water jug

This is my first painting of this little jug.  I found it at a resale shop and bought it thinking it might be right for a painting.  It's a heavy little thing - only about 5 inches tall but sturdy and solid.  That lent to thoughts of weight and balance more so than with my lighter models.  With this piece I feel like I'm entering new territory - uncharted waters while making the map as I go.

Water Jug with Oranges; casein on paper; 27.5" x 17"; 2013 Mary Nagel Klein


why casein

In a comment on the previous post, Olga wrote, "Can I ask, by the way, why you use casein? Is it a simple case of you like the effect?"

Her questions gave me pause, the chance to gather my thoughts on the subject and to pull together some of the references I've been using lately.  Thank you, Olga.

Casein fine art painting was first introduced to me, and to many other contemporary artists, by James Gurney on his blog, Gurney Journey.  I hadn't thought about milk-based paint as an artistic medium until I saw a painting Gurney did of a chrome creamer at a restaurant booth in only black and white casein.  I was quite smitten by this little painting - Gurney's work is amazingly compelling and sincere.  His blog has a lot of posts dedicated to the medium with some great information on tools and materials.  I picked up a lot of useful tips there that got me started.

Timing was important with my switch too - I was ripe for change.  I had made a firm and deliberate decision to stop painting with lead white oil paint (for all of the obvious reasons) and had begun experimenting with alternative whites.  But oil painting wasn't the same without my favorite white. I really was spoiled and was finding it hard making the change. In the middle of that struggle, in the middle of last June, an alternative solution presented itself.  The time was right for me to give a new medium a serious try.

Since July 8, 2013, I've made 15 casein paintings (with Richeson Casein - The Shiva Series) and have read numerous books, posts and articles about the medium. Finding those references wasn't easy.  Here's a crop of a cover of one of the books I eventually did find:

It's a Walter Foster how-to book from who-knows-when (there is absolutely no date in it - I've checked and rechecked and even had a close friend search for it.)  I'm guessing it's from the 50's or 60's.  See how the word "Acrylic" is superimposed over "Casein"?  And remember the famous lines in the 1967 movie The Graduate, "I just want to say one word to you. Just one word. Plastics"?  I'm guessing that casein was pushed out of the picture (and literally written over) in the 50's and 60's by the overwhelming popularity of acrylic (plastic) paint.  It really does take some detective work to find information on it now because it had gone out of fashion so abruptly and completely last mid-century.

Personally, and from the limited time I've been painting in casein, I continue because it combines the best of both watercolor and oils while providing me the comfort and assurance that I'm painting with the healthiest paint for myself, my family and the environment.  And I love it - the feel, the smell, the colors, the sumptuous matte surface it becomes and the painterly way I attack the surface now with only brush, paint and idea.  I feel safe and free to paint like I've never painted before.


apple moon

Some paintings have a much longer gestation period than others.  Below is one the seemed to require more than the usual amount of labor.  It was a delicate balancing act - lots of shapes, forms, textures and colors that needed to play well with one another.  And then there was that delicious white space.  But in the end it was the thread that pulled everything together.  Tug.
Green Apple Moon; 27.5 x 17 inches; casein on paper; 2013 Mary Nagel Klein


two words

I usually title my posts with two words.  And today's painting is titled Water & Glass.  Again, two words.  Just right.

Water & Glass; casein on mounted paper; 27.5 " x 17"; 2013 Mary Nagel Klein


decade ago

I went through a phase of painting phones and phone cords about 10 years ago.  Communication - and miscommunication - were on my mind at the time.

This one is getting ready to be picked up and placed in its new home.  It's nice when these older pieces finally find themselves in a collection.  So long - and best to you.

Phone Cord #6; oil on canvas; 15" x 24"; 2003 Mary Nagel Klein


bucket listing

Here's another casein painting for you to see - this time with a galvanized pail suspended.  I've included a detail so you can look up close.  It's not the same as seeing the real thing, though. 

You're always welcome to visit my studio to see any of these paintings in person - I'd be happy to show you around.  Please call to schedule a convenient time.  My contact info is in the upper right.

Galvanized; casein on mounted paper; 27.5" x 17"
Galvanized - detail


clara's teacup

The china set that Clara, my Dutch grandmother, gave me is in storage now.  One teacup, however, has been kept out of the box - to remind me of her.  It holds little things en route to where they belong - puzzle pieces, bolts, buttons.  And every once in a while - it gets strung up - and becomes part of a painting.

In Time; casein on mounted paper; 27.5" x 17"; ©2013 Mary Nagel Klein


send off

group of work dropped off to the gallery yesterday - all new casein paintings
After labeling, cutting backing boards and shrink-wrapping the above 6 pieces, they looked to me like they were asking to have their group photo taken - so I obliged.  They joined 7 other pieces of mine already at The Pioneer Art Gallery in St. Paul, Minnesota USA - all in place for the gallery's grand opening this Friday night at 6:00 pm.

This type of finishing work is best done on a separate table dedicated to the purpose.  It's got a thin velour cloth covering it and good lighting.  With a self-healing mat, an Exacto knife, pencil, pen and backing boards on hand, I'm ready to add the finishing touches before letting them go.  For the St. Paul Art Crawl, we decided to keep things simple and unframed - in order to keep the prices down and to offer easy-to-carry work for the patrons.  Master Framers in Lower Town has graciously offered a discount on framing for anyone who purchases the above work at The Pioneer Art Gallery.  Master Framers were very helpful when I asked them about how to frame casein paintings.  Per their advice, I've been including a one inch margin around the entire image.  The intent is to cover that margin with a mat - but, of course, it's the patron who has the final say.