JUST IN CASEIN Illustrator James Gurney offers a guide to a muchunderrated medium – but there’s creative gold dust inside for any artist
Partway through this video – the latest in James Gurney’s series showing how to use different media in outdoor painting sessions – the illustrator explains that casein may not be as ubiquitous in the artist’s arsenal as watercolour or gouache, but it’s a very effective medium. Like acrylic, you can apply casein in thin washes or as thick, opaque daubs, making it a versatile choice when you don’t want to carry too much around.
In the 74-minute video, James presents seven sketchbook projects where he relied on casein to get the job done, as part of his continual work to gather reference on the interaction of light and the natural world. As the camera follows him from a picturesque Catskills mountain stream through a Wyoming horse ranch and into the main street of a small Colorado town, you’ll see how James uses casein’s properties to capture each scene with great efficiency.
His approach is pragmatic, placing the paint in service to his concept. Sometimes he records the scene as he sees it. Sometimes he uses his surroundings as raw material for an idea he wants to explore, as in the project where a mundane roadside scene becomes a shimmering contrejour light show.
It’s this down-to-earth attitude to his materials that always makes James worth watching, even if you’d rather be painting on your iPad. Whether by coincidence or design, there’s a broad theme of simplifying complexity running through these projects. As James paints a boat workshop, for example, he focuses on colour temperature and values to make sense of the many overlapping forms. You’ll see in a couple of other projects, meanwhile, how he constructs his initial sketches to ensure the proportions are correct. Whatever your preferred medium, an hour and a quarter in James’s company is time well spent.
The secret to this Wyoming ranch scene is the classic technique of painting from background to foreground.
The challenge of this boat workshop scene was to strip the elements down to their basics – you’ll see how James tackles it.
James’s portable art studio fits into a pouch, but enables him to capture a variety of natural scenes.
An ordinary roadside scene becomes an exercise in creating a semi-abstract display of light and colour.