Step 1. One reason I like to work on black or other dark grounds is that they allow me to compose by blocking in the light areas. For some reason I usually find that to be a more natural or intuitive way to start a painting. For the White Pickup, I used mixed white (here and there tinted with yellows and grays) to sketch in the shape of the truck, the wall of the house, and a little cloud that had floated by at the right time. I also marked the placement of the trunk of an apple tree that would somehow balance all the well-structured white on the left side of the panel. Working with DANIEL SMITH 's water soluble white, I was impressed by the feel and the covering strength, which seemed at least as good as DANIEL SMITH 's regular mixed white, which is my standard.
Step 2. Much more so than most of my paintings, the White Pickup is built with big shapes of relatively flat color that are close to primary hues. After getting the main white areas down, I identified the main color areas in the scene and brushed them in. Again, in mixing and handling, the paint worked well. It felt pretty much like using regular oil paint. The blue in the sky covered the black nicely. And, as I often do, I ended up adjusting the color after it was down by mixing right on the panel – in this case more white and manganese blue into the ultramarine.
Step 3. In step three I added reds and grays and generally broke up the simple areas of color with a suggestion of shadows and other particulars. In most of my paintings I rely a lot on grays and on a very dark “black equivalent”– all mixed from a base of burnt sienna and ultramarine blue, with white added to tint the grays. When experimenting with different paints many years ago, I found that the burnt sienna and ultramarine blue from DANIEL SMITH gave me the neutral shades I liked best. I was pleased to find that these colors in the DANIEL SMITH water soluble line work just as effectively.
Step 4. To complete the painting, I made some adjustments, fleshed out some areas and suggested more details. I rely a lot on suggestion and gesture to develop an image, rather than careful delineation. Sometimes the character or build-up of marks helps to carry emotional content, a sense of involvement, into the painting. Getting the right feel and touch with the paint is very important. I thought the water soluble oils responded well to the brush.
I expected at least subtle differences in feel and behavior between DANIEL SMITH 's water soluble oils and their traditional oils. I did not expect the new paints to be identical but hoped they would be similar enough for me to want to paint with them. After three days and four paintings, my conclusion was yes, they are, although it took me a few sessions to make the shift. These high quality water soluble oil paints are comparable to and generally seem to perform as well as traditional oils, but they are not identical. Some painters will discern slight or subtle differences in feel and behavior, and I think it wise to approach them with that expectation.
For example, when working on my first test painting, the powerline scene done on a small stretched canvas, I thought I felt less drag than I get with regular oils. The paint seemed to flow more readily when brushed across the surface. For working on canvas, I found I actually preferred that quality. Of course oil paints of any kind tend to vary a bit in viscosity, from color to color and tube to tube, and I may just have been experiencing normal variation. At any rate, whether I'm using traditional or water soluble oils, if I want a stiffer or drier paint, I just put the paint I'm going to use on paper or cardboard for a while to absorb some oil.
The water soluble oils have a slower drying time, as well. Again, I found that to be an advantage with this particular painting: I was able to rework the sky and some other areas the next morning without it looking like a second session; the changes blended right in.
The finished canvas is now dry, and it looks just like a regular oil painting. The color and sheen are nice, and areas of impasto still hold up, with brushstrokes intact. I would not hesitate to show or sell it. The same is true for the panels. Meanwhile, the subtle differences in handling I noted on my first days of test painting seem something like the differences one feels when getting glasses with a new prescription. The old glasses are familiar. The new ones are going to be great, but they feel different for a few days while you adjust. That was my experience with the new paints. By the time I did the White Pickup, I was working in a normal fashion and not noticing any appreciable difference between the water soluble paints and regular oils, just painting and focusing on the work.
I look forward to doing more paintings with my DANIEL SMITH water soluble oils, especially when working in my car, when camping, or in any other situation where the convenience of quick clean-up with water is a consideration. However, I would also feel comfortable enough now to trust them for more substantial studio work – larger canvases, for example.
If the ease of clean-up or any other aspect of water soluble oil painting inspires you to try them out, I'd certainly recommend the DANIEL SMITH Water Soluble Oils line. I frankly wouldn't have been interested in trying anything else.
DANIEL SMITH Water Soluble Oil Colors used in the “White Pickup” painting:
This is pretty much my regular field and travel palette. I mix all my greens.
When not painting near his home in Rochester, NY, Jim Mott hits the road with his Itinerant Artist Project (IAP) – “exchanging art for hospitality across America.” Integrating landscape painting with public outreach and community building, the IAP has brought him – along with his art and his creative process – into dozens of strangers' homes across the US and Canada. Wherever he ends up, he completes a small series of paintings based on the surroundings and gives one to his host. Although Mott tries not to use money for anything except gas on tour – he once even paid off a speeding ticket with art – the purpose is not to travel for cheap but to interact more closely with other people's lives and to let art function within a gift economy. The IAP has been featured in American Artist Magazine and on the Today Show, and is the basis for an ongoing series of exhibits and presentations that Mott gives around the country. To learn more, visit: www.jimmott.com.