We all know what the traditional artist palette looks like: Large kidney shape with a hole for your thumb. But as an oil painter, what are your other options?

Michiels Guillame

Michiels Guillame

Types:

Wooden – The most traditional.  Manufactured wooden palettes are sealed with varnish or lacquer, but I prefer to season them also.  If you make your own you will need to “season” it. To do so you rub linseed oil into the wood with a rag and allow it to dry.  I do this a few times before I use it and then at the end of my painting session 2-3 more times, minimum.

Seasoning Palette

Small palette made from one side of a wooden cigar box. The right hand side was seasoned with linseed oil.

Plastic – Durable and they come in a variety of shapes and sizes. They are usually made of a white plastic that will not stain.

plastic

Inexpensive plastic palette

Disposable – Convenient for plein-air painting, and are easy to clean up, made from layers of a wax paper.   The top layer is pulled away and thrown out after use.

disposable

Disposable palette with used layer torn away.

Re-purpose fast food containers – With the one shown below I use the lid as the palette and the bottom to seal it. I then place it in the freezer to help the paint stay fresh.

mcd

McDonald’s salad container as a palette

Glass – Can be placed on a work surface and any color of paper can be placed beneath to aid in mixing colors correctly. The surface can be scraped clean at the end of the session. Edges of the glass can be heavily taped to prevent sharp edges or a glass cutter can grind them down smooth. A glass thicker than 1/4″ works best.

glass

Reference photos can also be placed under the glass, so that you can mix paints on top and match realistic colors.

Other Variables:

Color & Tone – If you mix your paint on a dark brown, then go to place the same paint onto a white canvas it will not appear the same.  It helps to have a palette close to the color and tone of your working surface. Of course one option is to paint your canvas a closer value to the color of your palette. But this is not always an option.

Shape & Size – Rectangle or kidney shape are the most common.  A rectangle fits well in a paint box, while a kidney shape can fit more comfortable on the hand. Either way, in the end it is a personal preference.

Organizing Your Palette – How you place your paints on your palette is up to you. Some prefer light to dark, while others favor cool to warm.  Or even a random fashion, it is your call. It is only important that it makes sense to YOU.

Tips:

  • Place your colors along the outer edge so you have an open area in the center for mixing.
  • Start with fewer colors and add as you go, particularly if you are a beginner, so as to not waste paint.
  • Consider placing the colors the same location each time to build a reliable routine.

Note:  There is a new vertical palette on the market that intrigues me.  I haven’t tried it yet, but would like to soon. It is a vertical glass surface placed next to the painting, side-by-side.

These are designed by artist David Kassan and I believe they are available only online. If anyone has tried this I would love to hear your thoughts!

Painting In Oil – Part Two – Mediums

This week’s studio update is a bit different. I took a couple of days off to help move our oldest daughter and her family to Wichita. On the drive back I meandered and found a few interesting sites :0)

It does a spirit good to get out and explore a bit from time to time!

Yes Toto, we ARE in Kansas!

"Needle in a Haystack" Note there is actual rope (thread) hanging from the needle. :)

“Needle in a Haystack” Note there is actual rope (thread) hanging from the needle.

Taken at "Jurassic Art" in Rose Hill, KS

Taken at “Jurassic Art” in Rose Hill, KS

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Taken at “Jurassic Art” in Rose Hill, KS

Jurassic Park

Taken at “Jurassic Art” in Rose Hill, KS

I also ventured past “Sculpture Hill” which features the art of Frank Jenson. Sadly, I did not get any pics due to my own poor planning and my selfish desire to not get ran over by a roaring semi. But you can see his work at the Sculpture Hill website. And of course you can see a couple of his sculptures in front of one my favorite places, the Chanute Depot. The depot houses both the Safari Museum and the Chanute Public Library.

Frank Jensen Sculpture in Chanute, Kansas

Frank Jensen Sculpture in Chanute, Kansas

Meanwhile, inside the studio there is a new item on the easel I will share next week.

Two commissions are being painted at the moment. The plan is to wrap them up by the end of the month.

In about six months time I think we need to look at increasing prices. So just a heads up!

pup

Underpainting 8X10″

girls

Oil on Canvas 9X12″

I have an obsession with chandeliers and things sparkly.  I took some time yesterday to take a few reference images for a future project at a local shop. The last one, the little black chandelier, I am thinking would look cute in my studio/office. 🙂

chand3 chand4chand5

mediumsMediums used with oils modify the character of the paint.  I personally like to not have my paint dry too quickly, unless it is an underpainting, and with a medium I have more control over this factor. I prefer to work wet-in-wet whether I return to the canvas an hour later or twenty-four.

Linseed Oil – Made from the flax plant it is the binder used in most oil paints.  There are a number of different types due to consistency, color and drying time.

  • Refined – An all purpose medium.
  • Cold Pressed – Dries a little faster than refined and is considered to be of better quality than Refined.
  • Stand Oil – Thicker with a slower dry time, to touch in one week.
  • Sun Thickened – Syrupy version thickened by leaving a slightly open container of Linseed Oil in the sun (Is actually a bit more complicated than that, but for our purposes here….)

Safflower Oil – Dries faster than Poppyseed Oil but similar characteristics.

Walnut Oil – A thin oil it makes the paint more fluid.  Dries in 4-5 days.  It also yellows less than Linseed Oil

Turpentine – Can be mixed 50/50 with Linseed Oil for a medium. Use an artist grade quality and not household.  Can be purchased in low-odor varieties.

There are a number of other mediums for oil paint, enough for a book. It is all a matter of personal choice.  The point is this is another area that an artist can gain control.

Painting In Oil – Part One

So, what has happened in the last week?  A small local exhibit of paintings began with a reception on the 12th. It will run until mid Feb. See pics/post of reception here.

smaller

Current piece (commission) on the easel – Underpainting 9X12″

I have also managed to do some boring but necessary office work: New letterhead and decided upon a new basic bookkeeping system. Other than that the focus has been to adjust to a work schedule that allows me to get things accomplished, but also have my lazy time 🙂

Pricing ones own art work has always been a challenge.  I have tried different methods over the years with varying degrees of success. Below are ten things to keep in mind when deciding on pricing.

  1. Your sales history is important.  Do you already have a strong following and sales record at a certain price point?
  2. The market you are selling your work. If you are selling exclusively in a small town in Kansas your prices may be dictated by the local economy. But, if you are selling online you will have a different demographic to consider.
  3. Awards and/or achievements can also effect the price, particularly the more prestigious.
  4. How much you are needing/wanting to make is also a factor to consider. Do you want to make $1000 a month selling one or two pieces? Or do you need to do a number of smaller pieces for the bottom line?
  5. How much time will you be devoting to working in the studio and on sales?
  6. Overhead is important. What does it cost you to create your work in supplies, travel etc…
  7. What is the competition for similar work?
  8. Is there a strong demand for your work? Maybe it is time for a price increase?
  9. How long does it take you to create your work? Take into consideration research and the business side of things as well as time in front of the easel.
  10. Your financial goals are important. Do you want to be making $10,00o in sales this year? $50,000 in five?

For me I have found it is a balancing act, and needs to be constantly tweaked and adjusted to meet my needs. But, don’t tweak and adjust it on too much of a whim. Your customers need to know what to expect.

 

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