Thursday, July 14, 2011

What's in a pallet anyway?

I've had a couple of questions about my pallet, brushes, medium, etc., and while I wish I had some amazing story to tell, I'm really a pretty simple guy when it comes to paint.  The picture above is of my setup.  I'm using a plain old piece of glass on top of a set of plastic strorage drawers with wheels from Wal-Mart.  I've always used glass because it's easy to clean even when I leave paint sitting for too long (guilty as charged), and the plastic drawers were a cheap way to get the pallet waste high and have some storage for brushes, paints, and other supplies.  I've been using Utrecht or Daniel Smith paints, although I'm fine with just about any brand as long as they have good pigmentation.  I'd love to try Williamsburg paints but that'll have to wait for my lottery winnings to roll in!  Ha!  As far as colors, I stick pretty much to basics.  Starting in the bottom right hand corner of the photo and moving clockwise there's Titanium White, Naples Yellow, Cadmium Yellow Light, Cadmium Orange, Cadmium Red, Alizarin Crimson, Ultramarine Blue, Viridian, and Pthalocyanine Green.  I'm thinking of adding a few colors, probably starting with Cobalt Violet, but for oil painting I really prefer to keep it simple and mix any colors I need.  When I need black (or rather something close to black) I mix it from Alizarin Crimson and Pthalocyanine Green. That way I can push it towards the red or green spectrum depending on the needs of a particular painting.  I try to have no more than three colors in a mix (the first two get me in the right hue family, and the third is for tints and shades.)  I pretty much stick to bristle brushes and have an assortment of flats and rounds, although recently I'm using the rounds for most of my work.  My medium is a traditional mixture of damar varnish, stand oil, and turpentine.  I mix up large batches at a time and then fill small squeeze bottles to keep on my work table.  For my first layers of painting I use a 1:1:3 ratio (oil:varnish:turps) and then a fatter 1:1:1 for subsequent work.  After experimenting for many years with different techniques and mediums (including alkyds and acrylics) I've pretty much returned to the materials I used in my first painting classes with at Lamar with Larry Leach (a FANTASTIC painter and teacher and my first real mentor.)  I've still been painting on gesso primed canvas that I tone with acrylic paint, although I'm kind of itching to try some primed birch panels again.  Larry recently told me about Winsor's Artists Oil Painting Medium and I'm planning to check that out as soon as I'm out of my current batches of medium.  That's about it, pretty simple I think, especially considering that I've met painters who keep dozens of colors on their pallet.  For me I tend to find that less is more, and after all these years I've come to believe that painting has more to do with how you see and feel than what you use.

I'd be interested to hear what you all consider to be "must have" items for your paint box.

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