After my last post on packing and traveling tips for artists/students going on overseas adventures, I am following up with an article on which palettes, paints and break through technology I use ~ AND the reasons why I think you are going to like them!
This information should be useful for those joining me on overseas painting workshops as well as those interested in cool ideas for studio and plein air work.
I will be sharing my watercolour, acrylics and water soluble oil palettes and discussing the merits of traveling with them~ the main advantage being the ability to wash up in water! I will also give some tips on what palettes and paints you need, as well as why certain kinds are better than others for different situations.
It is very important, even if you are a beginning student, to use the highest quality materials available ~ I do not allow ‘student quality’ paints in my workshops. The reason for this is you will never get the results you are hoping for using inferior quality materials, and you need to give yourself every chance for success, whatever level you are working from. Painting is challenging enough, without battling poor quality materials. Besides, you may just paint that masterpiece and it would be a shame if it were not of archival quality!
So let’s jump in with Watercolors first~ I use Daniel Smith Extra Fine Watercolors~ they are made in Seattle, Washington and are of the highest quality pure pigments. As an official International Ambassador for Daniel Smith Paints, I was asked to create the ‘Georgia Mansur Palette’ to help artists select a well-balanced palette when they are starting out.
Daniel Smith makes close to 250 different colors in outstanding transparency and intensity of color. This palette should simplify the process with the overwhelming amount of options available ~ it was quite a challenge to test them all and come up with my recommendation of 16 for the Georgia Mansur Palette.
The colours I have chosen are sufficient to paint just about anything under the sun. As well as the essential “workhorses” — warm and cool variations on the primary colours, I have chosen a couple of ‘bling’ colours as well. The palette has been chosen for its flexibility in depicting different subjects and lights, including some specialty surfaces, including a mother of pearl iridescent sheen, perfect for depicting shimmer found in nature as well as subjects like stainless steel and other tricky surfaces. It also has a range of transparent, staining, non-staining and granulating colours to allow a wide range of applications. The Quinacridone colours are unbeatable for their juicy vibrancy, I think you will enjoy them!
I have two different setups for my watercolours, one for quick sketching and lightweight pen & wash traveling and the other for studio work or with a tripod easel for full-on plein air painting. See pics in my earlier post on these setups in more detail.
Now let’s talk about Acrylics. I am a Trained and Certified International Golden Artist Educator and I am crazy about the Golden products~ from ‘Go to Whoa!’
Depending on the situation I am working, I use all the Golden products but I do have my favourites. If you have ever walked into an art supply store and faced a wall of products and had no clue what to get or how to use them……listen up, because I am going to get you sorted!
There are basically 4 types of acrylics made by Golden and I will explain the differences here AND when and why you would use each. I will also talk about using the gels, pastes and grounds so you will have a good idea after reading this what you would like to try in your own work to get specific results.
Golden Acrylic Paints all come with 100 % pure pigment load but the differences come into play in their viscosities~ a wonderful advantage to being able to control the paint in texture and viscosity that will change the way you think about painting in acrylics. The brilliant technology of these products is amazing and gives unique opportunities to maximize what you can do with them. All Golden products are archival for 500 years~ the lab technicians have tested them under conditions that simulate/prove this theory since they are relatively the ‘new kid on the block’, when it comes to paint media.
Basically, paint is made up of pigment and a binder, the substance that holds it together~ in this case the binder is a polymer. Inferior brands on the market add fillers, chalk and other products to cut their paint and that is why it is cheaper but also the reason that they produce muddy and non-archival quality art. You can save a lot of money by knowing how to use the correct paint for your needs and it doesn’t have to be poor quality. Here’s a rundown on each one.
- Heavy Body
- High Flow
Fluid acrylics are very concentrated, the consistency of pouring cream and they are great for doing washy techniques and glazing. They can be used on their own or extended to save money using the gels, pastes and grounds. Packaged in a squeeze bottle for handy use in numerous applications.
Heavy Body acrylics are what most people think of when you say ‘acrylics’, the standard tube or tub of acrylic paint that is most popular. It is designed to hold a brushstroke and the viscosity is more like butter or frosting. Dries quickly and great for layering and thicker mixed media applications.
OPEN acrylics are the surprise packet that I love to use most often, and here are the reasons why ~ unlike most acrylic paints that claim to stay ‘wet and workable’ for long periods of time, it is engineered to be chemically different than all other acrylic paint on the market. (Other brands that claim to be slow drying are simply adding a retarder to their product).
Ordinary acrylic paint ‘skins over’, drying from the outside in ~ Golden OPEN paint dries from the inside out, and stays wet and workable similar to the time frame of oil paints, taking about 2 weeks to cure fully. This unique quality makes it ideal for working en plein air, as it dries to the touch fairly quickly but remains movable and active for up to 2 weeks on your substrate, making it possible to change and lift (unlike other acrylics that dry quickly and are set completely when dry).
With regular acrylics, paint you squeezed out and didn’t use that day is wasted. With Golden OPEN paint whatever you don’t use can stay wet in your palette indefinitely if kept in a sealed airtight container and stored with a wet sponge.The beauty of this is in the huge savings to your budget and the satisfaction that you are not wasting paint~ I don’t like waste so this really appeals to me. In fact, I squeezed out paint in my palette (see pic) in Feb 2010 and I have not wasted any except for what is stuck to the sponge where I cover each well of paint. I just keep adding to it as needed and still going strong!
The consistency of OPENS is somewhere between fluids and heavy body, a bit more ‘loose’ and easily thinned into washy consistency with water or made thick impasto consistency with gels and pastes~ totally flexible, you have complete control of how you like to work. Personally, I like to start out with washy transparent glazes and keep building up layers to end with an impasto textural painting~ exploiting the best of watercolour and oil/acrylic techniques!
If you like your paint to be more tacky, just leave the paint uncovered for a couple days to get a stiffer consistency similar to oils. I use the Creative Mark Acryl-a-miser palette/container for my Golden Open paints to keep them air tight and moist. Don’t forget you need to wet your sponges now and again if you are not painting every day…
The latest technology from Golden is the new High Flow acrylics. These paints were created to be somewhat like inks in their vibrancy and consistency and also can be used for airbrushing. I am only just starting to use these paints, and they are terrific for filling marking pens and other vessels, to get the effects of drawing and precision rather than brushing. Of course you can still apply it with brushes! There are probably heaps more methods to explore using this exciting paint but I am just giving you a quick overview now~ let me know what you think of them if you have tried them!
The next category, Daniel Smith Water Soluble Oils, is probably one of the most interesting and potentially exciting for those of you that have traditionally worked in oils but are finding the fumes, allergic reactions and irritations of using harmful chemicals of solvents and turps with oils is getting too much.
Daniel Smith recently sent me the range of these wonderful WS Oils to test drive and give feedback for the Australian market. My experience has been overwhelmingly positive, although I must admit I was not expecting to like them. I am really comfortable and happy with being a ‘watermedia specialist’ because watercolour and acrylics are so easy for traveling, no nasty chemicals and solvents to deal with in airports, the studio, or anywhere else for that matter.
The fact that Daniel Smith came late to the party in the area of water-soluble paints is a bonus in my opinion~ they let all the others have a go and then resolved all the issues of things like tack, odour, consistency, etc with their product. My only concern is that I will definitely use a brush cleaner with water to thoroughly ensure my brushes have no oily residue remaining, since I use watercolour and acrylics as well. One other thing, I will have to get used to the longer drying time~ the difference between working with Golden OPEN acrylics is that they are dry to the touch the same day but still wet and workable for up to 2 weeks~ with the WS Oils, they stay wet similar to regular oils so transporting them wet is a consideration if you are traveling.
Now for the game-changing techniques and products that will blow your mind…. Both Daniel Smith and Golden have been introducing products that are impacting the way the modern painter works. Daniel Smith Watercolor Ground comes in several colours, (including versatile white), which is revolutionizing the watercolor industry. Where once watercolourists were only able to paint on paper, these new surface texture products make it possible for watercolourists to paint on just about any surface….canvas, wood, aluminium, steel, plastic, stone, etc …. it opens up a whole new world!
The best thing about this product (and Golden’s Fiber Paste) is the ability to rescue failed paintings where you have lost the white or lights~ something that has prevented many from enjoying this delicious yet often unforgiving medium. I absolutely LOVE the ability to create texture in watercolour paintings, something previously only possible through illusion. You are only limited by your own imagination so the possibilities are phenomenal!
I personally love to use this product in creating textural surfaces like old rock walls, 3-dimensional foliage and about a million other applications where you could create texture! It can be brushed on to be rough or smooth, depending on which tool you apply the ground, i.e. roller or bristle brush, spatula, etc.
There are so many more ways to use these products within the parameters of your work~ I love to use the Golden gels, pastes and grounds for creating exciting texture, layering in mixed media work and so many other situations. The benefit of these products can be used at any stage of development as an underpainting, tinted to create coloured texture, as well as applying at the end of your creation (to either leave white or apply paint). Just keep in mind that gels go on white but dry clear and pastes go on white or grey and dry the same opaque colour.
I love that all Golden Gels, Pastes and Grounds can be interchangeable at any stage of development. The only consideration I would keep in mind is that if you are using OPEN paint, you will need to allow for the full curing time if you are creating a multi-layered piece. Also, consider that if you add gels, pastes and grounds to your painting the thickness of product will change drying times.
So overall, I hope this has given you some insight into different types of paint and new high tech products, when and how to use them and why. As artists in the modern world, the opportunities available to us are unlimited~ kind of exciting, don’t you think???
The terrific thing about painting is that there is so much to learn~ it always challenges my brain to evolve and adapt to the new technology and ways of working. The more I paint and play around with these products, the more creative ideas pop into my head about what I want to create…. perpetual inspiration!
And now a tip of a different kind…. check out the best book on painting I have ever read, Richard Schmid’s Alla Prima II~ you can order it online from stoveprairiepress.com The maestro has expanded on his previous book ‘Alla Prima’ ~ considered by many to be ‘The Bible’ for painters~ highly recommended.
Happy Painting~ I hope you will join me at one of my upcoming workshops in Australia, France, Italy, Portugal, California, Croatia, the UK, or…..who knows where I will be next ! I have a lot more to share with you but I will save that for later. Keep smiling and enjoying your creative pursuits ~ Georgia