Art, Breath, Paint, Air . . .

Art, Breath, Paint, Air . . .

Saturday, January 7, 2012

What 's on my Palette Tonight?

I just felt like sharing what was on my palette a few nights ago. I am working on a figurative commission (can't post it sorry). I use many more pigments than those that just happen to be on my palette that night though for different reasons. Sometimes it is because of the qualities of the pigment and sometimes it is just what I have. I am kind of an equal opportunity painter when it comes to pigments, but it is important to know the qualities of the paints you use before going off willy nilly and putting a lot of unfamiliar paints on your palette. Go to and watch the video on color space for a great start on understanding your paints. One thing I will say about the video though is that I do not use black to darken a color. It changes the hue and chroma. There are better ways of doing this. Although black can be very effective, you must understand it is someone like a low chroma blue and will act as such. I often have guest colors that I try out. I tend towards paint from M Graham and Gamblin with some other brands mixed in. I like buttery paint. See my other post on my usual palette. I don't use any student grade paint. They contain fillers and sometimes substandard pigments. That is false economy and a waste of time and money. Get good quality paint. M Graham and Gamblin both are made in the US and pack the most pigment to oil ratio possible. M Graham being more buttery because of the use of highly refined walnut oil instead of linseed oil. I like both of these manufacturers and will choose one over the other sometimes only because of a sale . Other times I might like the different qualities for different purposes. Take my color mixing class in January 2012 at my studio and we will go over all this stuff. You will learn a ton! I am also doing a follow up class, as well, in April 2012. "Infuse Your Oil Paintings with Light and Color" at the Northshore Art League  (find the post about it here).

From top left  M Graham Anthraquinone Red (a transparent, clean mixing, high chroma rose red that I use as a substitute for Alizarin Permanent), M Graham ultramarine blue (the gold standard in blues-a flexible, warm, transparent blue that tends towards the red side), Gamblin Cerulean Blue Hue (a blue that tends towards the yellow side, great for skies), Rembrandt Viridian (a cool green that is sometimes good for the areas around the eye-places where the skin is thin. I also use it for landscapes and Rembrandt's is buttery and clean mixing). Rembrandt Sap Green (Sap varies from manufacturer to manufacturer because it is a mix of pigments-I like Rembrandt's the best), M Graham Azo Green (a great warm transparent green I like for portraits and my koi/pond pieces).

Moving in a "U" to the bottom right we have M Graham Titanium White (the most buttery around, sometimes that is good like in the studio, but outside in the heat it can kind of wilt a little. I still use it for plein air though because less resistance equals faster mixing), M Graham Cadmium Yellow Light (an opaque yellow that tends toward the green or cool side. I like M Graham's cads because the walnut oil allows a wonderful brilliance, but I am known to use Gamblin's too), M Graham Indian Yellow (a transparent orange yellow that is great for neutralizing the purple in a Ultramarine/Alizarin mix without changing the value too much so you end up with a dark transparent brown or close to black), Gamblin Gold Ochre (I heart Gold Ochre, a version of yellow ochre with a tranparent modern in the mix so it has more tinting strength, chroma, and transparency), M Graham Cadmium Red (a nice warm, opaque, basic red); Vasari Ruby Violet (this is a handmade paint and is super pricey. I have it because it was given to me at a plein air show, I do really like this violet but not everyone of my friends feels the same, it is somewhat less intense than M Graham's Quinacridone Violet. M Graham's is a transparent high chroma violet that I like for bringing up the intensity of grey reds and violets and also just for intense reds/violets in flowers and such).

The brushes you see in the middle there are Princeton Art & Brush Company #6300 Filberts. They are synthetic bristle brushes (replica of hog hair). They have great spring so they show the paint who is boss. I can get a lot of different brush effects with this brush and will often do most of a painting with just one brush. They come to a fine chiseled point at least until they get used a lot. Like any brush, they wear out. It is just the cost of doing business. I sometimes like the way a well used brush gets splayed out and can give me a hairy brush stroke. But after awhile there is a diminishing return and you just have to replace it.

The pinkish brush in the foreground is a well used brush close to retirement and the white one behind is the same type of brush new. They are the 6300 series filberts. I am pretty sure those are size 8. Every manufacturer has their own size format. There is no industry standard, so look to the millimeter for the size.

I only use synthetics because I don't think animals should have to die for my art. They don't just shave the animal. They need the hair to be as long as possible. There are great synthetic brushes that leave me no need for dead animal cooties.

The smaller brush to the left, in the original picture of my palette, is a size 00 round from Winsor and Newton's Monarch line. I like this medium soft brush for detail work at the end of a painting. Again it is a synthetic-this time to replicate Mongoose hair. Mongoose are actually endangered and internationally protected. You would be surprised what people are willing to do to creatures. Here is a video about the problem in India. Although the audio doesn't seem to work, the pictures show you how they net, bludgeon, and pull out the hair. Although this is illegal now in India, they have made raids and confiscated bags and bags of the stuff. Now, I am not saying I know for a fact, but the popular Langnickel Royal Sable brushes sure look like Mongoose to me. Regardless of whether the Langnickel's are Mongoose, you can bet whatever animal is used, it is subject to a similar fate. I am just not into that kind of bad mojo for my work. I stopped using them years ago when I figured this out. I did a vast internet search and found very little about the use of natural hair in brushes. But now there seems to be a growing concern among artists. See this thread on wet canvas just as an example. Luckily you don't have to be limited to natural hair brushes! Don't be fooled by people who say such in such is the "best" brush for a certain effect. With a little experimentation, I have been able to completely remove natural hair brushes from my painting process.

I will do a post in the future that is more in depth on the synthetics available.

The palette I have is called  Palm Palette Outie. It is specifically made for use with the Soltek Easel, I decided I liked it so much I use it in the studio. It has a piano hinge design so it folds up and has a cover. Although it it not air tight, if I put a plastic bad around it, it keeps the paint wet a bit longer than if left open. I just got this and used it for Sedona Plein Air. See it in action in my post for The Plein Air Scene blog during Sedona Plein Air, 2011.

Thanks for reading! Hope this was informative, Tracey


  1. THanks Tracey- had no idea about how the natural hairs were/are gathered! Feel even better about painting with a knife! (still, ugh- I'm looking at my old brushes thinking....ick!).

  2. Great list. Found beautiful figurative art on The Creative Project.
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