Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Clamps and Palettes

There's so much good technical information about oil painting on the internet right now that it's hard to come up with new or useful ideas to share with other artists, but I'll share a few things I do just in case it's new to anybody and might help. Also, I have stolen ideas from a lot of other artists, so apologies if I have stolen an idea from you and forget to credit you and besides, you probably stole it yourself from somebody, didn't you?

 I should clean this palette up a little before I post it, but here you have it as I used it yesterday. Usually I have a primitive painting string set up, with three to five values of a color per blob, so this palette is exceptionally messy, even for me.

Frequently I like to move a palette to the painting while I work on small passages, taking the mountain to Mohammed, so to speak. Clamping the palette to the easel works well for me. Here I'm using a double-hinged Manfrotto clamp, available at friendly internet mega photo stores everywhere.

You can also do this with a larger palette but you'll probably need a couple of clamps. The big benefit to this method is that you have your palette and your painting in the same light. It also helps the mind skip easily from the painting to the palette when you're trying to manage subtle passages in modelling, for example, and keeps the mind from skipping to other thoughts, such as, "peanut butter again for lunch?" . My paints are not usually very runny but if they are, you can put a piece of duct tape along the bottom ridge of the palette to keep paint from sliding onto your shoes or your floor. (Speaking of floors, I paint while standing on a rubber mat. It makes a big difference to do that when you are standing for several hours.)

(As while as I'm digressing, I might as well mention that I have a cuckoo clock that goes off, as they tend to do, every hour. This signals me that I should walk around, have some water, do some pushups, check Facebook - just kidding, don't check Facebook! -  use that noise as a signal to get away from your painting for a little bit and look at it afresh. If you're going down the wrong path it's better to know sooner rather than later. If you don't have a cuckoo clock, use a timer. I don't have a real cuckoo clock, it's a little plastic clock where a car comes out of a tunnel and beeps. I use timers for a lot of things since I tend to get too focused on working and then I forget to do all the other things I'm supposed to do.)

Clamping your palette keeps your left hand free-ish (I'm right handed so I have a brush in my right hand). I have a glove on my left hand and it's usually holding a scrap of towelling. I still bump into my palette when I lean over it to noodle around on the painting, but I'm getting better at this.

The shiny glob on the palette is Oleogel, a terrific medium by Natural Pigments and discussed at length by the wonderful Kate Stone at Painting Stuff to Look Like Stuff. I buy mine in a can and then tube it, it's cheaper that way. One of the good things about Oleogel is that it won't run down a tilted palette and stays happily in its glob shape until you need it.

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