Saturday, 5 May 2012

Elephant No. 216: Fantasy Prisme Paint

For today's elephant, I thought I'd play with some weird new paint I discovered at a local art store. I have a hard time believing that it will make the interesting patterns I saw in the photographed samples, but I guess we'll see.

Fantasy Prisme paint is a new product by the Paris-based Pébéo paint company, and is supposed to create a heavily mottled surface all on its own. I couldn't find any information on what kind of chemical reaction causes the pattern to emerge, but you can see a time-lapse of the effect below.

From what I can gather, the thicker the layer of paint, the more pronounced the effect. This presented a bit of a dilemma. If I painted a nice little design on paper or canvas, I probably wouldn't be able to paint thickly enough for the paint to do its work. However, if the paint was thick, it was also going to run, meaning I'd have to corral it somehow. Since I didn't feel like building something with sidewalls to contain the paint, I decided to try painting with an eyedropper.

I had chosen a shade called "leaf", which is a deep emerald colour on the swatch, but looks nothing like the swatch when you look at the bottom of the bottle.

For my surface, I used some cheap canvas boards from a discount store measuring 12.75 x 17.75 cm (5 x 7 inches). Since these come three to a pack for a dollar, I felt comfortable experimenting on them.

For my first elephant, I used the eyedropper, blobbing on paint in a general elephant shape. From the two shots below, you can see how I swirled the paint when I applied it.

Because of the way the paint spreads, it ended up looking not much like an elephant at all. This is what it looked like wet. If you look closely in the centre of the body, you can see the bubbly pattern starting to form.

And this is what it looked like when the paint had done its job. I found the effect interesting, but I wasn't all that enamoured of the weird shape.

I decided to try painting with a brush next. The paint goes on much like any other paint, but if you want the prisme effect, it has to go on thick. This clearly wasn't thick enough. Or thick at all. To complicate matters, this form of paint also doesn't really work if you try to build it up in layers. I tried to build up multiple layers; but unless you're willing to really blob it on, the paint doesn't seem to do much. The only parts that reacted were the heavy dots I dropped onto the background.

For my final elephant, I decided to try a combination of painting with a brush-like effect, and overloading the brush to drop on thicker amounts. This gave me an overall look that I liked; but again, the prisme effect was limited to a small area, and is nowhere near as visually effective as on the eyedropper version. The shot below shows the top of the third elephant's head, followed by a closeup of one of the nearby dots.

 A few observations that may be helpful if you decide to try this paint:

1. Although the store clerk told me that this was an acrylic, I'm pretty sure it isn't—or, if it is, it's acrylic with some weird additives. It has a relatively strong smell that reminded me a bit of xylene with a hint of acetone, and it can only be cleaned up with mineral spirits. Even then, the low-toxicity solvent I used had trouble removing everything from my brush.

2. Unless you're willing to sacrifice an eyedropper, don't use one for this. You'll never get it completely clean inside—well, maybe if you have access to a pipette-cleaning bottle brush.

3. The paint is extremely sticky as it begins to dry. In fact, I've never experienced anything like it. Apparently it also remains sticky for hours, so it's probably best to use it in a relatively dust-free environment.

4. It has a smooth high-gloss finish, even when dry, so bear that in mind when using it. If you use it for something like jewellery, you should probably also seal it with varnish or resin. On the other hand, it feels almost like a resin itself. It occurred to me only afterwards that this might mean that things could be embedded into the surface in interesting ways.

5. Although you need to think in terms of corralling the paint because of its tendency to spread, if you paint an underlayer and then quickly blob paint on top of that underlayer, it tends to stay more or less in place, allowing you to thicken certain areas of the painting more than others.

6. I was surprised at how little paint I used. Although I dropped a lot of paint onto my small canvases, I barely made a dent in the 45 ml (1.5-ounce) bottle.

7. As far as I could tell, swirling the paint around makes no difference to the final pattern you get. What does seem to make a difference is the thickness of the paint: the thicker the paint, the larger the bubbles.

I'm not sure what I think of this paint. If you wanted to have a high-gloss mottled surface in a specific area of a painting, this would be ideal. It would also be great for jewellery—either to enhance other surfaces, or to serve as an interesting surface all on its own.  

As a painting medium for representational images, I'm not in love with it, however. It might have been okay if I'd been working on a larger canvas, but I think it's the kind of thing I'd only use for discrete areas of a painting, or perhaps as a background for something else. That's not to say that I won't try this again sometime, but I may restrict its use to jewellery applications, or very specific placement within a larger canvas.

Elephant Lore of the Day
Although we know that elephants grieve the loss of other members of their species, it also appears that they sometimes grieve for humans. Over the years, there have been numerous stories of elephants mourning the loss of human friends; however, it also seems that they sometimes mourn people they don't know.

Some years ago, elephants raiding crops in the village of Katwe, Uganda ended up killing a villager. After killing the man, astonishingly, the elephants took the man's body and began treating it to the same funeral rites they would give one of their own. They circled him, touched him with their trunks, and made soft rumbling noises.

Even more surprisingly, when a group of villagers came to reclaim the man's body for the family's own funeral rites, the elephants refused to move. When nothing would induce the elephants to relinquish the man's body, the villagers got their guns and began firing into the air at close range. Elephants in Africa are nothing if not familiar with the sound of gunfire and what it usually means, so the grieving herd was finally scared away.

Researchers have observed this strange phenomenon before. Of all the other species in the world, human remains are apparently the only ones to which elephants accord the same respect they give their own.



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