make sure the paint is fully dry. The glue-like protein binder gets stronger over time. The best defense against cracking is to make sure you paint on panel or illustration board. If you paint on watercolor paper, don't use thick impastos, because casein does not have a strong emulsion.

As with any unconventional technique, experiment first on a scrap and make sure it does what you want.
The painting is documented on my feature tutorial Fantasy in the Wild
Free Facebook group: Sketch Easel Builders
Previously on GJ: Painting a Magical Light Effect
Painting the 1929 New Standard BiplaneWhy Do You Paint Telephone Poles?Using a Yellow UnderpaintingCan you take casein on an airplane?Hunters and GatherersPainting a Backlit Parked Car in CaseinUsing Casein Over a Pretextured Canvas BoardShopping for VeggiesPainting a Postal Service Delivery TruckCan You Varnish Casein?

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