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« What Does the "Peace Symbol" Symbolize? | Main | Painter of the Indistinct »

September 07, 2009

Whatever Happened to Casein Paints?

Donald Pittenger writes:

Dear Blowhards --

Way, way back -- so many years ago the thought scares me -- I was a college student majoring in commercial art. As I ranted here and elsewhere, I didn't learn much in art school. This was because I wasn't taught much; students to too great a degree were expected to discover things on their own -- not an efficient way to learn a trade.

Once I reached my Junior year I began taking courses dealing with my major. For a reason I cannot remember, our color work was usually done on illustration board using casein paints.

Huh? you ask. What in the world are casein paints? The Wikipedia entry is here. Other links containing useful background information are here and here. Casein paints are a kind of tempera whose medium is milk-based. As the links indicate, the paints have a distinct sweetish smell and dry to a matte finish.

You probably haven't seen them in art supply stores for quite a while (if at all), and neither have I. Because I haven't noticed them, I assumed that no one was making them any more. But the next-to-last link indicates otherwise.

I recall that I wasn't terribly fond of caseins, but used them because everyone else did. For one thing, the drying paint tended to curl thinner grades of illustration board. And after I painted large, flat areas, the dried result was often blotchy.

Thanks to our general lack of instruction about painting of any kind, it's possible that I never figured out how to properly utilize caseins. I suppose I could give them another try, but I don't think I want to spend the time or money. If I ever do decide to fiddle around with opaque water-based paints, I think I'm most likely to give gouache a whirl.



posted by Donald at September 7, 2009


I believe I've seen casein paint at the regional art supply chain where I shop at here in the Southwest. I've never used them before, and I doubt I'd use them now. We used gouache for our color theory exercises in the commercially oriented art school I attended. I next transferred to a large university art program, and we also used gouache as well as these large boxes of pre-fab sheets of color on paper, sort of like large paint chips you get at Home Depot.
I went to art schools in the late 70's-early 80's and I must have had a very aberrant experience, to hear the way the current wave of atelier and classical realists talk about higher art education in this country. All 3 schools I attended taught classical drawing methods complete with rigorous life class requirements, 2 offered or required a semester of color theory, compositional fundamentals, perspective, painting of all kinds, and the mainstream university required multiple semesters of comprehensive art history, which the new classical realists/ateliers don't appear to be able to come close to providing at the level I received. I don't feel at all short-changed by attending mainstream art programs.

Posted by: KR on September 7, 2009 8:49 PM

Google Milk Paint.

Good stuff -- a bit fussy but a really nice finish.

Posted by: DaveH on September 8, 2009 2:06 AM

Blowhards and milk paint.

This is not the sort of thing a person thinks they are going to find skipping along together, but then again, Life Is Strange.


Posted by: Erin O'Brien on September 8, 2009 10:10 AM

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