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Deb Ward Art Blog


by debward , January 25, 2008—12:00 AM

Topics: All Posts

___CASEIN __" WHAT IS IT?___

That__™s what I usually hear when someone approaches one of my casein paintings, assuming it to be (fill in the blank!). There usually follows a brief explanation (by me) and a shake of the head (by them) followed by a brief comment (by them) usually along the lines of ___well, it sure looks like oil.___ A lot of artists do not know much about the medium, either.

After some poking around on the internet, combined with my own experimentation and comments by artists proficient in casein, here are my pearls of wisdom about this intriguing medium. Casein (kay-seen) is a water medium, which can exhibit the properties of watercolor, gouache and acrylic. Although not as well known to us 21st century artists, casein is actually one of the oldest known painting mediums, pre-dating egg tempera.

There are 9,000 year old cave paintings in Asia and Egyptian murals which utilized casein. In the 14th and 15th centuries Renaissance artists utilized the medium as under paintings for oil paintings and in finished paintings. Edvard Munch used it in ___The Scream___; Gustav Klimpt used it in his 6-panel ___Beethoven Frieze___.

In the 1930s casein pigments in tubes were developed by Ramon Shiva and casein made a comeback of sorts. Because it dries to a flat finish it photographs well, and was primarily used by illustrators until acrylics began to dominate the art market in the 1960s.

Casein is a versatile medium. Some oil painters use casein as an under painting. When mixed with a casein emulsion it exhibits the properties of acrylics and oils, but with faster drying time than oils. Casein paints may be used like watercolor, building up thin washes. If used more thickly, they mimic gouache.

The binder in casein is milk whey, which causes it to bind permanently to the surface onto which it is applied; casein can be applied to almost any non-oily surface that you would normally consider using as a painting support.

Casein will become insoluble if left to dry on the palette. However, if kept moist once on the palette, casein paints can be used for a week or more.

Since casein is hard on brushes, synthetic brushes are preferable to the more expensive natural hair brushes, although most any type can be used with the medium.

Casein dries to a matte finish which can then be buffed or varnished to produce a finish resembling oil paint. As it continues to dry and age, casein becomes resistant to moisture.

Casein paints are only manufactured by Jack Richeson & Company and are available directly through the company or through several of the internet art supply websites.

(Image - Casein on watercolor board, 16 × 20 - set up of my grandmother's hand crocheted tablecloth circa 1915, tin coffee pot rescued from the trash by my husband, pieces of the "good china" and pears and coffee - both delicious after the completion of their hard work in the set up.)





  Laila Davis ( homepage )

03/21/2008 * 15:03:03

That was a wonderful history lesson...very informative and brief. Kudos and thanks for taking the time to share and educate. Feel free to stop by my "loud" page anytime!




  Deb Ward ( homepage )

01/31/2008 * 20:45:31

Thanks for your comments! It is an interesting medium, and I'm still in the learning phase (as if you ever really get out of that!) More to come next week!


  Caroline Henry ( homepage )

01/28/2008 * 21:02:51

Thank you for this primer on casein. Do I dare risk reading your next post? I might find myself drawn into trying yet another medium.


  Michael Mize ( homepage )

01/28/2008 * 17:52:56

Thanks for the post! I'm not ashamed to admit I fall into the category of artists who knew very little about Casein. I've seen it listed on paintings before but was not familar with it at all. I must say I am curious hearing that it has properties similar to oil, but remains waterbased like acryic. I've never done much oil painting simply because I'm too impatient to deal with all the solvents/clean up/long drying times. I'll be looking forward to your next post and hearing how you use this intruiging medium.

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