Author Topic: On your bike, Painter  (Read 1919 times)

Andre Jute

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On your bike, Painter
« on: March 25, 2020, 03:21:53 PM »
https://ebiketips.road.cc/content/news/utterly-brilliant-an-interview-with-timmy-mallet-on-all-things-e-bike-2343

He said

I was carrying 25kg in my panniers and painting gear

I found it quite liberating to have a limited set of everything. Clothing, my paints (although these won't be essential for everyone!) and that's about it.


One person's idea of having a limited set of everything may differ from another's!

If he was not camping 25kg includes a lot of painting equipment.

You'd be surprised, Mike, both at how low a painter can go if he's innovative and adaptable, and at how hefty traditional painting gear can be.

Mr Mallet is a painter in oil and acrylics, which weightwise is six of the one and half a dozen of the other. He seems to have made a pochade box (the pochade is the onsite or plein air painting that you paint in a pochade box, so both words are required to describe the container) out of a cardboard box to save weight. I imagine his box of paint, brushes, necessary liquid medium and liquid cleaning solvents weighed a minimum of 7 to 10kg, probably more.

By way of comparison, I inherited my teacher's pochade box for 16x12in plein air landscapes. This is a wooden suitcase about 18x14x4in with internal structure and ribs for holding the painting boards (2) and palette in the lid. With traditional painting equipment inside it, it is atrociously heavy, not my idea of fun lugging such a deadweight up a hill. I've made it tolerable by assigning it to the lightest weight of my various oil-painting kits, which uses oil bars in wax, and which I paint with silicone tipped instruments or painting knives, all of which wipes clean, so no liquids are required except a small bottle of water for washing barrier cream off hands. With the 2.5kg or so of a Manfrotto professional photographer's tripod to put the pochade box on, and a stool, and a hefty canvas bag for stones added on site to stabilize the tripod, you're easily up 25kg.

Trying to make that kit lighter still, I packed about half as many oil bars and tools into a toiletries bag, and substituted a lightweight sketching easel in wood for the Manfrotto, and an aluminium shooting stick for the stool and now you're at something over 10kg. You can go quite a bit bigger than 16x12in on this setup but only on windless days.


The photo shows a lady's messenger bag I used before I scored the more convenient big toiletries bag I now use off a lady pedaliste. The brown leather saddlebag is permanently on the bike to hold weather jacket, a bar of Bournville chocolate, suchlike. The pannier basket is Basil's Cardiff model. The stainless steel rack is a Tubus Cosmo.


Ready to paint, easel erected, board fitted, supplies bag open and hung, shooting stick seat lounging elegantly.


The resulting painting. Faux Tuscan!

The lightest oil painting kit I've made is limited to 8x6in. It's a Jullian of Paris pochade box, like a miniature version of the one above, but not the metric model Jullian itself sells which is limited to their overpriced metric boards, but the one they made for Utrecht in the States to imperial measures for which you can get a big range of boards. It suffers the disadvantage that you have to use 21ml tubes of paint rather than the normal 37 or 40ml size, and the small size is hard to find and expensive. On the other hand, it is so light you don't need a stand, you hold it on your thumb through a hole in the bottom of the box, and paint with your other hand.

Generally speaking, the experienced bicycle painter doesn't take the heavy gear with him unless he's scouted out the vista to be painted with it. The only kit permanently on my bike is a tin that holds 6x4in postcards, a watercolour paintbox the size of a visiting card, a couple of water brushes (they're like fountain pens, with the water in the barrel and a brush at one end) and that's the whole thing.


Here's a slightly bigger version of the postcard pochade box, with the Bijou paintbox open, real if small water containers (filled out of my bike water bottle), and a collapsible sable brush.

I also have a big leather bucket bag with a 6x8in sketchbook inside and large variety of small kits so that a wide range of multimedia art can be demonstrated on group outings. It weighs about 10kg, so it is too heavy to cart around on solo outings on the off-chance that you'll see something that fits one of the sketch kits in the bag -- more likely that you'll see several opportunities for art for which the bag holds no equipment...

Mike Ayling

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Re: On your bike, Painter
« Reply #1 on: March 26, 2020, 09:47:42 PM »
Thanks for that helpful explanation, Andre.

Mike

Andre Jute

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Re: On your bike, Painter
« Reply #2 on: March 26, 2020, 11:37:21 PM »
It is also worth considering that, while student-quality art supplies are available in every bigger town, professional painters use special qualities (lightfast) of materials, available only from specialist dealers in the larger towns -- for instance, I live in a town with a substantial arts department in a big stationrs, but I have to order most of my supplies from the nearest city, Cork, from London, and as far away as Paris, Florence, even Italy. Mr Mallet, an experienced painter, probably knew he wouldn't be able to find whatever he forgot at home in any of the small towns he passed through on his pilgrimage. And such "just in case" arts supplies can easily add up to 10kg, like my multimedia urban sketching kit in its own permanent, strong leather bag, described above. Not quite as bad as travelling with a Rohloff -- for which until recently you had to bring your own tools, but still worth careful thought.

Pavel

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Re: On your bike, Painter
« Reply #3 on: April 14, 2020, 11:53:48 PM »
Andre, I really like that interpretation.  I've long though that painting would be a much more relaxing hobby than photography, if it were not for the sad fact that I can't paint to any level of satisfaction.  I admire and envy those who can, however. 

Andre Jute

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Re: On your bike, Painter
« Reply #4 on: April 15, 2020, 09:53:23 AM »
Andre, I really like that interpretation.  I've long though that painting would be a much more relaxing hobby than photography, if it were not for the sad fact that I can't paint to any level of satisfaction.  I admire and envy those who can, however.


Anyone can paint, and even draw, well enough. It's mainly a matter of taking it seriously enough to give it considerable time. John Ruskin, a landmark critic of art in Victorian times, used to say that after a few years with a pencil, a young man could be permitted move on to watercolours. That was when realism was treasured. I say, bulldust, that just puts people off creating art. Instead people should buy a medium size sketchbook (the American types are generally around 8in by 5.5in portrait shape; Stillman & Birn make excellent quality sketchbooks) and a plastic paintbox with twelve half pans from Winsor & Newton's Cotman student range, which is better than many others' artist ranges, or White Nights, which is an inexpensive professional range (if you don't mind supporting a Russian printmaker), and a water brush (it doesn't matter which you get -- Pentel is good, but so is the much cheaper ones from Royal & Langnickel); you can buy a sable or squirrel brush later, when you have the hang of painting; you might want to add a 2B pencil (I think that's a couple of grades softer than an American "number two pencil"). You can find a couple of glass jars for brush-washing water in the kitchen. That's all you need, and it shouldn't cost more than about fifty dollars. To that add some classic books on painting that you can download free on the net, and time, of which everyone right now has plenty. Start by painting a leaf over and over again; divide up a few pages of you sketchbook at the back, so that you don't waste too much of it, and create several leaves per page. When you can create a semblance of a leaf, you can move on to sketching whatever catches your attention. The reason I like working on postcards (the best ones are sold every year towards Christmas in a tin of 30 on superb watercolour paper by Hahnemuhle and you find them at the better art supplies houses or if none of those are accessible to you stocks the Hahnemuhle, order them from Jackson's in the UK) is that my patience runs out in about two minutes, and usually the rain arrives in two minutes too. Set a time limit, no more than five minutes per leaf; life studies are often conducted with two minute poses, which forces the students to concentrate on the essentials. Learning to paint is like racing car development: the faster you fail, the more you learn, and the sooner you create a contender.

Danneaux

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Re: On your bike, Painter
« Reply #5 on: May 17, 2022, 02:01:48 AM »
Quote
Anyone can paint, and even draw, well enough. It's mainly a matter of taking it seriously enough to give it considerable time.
I'd agree, Andre...especially about the time it takes to do something recognizable.

I recently used watercolors to copy a photo I took entering Huy, Belgium on my 5-week tour of the Netherlands, Belgium, and France in September 2008.

I lack your skill and ability to do plein air painting. Laboring indoors at my leisure with no worries about weather or daylight or time limits copying a static photograph gave me a better appreciation for what you do on the fly outdoors. To make my task easier, I used a homemade camera lucida to copy-sketch the basic outlines of my photo onto the watercolor paper. See:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Camera_lucida
...and...
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ugv0XhUd2l4

I learned a lot from the process which depended largely on materials and tools I already had on hand -- a cheap watercolor set, consumer-grade brushes, a fine-tip permanent marker for the outlines (too heavy; should have used pencil on all lines, drat) and cheap, dimpled watercolor paper that didn't scan well when done. All things I can easily correct next time. The process was enjoyable enough I'd encourage others to give it a try.

This was a nice way to learn the basic process of painting and see if I liked it. While fun enough to try once or twice more, I think I'll stay with my preferred medium, digital photography.

Thanks for the inspo!

Best,

Dan.


Daniel B Wood, 2022
« Last Edit: May 17, 2022, 03:52:07 AM by Danneaux »

Andre Jute

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Re: On your bike, Painter
« Reply #6 on: May 17, 2022, 11:08:11 AM »
Dan, those of us who call ourselves artists really, really, really want you to go back to photography.

Ha!

It does look like you've already given the essential time. Before I changed my spectacles to take a closer look, I reached for my keyboard to ask if you hadn't sent the photo instead of the painting. Just as well I took a second look before I made a fool of myself.

Whatever they say in public, lots of painters work off photographs. They wouldn't earn a living if they waited for the sun to shine! I always take a backup photo in case the painting session gets rained out or just clouded over. One of the reasons that I paint pretty small en plein air is that so often the weather refuses to cooperate.

Mind you, sometimes that can be amusing. In the spirit of the thing, as lecturing at college from the galleys of one of my books, I dropped the lot, and just continued reading from the first galley I picked up, regardless of subject, one day I was painting what I took to be the gatehouse of a grand estate just around the corner from my house and when it started raining, after putting the cover on my precious Brooks saddle, carried straight on, the rain adding a certain vagueness to the painting. The owner came out and, mistaking me for an itinerant painter, said, "How much is that painting?" I said, "A hundred euro," which he took out of his wallet and gave me. I gave him the sagging wet postcard and said, "Be careful how you dry it." He was very brassed off. "You've made my half-million Euro house look like a tumbledown shack!"

Seriously, if you've already decided to go back to photography, then it isn't worth investing in better materials. You've already proved that you can do the job right, or almost right, with what you have. You already noticed the one thing I'd do differently, which is to make the outlines lighter in pencil (to be partially rubbed out when the paper is thoroughly dry -- it won't harm the water colour), or redesign the image to separate blocks by colors and contrasts; that may seem like a mountain to you, but next time you'll know. I'd also not even try for realism, because a camera will always do it better, and I'd bring the painterly aspect well forward from where you have it in the hazy distant background; for instance you could leave part of the church unpainted, a common trick that is common because it works so amazingly well.

You might want all the same to read up about materials for watercolors, because they do make some things easier (for instance professional paints of all classes are much more heavily pigmented than the student grades, and professional grades of paper offer a smoother finish which scans well, called "hot press" or simply "smooth", but makes it more difficult than cold press -- dimpled -- paper to control the paint) but at much more than marginal extra cost.

The best guide is Bruce MacEvoy, a chemical engineer from the reprographics trades, who for people like us makes a much more credible fist of technical matters in art than the arty-farties; he's a pretty good painter too. I recommend you start with the basic palette he recommends, called the "secondary palette" which is only six colors plus (not essential but convenient) two earths plus (not on dear Bruce's list, but the secret vice of many, many professional painters) a tube of good quality white gouache for highlights and mixing opaque tints, nine colors altogether, the price of which will be enough of a shock. See
http://www.handprint.com/HP/WCL/palette4e.html
All the applied technical information on watercolor pigments you ever wanted -- my bible:
http://www.handprint.com/HP/WCL/waterlk.html
and note that the same pigments are used in all artist's paints.
There's much more to McEvoy's site than information about watercolor materials,
http://www.handprint.com/HP/WCL/water.html
which you can find by searching backwards from this watercolor index.

Actually, while I'm sure there's nothing wrong with your photograph from which you made the painting, I think the painting is more interesting than the photo could ever be -- except to a cyclist, who has a different outlook on different interests. A painting says infinitely more about the painter than a photograph does about the photographer.


Danneaux

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Re: On your bike, Painter
« Reply #7 on: May 17, 2022, 02:28:09 PM »
Thank you , Andre! :)

I could not have hoped for a better response, suggestions, or usefully constructive critique than you provided and I surely appreciate the time and effort you put into it.

Having priced quality watercolor supplies at both the premier local art store and the university outlet, I decided to go "on the cheap" to sample the pursuit, figuring if I invested enough time (a LOT!) I could make up for lack of materials. It almost worked! ;) I um, used a wadded-up paper towel dipped and dabbed in pigment and water to help with the bushes.

No fooling, I had a lot of fun and stayed with it long enough to make a picture...from a picture. I greatly appreciate your suggestions for materials and see how they could not only produce a better result but make it easier to do so. I don't think painting is for me, but it surely increased my appreciation for what's involved in painting of any kind and to increase my admiration for those who do it; even moreso for those who do it well and with ease. Even if I don't see myself doing more, that alone was worth the experience as I can say I explored the pursuit and I can now say why it doesn't suit me as well as photography. I'm glad I tried!

You raise some interesting points about realism vs interpretation, photography vs painting. I can clearly see the difference but lack the skills to do the latter because I can't (yet) judge what's important in a scene when applied to this medium and I greatly admire the skills of those who do. I think doing it well must involve study, instinct, and experience -- all borne from "time in the saddle" (to swing things round to some sort of bicycle-related reference ;) ). For example, I tried to give a hint of the overhead powerlines so ubiquitous in Belgian towns and villages but didn't attempt clouds because they are beyond my skillset at present.

Nevertheless, I'm intrigued enough by this experience and the links you've provided to pursue and read all of them. Who knows? They just might fan the spark and lead to a Second Effort and beyond.

Thanks again for the encouragement, Andre.

All the best,

Dan.

Attached are copies of my original photo and watercolor copy via camera lucida. The original is much darker because it was taken as evening was coming on and rain was brewing.
« Last Edit: May 17, 2022, 04:48:21 PM by Danneaux »