Casein painting of a river otter floating in water

I had a couple of other posts planned, but they both seemed quite unimportant while people are dying of the COVID-19 pandemic. Art, however, is. It’s definitely one of the best coping mechanisms I know of when trying to get myself through difficult times, anyway.

This image has a bit of backstory to it. A few years ago my girlfriend was into taking various personality tests, and there was this one that associated you with a particular animal based upon your personality traits. I don’t remember what it is called or I would link it here, but there was a methodology to it and very detailed thought processes that went into the animal selections. It even had a very active forum with people discussing the topic. Upon taking the test mine came out as a river otter, my girlfriend a red panda. Months later I bought her a stuffed red panda, and she reprised it with a river otter for me. She selected “Toffee” as the name for her red panda, and I named my river otter “Nonsense” after the frequently-used pun “otter nonsense”.

I have been experimenting with casein paint a lot lately. My previous post on this blog in fact is of a polar bear painted in casein. I have a few others that I have done that I will get to posting here perhaps in a single post with all of them? I am not too sure yet. I actually began this one in late December while my girlfriend spent some time with me over Christmas. We painted together a few times, and for the longest time this was artist taped to the top of my cedar chest in my office barely worked on as I moved on to other projects and other paintings while I devised in the back of my mind what I wanted to do with this piece. It was initially painted in watercolor using a set of Winsor & Newton Cotman watercolors my girlfriend brought with her here. My intention was to use both it and casein, but it didn’t turn out that way in the end really. I initially had this more abstract water background that was reminiscent of swimming pool caustics going on I wasn’t happy with. When I finally got the nerve to work on it again I brushed masking fluid over the otter and painted over the top of the background with casein.

The extremely vibrant blue used in the water is not a color available in Richeson’s tubes. It’s a primary blue cyan made from some Sennelier pigment I bought off of Dick Blick. To make casein paint I simply add some pigment to casein emulsion, and I have casein paint to paint with. I might experiment in the future with more pigments as Richeson’s color offerings are a bit slim.

As for the subject matter itself: river otters sometimes will float on their backs, but as far as I know they never hold their food while in this position. I felt like I wanted him holding something, so in his paws I put a bluegill for him to munch on later. They are a fish prevalent where I live in Louisiana.