Chad Meyer

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since Jun 17, 2020
Physicist, preacher, father
High mountain desert, Northern NM
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Recent posts by Chad Meyer

I think oils get a bad rap and it's worth clarifying some things here.  First of all, I don't consider oil painting any messier than other painting; if you want to see "messy" watch my kids doing watercolor!  Much of that comes to personal style and/or technique which is equally true of nearly every art medium.

Solvents are another issue.  I avoid them.  They are unnecessary, especially if you make your own paints and understand how they work.  It is true that you'll probably need more brushes in that case, or you can mostly apply with palette knives like some people do and then just wipe them off with a rag.  The solvents become necessary because: 1) some commercial paints contain nasty stuff -- driers, solvents, additives -- in order to make the paint perform uniformly from color to color, but naturally the individual pigments would have different characters (I bet you see that in watercolors as well). 2) Some artists prefer certain working properties and/or fast drying that are unachievable with commercially available oils.  3) Some artists have wanted to incorporate resins into their paint which requires a solvent.  All use of solvents are not bad, but most of it is unnecessary.  If you start out making paints yourself and avoiding solvents completely, you won't fall into bad habits you need to break later!

Pigments in oil paints (all paints, really) can be quite poisonous as well.  If you are careful you could use them, but you need to be careful.  I don't want to be handling cadmium or lead dust, especially in a home with children.  But, there are a lot of less-toxic options (I'm not going to call any of these non-toxic, but I don't mind handling iron oxide or dirt or rocks).

The oils themselves are also an important discussion.  I strongly recommend you start with oil you can trust, probably that you've tested, preferably linseed.  Safflower and sunflower are marginal driers and are likely to not make a stable paint film.  I've read that it might come down to the growing conditions and specific varieties whether it ever dries.  Walnut oil is a slow dryer but makes a reliable paint film if you're patient (but it might be a few weeks between layers).  Linseed is the classic, but commercially refined oils tend to yellow and be relatively slower drying than hand-refined oil.  The "dark horse" is hemp oil which seems to be between linseed and walnut in drying, reliably non-yellowing and with interesting properties (but not a long pedigree in art conservation, so unknowns in the long run).  The earth pigments will likely help the paint dry more quickly, but the mineral pigments may or may not.

I could rant on and on about all of this.  It's not necessary (or even necessarily useful) to control the entire process from start to finish.  It depends on personal preference.  I like it because there is so much to learn, and in the end, I think I like the learning even more than the making of the art.  It also forces one to slow down, which is the opposite of many "mainstream" and "working" artists today -- a luxury a hobbyist with a day job can have!  If your oil might be aged for 6 months to 2 years or more, your dyestuff for pigment might take 2-3 years just to grow to maturity, etc., that makes a week's drying time between layers to be completely within reason.  But, again, that's my own approach and not universally needed!
1 month ago
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I'm still in the process of gaining experience; when to wet grind, when to just dry grind, when and how many times to wash, etc.  I don't have any equipment (rock smasher or ball mill), just hammer and mortar and pestle.  

I'd love to try (at least once) to put together a painting as completely as possible from locally sourced, and homemade materials.  I'm imagining growing flax for the fiber (to make linen canvas) AND the oil, pressing and refining it by hand (or collecting local walnuts and preparing oil from them), collecting pigments from the earth, growing dyestuff and making my own lake pigments, maybe doing some home chemistry.  Riving and preparing lumber from my own tree to make a panel or stretcher bars, or frames.

Of course, there are limits; I'm unlikely to make my own palette knife or mold my own muller or make a flat glass sheet.  Some materials (chalk, for instance) might just not be easy to dig up.

To me, the only thing that I need in "working space" for oils that I wouldn't need for watercolors is somewhere to leave the painting to dry in the light for a while without any children touching it.  I really like the feel of oil paints, and homemade paints are able to achieve a whole range of working properties that commercial paints just don't have.  I'd also like to try egg tempera (which you could start with just pigments and egg or mull them in water or another aqueous dispersion first).  

I've never tried to make maya pigments; to be honest before I read it here I didn't know it was possible to do at home.  I've read that they have really good working properties in paint due to the clay content, and the way the dyes are absorbed into the clay can impart surprising lightfastness to otherwise fugitive dyes.  The company that had been making them had produced maybe 6-8 different "maya" pigments (though they seem to have mostly folded), and I have no idea what kinds of colorants they were able to do this with.
1 month ago
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I love trying to grow new things, which often means failure and sometimes disappointment, but this thread wants to focus on the favorites, which is good!

I'm most excited about Okra!  This is the third year I've tried to grow okra, but the first which is actually producing pods.  The plants look pitiful and short, BUT they have been blooming and producing pods.  I have either three or four phenotypes expressed among the diverse seeds I started with.  I've made the decision to not harvest the first pods on any plants, hoping those will contribute seed for next year more adapted to my garden.  I've got high hopes!

I'm growing peanuts for the first time this year as well; not sure whether they are growing nuts underground or not, but the tops and blooms look healthy enough.  Tepary beans are also a first for me.  They grew well, and I've been collecting beans as they dry; looking forward to doing a better job cultivating them next year.
I've been experimenting with producing pigments and making handmade oil paints of late, and was excited to see other people here thinking along the same lines.

We have a lot of "good dirt" for pigment making here in Northern New Mexico (Georgia O'Keeffe country).  A short walk from my house is a nice deposit of of a white clay (which can make a buff off-white, or be used in addition to other colors to change the chroma or working properties).  And, around, there are many kinds of reds and even deep purple hematities.  Unfortunately a lot of that is on either public or tribal lands and securing permissions to collect them is difficult/impossible.

I made a lamp black by scraping soot from the top of the fireplace, then washing it.  It resists dispersion, but makes a nice deep (and complex) blue-black.  I've also ground up some rocks; the most promising seems be be our local basalt which makes a rather luminous grey.  I find that the earth and oxide pigments benefit from and/or require long mulling to really smooth out the colors and bring out the full chroma of the color, but that might be different in watercolors.  My wife is the watercolorist in the family, and has expressed willingness to try some homemade watercolors, if I find a particularly striking/useful pigment.

I'd like to branch into plant-based lake pigments next -- combining my gardening habit with the painting!  The classic, moderately lightfast colors are madder (pink/red), indigo and/or woad for blues and weld for yellow.  In the past, I've only been interested in absolutely lightfast colors, but I've decided it would be fun to try organic colors that I've grown myself.  In some cases the pigment can be considerably more lightfast than the dye, so there is still scope to find new useful combinations (especially among new-world plants).
1 month ago
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I live in the mountains of Northern New Mexico, and the USDA line between 6b and 7a runs right through the neighborhood. Century plants grow reliably here (we had one bloom just up the street a couple of years back, so you know it was a survivor!). They grow semi-wild on the sides of the roads in the mountains, where it freezes pretty hard. I would worry more about the water level in the soil; I don’t think our dirt freezes quite as hard, because when it gets to that time of year it’s usually pretty dry.
3 months ago
If you go to his website, he says that the book is available from amazon or from lulu.com (which is a print-on-demand service).  He also states that he earns a higher commission from the lulu purchases, so that might be a better place to order from anyway (if you're willing to wait the extra time).
3 months ago
Having thought about this over the past week, and in light of other comments made this week, I think it's safe to say that I'm overthinking things (that's what I always do)!

If I am growing out 10 different (named or otherwise) varieties of common bean that would "breed true" as they say, and if I'm growing them side-by-side or all interplanted, and I save seeds and try to regrow whatever produced beans while maintaining some notion of diversity (e.g. at minimum planting all the colors/patterns of beans I've saved), then I've already got more diversity in my garden than in most seed packets -- and the corresponding resilience that brings -- independent of how much the bees manage to produce hybrids and independent of whether I end up preferentially selecting those hybrids or not.

So, whether what I'm growing ends up being a "landrace" or "grex" or "hybrid swarm" or just a bunch of varieties grown together, I'm still reaping the benefits of diversity in my garden and likely to have that pay dividends as time goes on.
4 months ago

Jonathon Hornock wrote:I think I heard there are like 70 species of phaseolus. What about tepary or Lima? Do you think common beans would cross with those as well?


Although they are in the same genius you can classify things being still more closely or distantly related. The common bean and runner being are quite close and I think scientists think the tepary bean is fairly close. The lima bean is significantly farther related. The runner beans and common been even have a (likely) naturally produced, stabilized hybrid which is a recognized species from Guatemala. Scientists in labs are working to produce hybrids between tepary and common beans with much difficulty and limited success.

That said, biology is messy and sometimes even intergeneric hybrids happen and sometimes they are viable. You never know! Just keep your eyes open for things that look different.
4 months ago

Dan Fish wrote:There has to be some adaptation that goes on through the generations of heirlooms right? […] Or another way of putting it is, how stable is stable when talking about a heirloom's genetics?


These are important questions, and they will vary from species-to-species. For instance, I have observed that plants grown from bean seeds I’ve saved do much better than the packets that I originally bought. That’s too quick to be genetic. Some people call it “seed memory” or “heritable epigenetics”, but it is basically a set of mechanisms for mother plants to pass on information about the local environment to give their offspring a head start in life.

Examples include the ability to cope with too little (or perhaps too much) water, poor soil nutrients, and other stresses the plants might encounter. This is an active area of research in the agricultural academic world. I’ve seen papers confirming it in the common bean, and a recent paper where some varieties of peanut exhibited this seed memory and some did not. I haven’t seen anything on tomatoes, but I strongly suspect that locally saved seeds will generally do better in one’s own garden than the equivalent genetics grown at a seed farm (even if that’s not provable “clinically”).
4 months ago

Sami Winners wrote:a bunch of beans planted together still comes out with a bunch of different colors.  I love diversity, especially in color and flavor.  I could not figure out how they stay separated.


It’s not that the different colors “stay separated” so much as that all the genes remain in the population (especially if you intentionally choose to keep them). It’s not quite as simple as Mendel’s green and yellow peas, but it’s the same basic idea. The difference is that even though all the same genes are present, they might be expressed in novel combinations: seed color/pattern, seed size, pod color/pattern, some aspects of growing habit, etc. So, it’s not that the traits stay separated, but that they (ideally) mix judiciously. The coloration patterns are the result of the presence (or absence) of a relatively small number of genes, so there isn’t an unlimited number of colors that could be expressed.
4 months ago