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Old 12-07-08, 07:51 PM
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Default Casein and the question of permanence.

A form of casein was used to make pens in the early twentienth century which absorbed or wicked moisture, distorted, discoloured and often disintegrated. (It was considered a failure, but celluloid came along soon enough as a replacement.) I'm guessing (and very hopeful) that this casein is different than the one used in painting?

http://www.pentrace.net/penbase/Data...cle.asp?id=276

http://www.richardspens.com/ref_info/glossary/C.htm

I'm very excited about the possibilities of working with casein at least in part after hearing what other egg tempera artists have to say. I like the velvety quality of the surface, hearing that it is re-workable to a degree, and that Shiva also sells a emulsion to which dry pigments can be added. (I also have to wonder if it might make it easier to work with grittier pigments said to be difficult to work with.)

A couple of posts from a thread on silverpoint:

Quote:
JP,
I like a couple of things, especially, about using casein for my underpainting instead of ink. OK, maybe more than a couple. My ink drawing on gesso occasionally gets a little shiny -- perhaps it's the brand of ink I use -- and I fear that the slickness of the surface might deter ET adhering to it. Casein stays absolutely matte and ET sticks to it like glue. In fact, it's so absorbent that I usually start my ET work over it with some eggy color washes to kind of seal it. I also find I have better brush control with casein when thinly diluted than I do with ink. I could probably do the same thing with monochrome ET underpainting, but I like the ease of squeezing some color out of a tube for that phase of the painting, without a lot of set-up. Sometimes I also lay in local color washes in casein as well just to speed things along in the early stages. Casein has a couple of downsides. It handles a bit differently than other water-based paints and may take some getting used to. Also, because it does have body in the tube, you have to be careful about building up texture and bulk in an underpainting.
D
Quote:
Dennis, i'm interested in this use of casein too and I was wondering if you think that gouache could be used in the same way, or is there some reason to avoid it. I have been making some casein medium and mixing it with pigments to try it as underpainting and its good to use for many of the reasons you say, but also I find for the fact that it can be lifted again without that sort of ripping you get with ET. That has allowed me to get these very attractive light areas in the underpainting that ET enhances beautifully.
I was very inspired by what Jeff had to say:

Quote:
Having started to use casein a lot as an underpainting medium for ET (learnt that here) I would suggest that you could use that at least in the passages where the fabric is meant to shine and paint it with a light warm blue. Then overpaint the ET in thin glazes that do not completely paint out that casein layer and even leave it exposed in places. The casein is very brilliant in intensity - more than ET - and the two together can create a shimmering luminosity.
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a little searching into what other artists where doing with casein started to get me very excited about the possibilities. One of the articles I found was very encouraging:

http://www.myamericanartist.com/2006...ecommenda.html

This morning I mentioned my epiphany to my better half... who restores pens for a hobby, and what he had to say is making me think twice. Does anyone know very much about the permanence of casein paintings and underpaintings?

In the 1920's casein was one of the materials that was experimented with to replace rubber pen casing. Everyone was ga ga over the beautiful colours they could produce. A casein pen would take a year to make (as it set to a plastic like state), but then it was discovered they would crack and swell in humidity. Parker had to replace the cost of a full line of pens that cracked one hot humid summer. I'm not sure if it something that was different about the process of making pens or something about the nature of casein itself. Maybe if it is sealed, in a thin, flat layer (and shiva says there should be varnish before you paint over casein with oil) this is not an issue... but I have to wonder if an exposed area or a scratch cause the casein to absorb water like a candle wick and crack? I really love the idea of casein even if it is just in sections, but would like to be sure about the permanence.

What shiva has to say about their product is very encouraging, as might be expected. It seems to be a very versatile and healthy medium that would work well with oil or egg tempera. I know there are been casein paintings that have lasted many years, but does anyone know about their condition?

Yellowing was also a problem with the pens. (Although working with a warm colour in small amounts may make this less of an issue in underpainting.) The few remaining casein pens from the twenties have to be stored in boxes with controlled humidity.

But shimmering luminosity... my goodness! I must be part magpie so this is hard to walk away from.

Last edited by jpohl; 12-07-08 at 10:19 PM.
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Old 13-07-08, 02:33 AM
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An interesting note regarding casein is that it makes a very reasonable gesso ground that is suitable for ET. It is easy to make and apply. Apparently it was the preferred ground used by Botticelli. My point is that painting with casein in that case is not really very different than painting with the gesso. If it is true that Botticelli did use these casein grounds (using homemade casein too) then that would speak volumes for the long term permanence of the medium. Its affects on pigments that are added to it may be in question, particularly if the casein is too strongly alkaline. Fresco pigments would in that case be the safest choice for painting with casein.
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Old 13-07-08, 01:17 PM
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Casein is the paint used to color the sides of high quality gilt picture frames -- since I deal in that market (I sell hand carved 23 kt gold and hand worked leather frames for fine art) I keep a selection on hand to touch up frames or to do custom "aged" finishes. It's a good paint but it needs a stiff ground and it needs to be kept thin... impasto is a no-no.

I use the shiva tubes (mostly earth pigments) and would say that your idea of making your own with their emulsion is a better idea -- when you look at the pigment components of the line it is not so great.

If you work it like gouache or watercolor you should have little-to-no danger of cracking.

But, I find the thing that really appeals to me about egg tempera to the the translucent layered quality built up over many (30 or so) thin coats... there's really nothing to compare and photos and scans do not capture it. It's not a hard effect to achieve, I use a 1" watercolor flats to lay in the first 20 or so layers thinly and quickly and can usually finish an egg tempera in less time than it takes to do a comparably detailed oil.

I don't know that casein/tempera mix is necessary to succeed, or that it is superior to pure tempera.

Best,
Jason.
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Old 13-07-08, 02:28 PM
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Galalith, or milk stone, is different than the casein you'd need for painting, mainly due to the formaldehyde content. Although susceptible to humidity, it makes a very hard surface that's easy to manufacture. A fountain pen or jacket button takes much more abuse than a painting's surface ever would. Borax based casein is not very alkalitic. Shiva, I believe, uses tri-sodium phosphate.

I've not used casein in combination with egg tempera, but have with other mediums, like oil, egg-oil, wax and acrylics. It works extremely well with all of them. The surface is very durable, and I've transported mine over the years to a variety of climates without any noticeable ill effects. Long term archival quality is subject to how well the painting has been cared for, and many other factors that are beyond your control, but that said there are casein paintings that are thousands of years old. Don't worry about it.

Kama (and other places) sell a casein powder you could mix with borax or ammonia hydro-carbonate. It would be more economical and fresher than Shiva's casein emulsion.
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Old 14-07-08, 01:35 AM
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Jason, I know that it is possible to work up paintings from the ground to completion with ET alone, but casein is just really nice in the way it handles and saturates (or rather doesn't saturate) the colours.

There is another medium usable in the underpainting I have tried that is of archival quality and that is using chinese ink sticks. I found out just how easy it is to make them. They are simply made with a glue - in my case I use rabbitskin glue - and pigment that is dried out thoroughly. A form of gesso in other words. They can be ground with water and painted cold rather than hot as you normally would a glue-size paint. They only sustain thin washes and must be used like watercolours, but look quite brilliant on the gesso.
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Old 14-07-08, 05:22 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jeff View Post
Jason, I know that it is possible to work up paintings from the ground to completion with ET alone, but casein is just really nice in the way it handles and saturates (or rather doesn't saturate) the colours.

There is another medium usable in the underpainting I have tried that is of archival quality and that is using chinese ink sticks. I found out just how easy it is to make them. They are simply made with a glue - in my case I use rabbitskin glue - and pigment that is dried out thoroughly. A form of gesso in other words. They can be ground with water and painted cold rather than hot as you normally would a glue-size paint. They only sustain thin washes and must be used like watercolours, but look quite brilliant on the gesso.
Jeff, I think you should consider launching your own line of paints! (-:

it's really good to know about kama carrying casein. My mind is whirling with the possibilities. It really can allow a much more painterly way of working and many of the benefits of oil combined with tempera. Now I'm trying to figure how to stretch my little budget this month: casein, dispersions.... or the drawing supplies I need? I'll figure it out and try to be patient.

My only worry is that it will be too tempting to stick with a more painterly way of working and work quickly (which my dealer will love) instead of stepping out of my comfort zone to learn a new way (or more traditonal egg tempera technique.) Too many choices. What a problem! (-; There really are so many ways of working with egg tempera, and so much to explore.

I'd love to see the casein recipe, but think I'll wait till I'm comfortable with the painting process before I am brave enough to experiment with the chemistry of things.

The pens were made with formaldehyde (and i just shocked myself by spelling that correctly or spell check is not working. (-: )

Dennis made a good point that a ink well made with oil paint might not hold up very well either. I had much the same though, but the wicking affect does give me pause for thought and think that sealing the work is very important. I wonder if the egg wash or using shiva's shellac varnish makes more sense? Maybe the egg wash to avoid too much gloss? I have to wonder how dry it is in Florence. I have to ship my paintings to a much more humid environment than the one I work in.

Any thoughts on the best brand of synthetic brushes? Sables brushes they say are to be avoided with casein, and I'd hoping to place an order this week.

all the best, and thank you for all the input and inspiration. jp

Last edited by jpohl; 14-07-08 at 05:26 PM.
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Old 14-07-08, 06:57 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jason_maranto View Post
Casein is the paint used to color the sides of high quality gilt picture frames -- since I deal in that market (I sell hand carved 23 kt gold and hand worked leather frames for fine art) I keep a selection on hand to touch up frames or to do custom "aged" finishes. It's a good paint but it needs a stiff ground and it needs to be kept thin... impasto is a no-no.

I use the shiva tubes (mostly earth pigments) and would say that your idea of making your own with their emulsion is a better idea -- when you look at the pigment components of the line it is not so great.
I will have to see if you have some frames online as soon as I have a chance.. that sounds like fascinating work, and must be wonderful to customize things for your own work.

Blicks has information on the pigments in each shiva colour which is really useful (eg. ivory black is really lamp black) It seems there are really only two to avoid in terms of lightfastness: naples and the alizarin crimson. In their online catalog they suggest adding dry pigment to colours to brighten them, and dry pigments (Jeff suggested that fresco pigments might be the most archival) can mixed with the emulsion. A limited palette may even make sense for underpainting. Lots of good information in Shiva's online pdf and an example of a caseine painting by egg tempera artist Doug Wiltraut, and other artists.
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Old 14-07-08, 10:26 PM
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I've made personal lightfast tests of all the Richeson/Shiva caseins I have, and they all hold up fine, including Alizarin, which is labeled as PR 83 so that surprised me. I don't have their Naples Yellow, which I suspect is a synthetic mix.

I believe Kama also sells casein paint as well as the powder, at least it was in their catalog.

I prefer very soft synthetics for casein painting, like nylon or taklons. I have a couple inexpensive Loew-Cornell "American Painter" style brushes that I do most of my work with.
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Old 15-07-08, 05:13 PM
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Red face preservative?

I would like to hear if Richardson/shiva is still using a preservative that gives a strong smelling napthalene or moth ball sort of odor to the paint. I bought a complete set of shiva paints about 4 years ago and had to give them away as I was so sensitive to the odor. Now admittedly, I am more sensitive than average from years of work as a chemist in laboratories using solvents, but I cannot tolerate turpentine either and the casein paints were as irritating as turpentine to me.

I bought some dry casein powder to make my own, but have never gotten around to trying it as making up ET is easier, and I expect the casein which is just milk protein to go rotten pretty quick if there is no preservative.

I love the look of casein, so it would be great if they are now odor free.
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Old 15-07-08, 07:24 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rosemary View Post
I would like to hear if Richardson/shiva is still using a preservative that gives a strong smelling napthalene or moth ball sort of odor to the paint.
The odor is still there in the Shiva paints. It doesn't bother me all that much, but I do notice it, especially if it's being used in an enclosed space. I don't own their Casein Emulsion product, but suspect it smells the same. (By the way, their shellac based varnish doesn't show a "use-by" date, so it may be something similar to Zinsser's.)

Quote:
Originally Posted by Rosemary View Post
...I bought some dry casein powder to make my own, but have never gotten around to trying it as making up ET is easier, and I expect the casein which is just milk protein to go rotten pretty quick if there is no preservative. I love the look of casein, so it would be great if they are now odor free.
Casein can be made odor free, depending on what you mix together. If you use ammonia as your base, that will be quite strong (I think that's the way Kama makes theirs.) Borax or TSP have virtually no odor.

Although it's not as simple as breaking an egg, it's pretty easy to mix, in my opinion; more involved if you use raw milk. I've never had a spoilage problem with the casein I've made for myself over the years, and I don't use a preservative of any sort. Typically, I use Borax as my base and keep it under refrigeration. It will last for several months, and after that it just starts to weaken and break down. That's still more useful in that sense than egg yolks, although it doesn't come in the handy round package. :)
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