Water Soluble Oils: a review

I reviewed the Natural Earth Paints ( Here) and found they are one good option for limiting your exposure to potentially harmful or toxic ingredients in traditional oil paints. They are also good for artists trying to be more eco friendly. Anything we can do to lessen our impact on the environment is a good thing!

That’s why I was eager to try out water soluble oil paints. They are made of non toxic ingredients and don’t require the use of solvents. It’s also nice for cleanup when you’re done. Only water and soap is required!

The set that I tried is a Winsor & Newton 10 color set. I used the same primed and stretched canvases that I always use.

The first painting that I tried was a portrait of my daughter

16×20″ portrait

I loved the translucent nature of the paints, although it could also be regarded as a con. It was almost like I was working with a hybrid of watercolors and oils. After several layers a typical oil opaqueness is almost achieved, but I left some parts of the painting with only one layer because of the pleasant texture.

Comparing this to some of my other paintings done with regular oils, I can see the difference in final texture. The regular oils have a creamy smoothness to them that this painting doesn’t have. But, like I said, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

Here is another painting I did with the water mixable oils:

Again, I was happy with the translucency, because it worked for the subject matter of this painting. I wanted the fabric to look thin and have the light coming through. But, maybe if this had been a still life or a landscape I would have been frustrated with these paints.

I feel like these paints are an inexpensive way to reduce toxic materials in the studio. Will they completely replace traditional oils? No, I don’t think they are a perfect substitute. But if you are doing paintings filled with light or water, they’d be an excellent choice. If you are deeply concerned about health and environmental impacts of normal oil paints, I think these are good enough as a substitute.


A Tutorial- Drawing an Eye with Colored Pencils

I think eyes are one of the most fun parts of a portrait to draw or paint. Not only can you convey a lot about your subject through the eyes, but you can also make them very realistic by adding highlights and really pushing the values. I think eyes are also a way to tell who painted or drew a work, because each artist has such a unique way of creating eyes. When I was a kid looking through art books, I could always tell whether a painting was done by Rembrandt by the peoples’ eyes. His eyes have a certain quality to them that no other artist matches.

Have you always wanted to draw eyes well? Or maybe you feel pretty confident in this skill already. I remember exactly when I first got serious about drawing eyes. I was eleven years old and had checked out a book called The Cornhusk Doll. The pencil drawings inside had me mesmerized. They were beautifully done-detailed and very lifelike. But the thing that most caught my attention were the eyes. And that’s how I discovered a shortcut to drawing eyes.

If you shade the top third of the eye quite dark, make this fade toward the bottom and then add a highlight going across the eye-you will have a pretty darn good looking eye
This is how to draw a simple, quick but realistic eye for sketches or illustrations

Other times, you want to go more in depth and draw an eye as it really is; a very unique part of your subject. In this case, you will want to get very detailed and make sure you match the exact shape and color of their eyes. In this post I will show you how to do this using colored pencils.

I use Prismacolors for colored pencil work. Really the only negative thing I can say about them is they are extremely frustrating to sharpen. You get a beautiful, sharp tip that crumbles upon contact with the paper. It seems that some of the colors are worse than others. Overall, I love Prismacolors, though.

Start with some sort of toned paper. You can buy these at any art supply stores, or be cheap like me and use packing paper or paper grocery bags that you have lying around. I like to work with toned papers for colored pencil  drawings so that the highlights really stand out. You don’t have to buy anything fancy. I’ve done many a drawing on pieces of paper grocery bags.

Choose your reference eye, whether it’s  a patient person in your life (and someone that doesn’t mind very direct eye contact!) so that you can work from life, or a clear photo of an eye. For this drawing I chose a photo of my son. For some reason, I have a hard time getting a three year old to pose for me!

Next, lightly sketch the shape of the eye. You don’t have to get any details in, yet. I made this while holding my baby in my other arm, so it was definitely more sketchy than I’d normally do. Just do the best you can!

Start to fill in the basic tones of peach, dark grey and whites. Use light pressure with very sharp pencils. You don’t want to fill in all of the paper’s tooth already or your later layers won’t stick. I would recommend using a compass to get the circles nice and round. As you can see, the iris is a little off because I was unable to make a perfect circle while holding the baby.

Now you can start adding details. I added colors rather than too many shadows at this point. I like bits of bright colors to stick out at the end. Eyes have beautiful patterns in the iris when you look closely. It’s up to you how closely you want to copy these patterns. Hyperrealists get everything exact in their paintings, but I don’t go for that level of realism. Just getting the basics down does a lovely job.

Lastly, add the extreme values, blacks, dark blues and browns and whites. Even pale colored eyes have quite a bit of dark in the iris. Adding white highlights makes the eye come to life. Depending on your reference eye there may be a lot of highlights across the eye, or not too many. Also check for tiny veins on the white of the eye and don’t neglect shadows and highlights to suggest the moisture in the corners of the eye.

Just add your lashes and you should have an eye looking back at you!


Natural Earth Paints- a Review

I care very much about animals and our planet. I’ve  used cloth diapers with all four of my children, I compost and grow a good portion of out food in a huge garden every summer. I eat vegan, which makes a huge positive impact on our environment.

I also try as hard as I can to not be a hypocrite, so I’m embarrassed to say it took me until I was 31 to realize that some of my art materials might be damaging to the environment.

While oil paints have come a long ways in offering hues that are, as far as we know now, benign to human health,  you can still buy oil paints containing known carcinogens. On Dick Blick’s website there is an option to look at the ingredients of every tube of paint. It also lists known hazards. A tube of Renbrandt Cadmium Red has a clear warning that it contains cancer causing components, is extremely toxic if inhaled and slightly toxic if ingested.

Since oil paints can have some very toxic ingredients, and the solvents are just as bad; I decided to start looking into more eco friendly options for my oils first.

I found Natural Earth Paints by Googling “natural oil paints”. I ordered their complete Eco Friendly Artist Kit, which is $46.95. It came with ten natural earth pigments, a 4 oz. jar of walnut oil, a 4 oz. jar of Eco Solve(a non toxic, plant based solvent) and a guide on how to use the kit. There are an additional nine pigments that you can purchase individually, which I did not do.

You pour a little pigment onto your palette and mix in walnut oil until the desired consistency is reached. They also sell a glass palette, muller and bamboo palette knife for optimal mixing. I did not purchase these. I used a palette knife that I already own and my brushes to mix the pigments.

There was no odor at all, which was very nice for someone like me that gets headaches easily from strong odors. It was easy to pour and mix the pigments.

Now, on to the actual painting! I started with a small study of my daughter. The paints performed well, if somewhat somber and subdued. It felt a lot like working with a limited palette. If I had wanted to get very dramatic with the color, I don’t feel I would have been able to achieve it with these paints.

Natural oil portrait

Next I tried two still lifes. The first was of two squash. I wanted to try painting something that naturally  has more earthy colors. I felt the Natural Earth Paints performed pretty well for this painting and was happy with the colors.

Squash still life

Lastly, I did a still life that I purposefully set up to have very vibrant colors. On this painting, I was frustrated to not being able to match the brilliant yellow and orange of the fruit.

The still life set up

Now, there is a more brilliant lemon that Natural Earth Paint offers that I didn’t buy. So my experience may have been different  if I had that pigment to play around with. But just using the kit I bought, I wasn’t  satisfied with the results.

Still life with natural paints

Overall, I think that these paints are a good option in specific situations, but I would never switch completely to using them. I simply would not be able to paint at the least level that I do using more typical oil paints. However, when painting low color subjects, or when painting near my children, animals or outdoors I would consider using these to minimize health risks.

What are your experiences with natural art alternatives? Do you have tips for disposing of toxic materials in ways that don’t hurt the environment?

Babies and Art

Drawing of my first daughter that I did at 18 years old

Let’s talk about babies and art. Not in the babies-as-cute-subects-in-art sense, but as how do you keep creating when you have a baby (or toddler!) in your life?

Three months ago I gave birth to my fourth child. There really is no feeling like snuggling a little warm baby, but that doesn’t mean there are no challenges. I’m always amazed at how many things I can accomplish one handed during the baby years. Art is no exception. So, here are my tips on staying active as an artist or creative person while being a parent of a little one:

1. Babywearing

I can’t stress enough how important it is to have a wrap/sling/pouch that you and baby feel comfortable using. 

2. Change your art temporarily

Maybe your favorite creative outlet is something that is rather involved to set up, dangerous to have around children or just uses too much of your energy for this phase of your life. Start by changing up your normal art for something more baby friendly. Do you normally work with oils? Try watercolors or natural options for oils (which I will review soon!). Are you a textile artist? You can try repetitive patterns that aren’t easily messed up, or swap the complex (weaving) for the simple (needle felting). 

3. Include your baby or toddler

When you have a newborn, art will likely not be a part of your routine, but as they begin to be more aware of the world around them, even young babies can become part of your art. I like checking out books with good quality prints of artwork. Babies and toddlers appreciate all kinds of art. 
When they approach their first birthday, you can let them experiment with watercolor paints. I like to use the Stockmar brand. It’s more expensive than the watercolor sets most people buy for kids, but they’re highly pigmented so a little goes a long way and they create beautiful mixes of color.

3. Use them as subjects

I have so many sweet sketches of all four of my babies sleeping. The main reason for this is that none of my babies have been the kind that fall asleep or nap on their own. So I’ve spent many hours resting alongside them, and have found it to be a perfect time to draw them. They aren’t moving! Later on, the drawings will remind you of those baby days.

4. Keep an art area set up

This one isn’t possible for everyone, depending on how big your living place is. But, if you have the room it helps immensely to have an art area all ready to go whenever you have a bit of time. If I have a canvas, brushes, paint and palette set up I will snatch little bits of time to paint. If I know I have to drag everything out or find lost items, it will most likely never happen.
Do you have any tips for working with babies?

More time for art

Hi! Now that my garden is gone (totally gone, after we plowed it under), and I don’t feel the urge to spend the entire day outside because of the cold, I’m finding more time for art! I think it’s a good way to live with the seasons; being outside and doing my gardening/farming work while the weather is sunny and warm. The winter is my art time. Above is a colored pencil drawing I’m doing for my older daughter. She has a Saanen doe named “Mabel”. Mabel is probably in the top 3 most loved animals we have here. (It’s hard to say when you have 50 altogether, though!) So, I promised my daughter a drawing or painting of Miss Mabel last spring, and only now have found the time to start working on it. Hopefully we can get it framed soon and it can hang next to her other goat photo that’s in her bedroom already.

This was a commissioned 16×20″ oil painting I did for my brother-in-law’s friend. It was a good challenge for me, having to work from a fairly small and blurry reference photo. I had to imagine a lot of the details that weren’t there. In the end, I was mostly satisfied with it. 

And this was a fun sketch I did on a paper grocery bag. One of my style trucks-unfortunately, not mine, however.
Right now I have two commissioned paintings (a 3-person portrait and a landscape) on the easel and am halfway through illustrating my 2nd childrens book! Exciting!
There is snow outside, a fire going and I feel the urge to go start up some chili in the crockpot. So, until later!
Have a great Thanksgiving 🙂

New art!

Almost completed this painting of my 7 year old “Bean”

Charcoal sketch of the awesome Bettie Page

Start of my next oil painting

Charcoal sketch of Johnny Cash

Oil Painting of our rooster, Crow.
While I’ve been mostly busy with our animals and garden, I did get my art up at 2 shows and a coffee shop over the summer. And I am now working on illustrations for my 2nd childrens’ book!
Thanks for looking 🙂

Wedding! aka Why I’ve been so busy…

Well, we got married about a week and a half ago. All the months of cooking, baking and sewing for one special day. It was a wonderful day-and I’ll remember it with a smile the rest of my life. Here are some pictures if anyone cares to see:

The band is Hank Thomas and the Cathouse Drifters. They were amazing! I hope to see them play again soon.

So, anyways, my name is Kimberly VanDenBerg from now on. If you are looking for my art, please remember it is no longer Burnett! Thanks for stopping by 🙂

Busy, busy

Sorry I haven’t written in quite some time. It’s been a busy couple of weeks here! Got our first chicks and ducklings of the year, picked up some goat kids, got more piglets, and started some seeds. Tomorrow we’re tapping, which means  we will be boiling down sap this weekend. In other words-not much time for art making! Which is fine with me, because I love the outdoors and animals and physical work. I can’t imagine the work not being worth sweet syrup on top of our pancakes all year 🙂

I did put up a bunch of my paintings at our local coffee shop yesterday, with the help of my daughters (they hung the price tags!). I might bring in a couple more, just to give a better range of prices. I also am getting an article on my artwork in our local paper-so I’m excited about that!

Here is a commissioned drawing that I am currently doing:

Did it on toned paper with charcoal. It is 9×12″. Pretty fun to draw!

This is the view when I wake up and do the animal chores. See why I don’t complain? Never fails to put a smile on my face.

And, this is one of our new girls, Stella. Pretty sure these goats will be ending up in some (ok, many) of my paintings and drawings!

Burnt out on art…

The main thought I’ve had for the past couple weeks- “I hate art.” My heart is in farming; not art. I think I went wrong with trying too hard to make art for money. But, I can’t make art for fun when I have two kids that depend on me. And when you try to make art with only the goal of selling it in mind-it really takes the fun out of it. Maybe I just need a month’s break.

I look at the artists on Facebook-and they all seem so judgmental  The more expressive, impressionistic artists criticize the photo-realists. The photo-realists have nothing to say beyond copying a photo. The artists that try to express emotion or whatever, through their art, come across as stale to me. How many times can a nude be painted and still be interesting and beautiful? Or how many times can a portrait of someone with a sad face still touch you? How is art making the world a better place? Does it matter if it doesn’t? Should everyone take art a little more lightheartedly, and just enjoy making something that is beautiful to them?

I work on a painting, and get frustrated when it doesn’t look just like the photo. But, I don’t want to make copies of photos. I want to make something new and beautiful and meaningful, even if only to me.

Anybody else ever get burnt out on the whole art world?