Thursday, June 9, 2016

In Days of Yore

‘Happy Days’ 12”x12” Casein on Panel
A casein painting of a mounted skeleton. This reminds me strongly of my Foundation days at the long departed Banbury College of Art & Design. Years ago Banbury was the premier Foundation course in Oxfordshire - naturally it had to be closed, as all such traditional institutions are, to make way for a “University” that teaches at a far lower level. Ah well, that’s how it goes - practical monotechnic to multidisciplinary literary blancmange. 

Casein is a water-based paint that uses dairy protein as its binder; having many characteristics in common with both gouache and oils. It can be thinned to washes, or used for thick impasto. However, once it has “cured” for a few weeks it is incredibly tough and water-resistant; there are casein paintings from 9,000 years ago that have survived. Casein used to be very widely used for all sorts of painting, especially as it is so damed tough (my father once spent months blow-torching off 150 year-old casein paint from some window sashes - nothing else worked).

Every time I see a mounted skeleton I think of all the hours we used to spend observing, studying and drawing them back in Foundation college (we drew a heck of a lot of skeletons of all types). It was one of the chief tasks that we undertook, alongside life-drawing & painting, anatomy, and colour theory. We only did a small amount of Art History (perhaps 10% of our time) and no Art Criticism, as it really is’t needed to be an artist - and in many ways makes it actually much harder to be one at all.

Anyway, skeletons bring up happy memories for me. Old fashioned art education based upon observation, traditional skills and practice… and the parties were obscenely wild.

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