Thursday, May 6, 2010

Dry Falls Basalt

5/6/10 "Dry Falls Basalt", 8" x 10", Oil
Imagine a waterfall three and a half miles wide and 400 feet high, with flood waters from the massive Lake Missoula plunging every 50 years across an area that had been repeatedly covered with successive lava flows, in some places two miles thick, the second biggest lava field in the world now known as the Columbia Plateau.  What you see now beneath the dry head walls of the falls are big chunks of oxidized black basalt.  It is spring there now and there have been a lot of rains (it rained the day we were there after which the wind blew with substantial gusto).  So the desert floor is a dusky green.  A really beautiful area and a challenge to paint.


  1. Beautiful Kathryn! I'm just in love with your brushstrokes. In fact, you've inspired me to finally pick up my brushes once again. Did one yesterday. It as OK, but kind of picky and not as direct as I wanted. Worked on a still life today, but it's a mess. I've been using bristle brushes and painting without any medium at all. Just paint that I mix ahead of time. There is SO much paint on the brushes! My whole entire set (cheap, luckily) is now caked in it. And I really don't want to clean them. What do you do with yours?

  2. Hi Sally--I scrape up all my paint at the end of the day (and sometimes in the middle) and made a big pile of gray. I do wash my brushes. I also use oil as a medium if any of the pigments are too stiff. Its better to add oil at the beginning to any stiff piles so all the paints have the same consistency. Why don't you want to clean your brushes? I'm just curious about that.

  3. Oh boy - I'm afraid it's laziness and probably also impatience. That's one of the things I love about knives is that they clean so easily. Also, I can never seem to get the brushes clean enough to perform acceptably again. I suppose it could be their low quality. Another thing is that I hate turpentine - it's just so bad. I know there are alternatives out there - gamsol I think is one of them - but finances don't allow for that right now. When you've finished a stroke, what do you do with any remaining paint? I usually just wipe it onto a rag, which seems awfully wasteful. I guess it's logical to just scrape it onto the palette with a knife. Ahhh - the mechanics of our work!

    What kind of oil do you use? I've been toying with walnut.

  4. I buy Gamsol by the gallon from online art stores such as Art Supply Warehouse or Dick Blick. Definitely would not use turpentine. I often keep one brush for the light values so its not contaminated by darker pigments and I don't have to wash it with every stroke. Your palette knife work is lovely, but I understand the need to challenge yourself by trying different things. Your work makes me want to try using the palette knife!

  5. I think you'd be appalled to see my set up!! I am headed out to the studio right now to clean up yesterday's mess. And will try for cleaner work today. I have a teeny gamsol sample bottle. Not sure how far it might go for today. I'll do the clean up outside with turp first to get a fresh start.
    I so appreciate your praise for my palette knife work. It does have it's appeal.

    Sorry to pick your brain so much, but I wonder if you could tell me what kind of brushes you use - and what brand of oil paint. I've used Georgian for a few years now because of the mass quantity that I go through and it's all I could afford. Finally invested in WN professional grade, but it's oh so expensive - even at the half prices from ASW. Some say there's a big difference, but I'm wondering now.

  6. Hi Sally--I like Robert Simmons Signet bristle brushes--rounds, filberts and sometimes flats, usually #8-#10. For the studio I buy paint from Classic Oils in 10 oz caulking tubes and titanium by the gallon that I transfer to empty caulking tubes that I buy locally at West Marine. Once I got use to the caulking gun, this system made a lot of sense and it is inexpensive. I just bought a box of empty tubes, about 150 ml size, so I can take smaller tubes outside. Otherwise I use M Graham for outside painting because I like the consistency of the paint. On trips I use the M Graham Walnut/Alkyd Oil for faster drying and also the M Graham Titanium with Alkyd. I think with paint it depends on the consistency you like. The classic oils are juicy/buttery, maybe not stiff enough for palette knife work--I'm not sure about that. You could get some in 4 oz tubes and try them out.