"The true painter strives to paint what can only be seen through his world." ~André Malraux

After a year of intermittant "painter's block"  I am working again in my studio, and feeling in a tentative positive state. Painting is a solitary activity, and as artists, we are often working in a vacuum. Unless we have a show hanging, reaction to the work is minimal. With several pieces underway, I decided that perhaps if I write about what I am doing or am attempting to do, it might act somewhat as a muse for me as well as give me some feedback on the work I am creating -- hence the establishment of this blog. 

As for the blog title, traditional, representational painting is a language for expressing what’s visible. But I feel my work is the most successful, and most interesting, when focused on things not entirely visible. I paint what I see but also what I sense and feel by utilizing my interior and unseen world --- in other words, the invisible world. Plein air work or  studio work from photographs are only touchstones or landmarks which guide me to other inner spaces. By so doing, I find that I am pushing the boundaries between representational and abstract work.

You can enlarge the images in this blog by clicking on them.

Feb 1, 2011

As an artist, your tools are important. Over time you will find which paints work best for you, and which medium, which brushes. I use oli, and not even the new water-based kind. I just am used to them, and like how they work, feel, and the natural colors they impart. Acrylic seems too bright and feels "fake" to me! Tubes of oil paint are NOT all the same. Talk to your friends, google it on line such as the forum WetCanvas, and learn about the attributes of each hue, each brand. 

Most artists are also very fussy about their brushes – the springiness, the shapes, etc. I am as well, but cannot afford really expensive ones because I am very hard on my brushes. And of course I often paint with, and scrape away with, my painting  knife. And do try out different grounds--- besides canvas (and do you prefer cotton duck or the finer more expensive linen?) there are boards--- masonite, clayboard (which I love), etc. The paints work differently on all of them. And try painting oil sketches on gessoed paper for a new experience.

Some artists limit themselves to only three or four colors when painting. I am not one of them. I arrange my paints on my palette the same way I did 57 years ago back in New Jersey, the way my first oil painting teacher, Edwin Mott, taught me to do when I was 13 years old (see photo left, me with another one of the fledgling artists in Mr. Mott's class in front of his studio in Caldwell NJ, on a sunny Saturday morning circa 1956). The portrait is the first one I ever did when I was in high school -- and still under the tutelage of Mr.Mott -- taken from a baby picture of mine and was a gift for my mother. 

These days I use a large disposable palette pad instead of my trusty old wooden palette from the fifties, because it is easier to clean up. But the paint gets arranged on the pad basically the same way in this order: --- 
My original basic palette was always as follows, and probably back in the day, all Windsor and Newton brand, but no longer:

Basic Palette--- where I try to have a warm and cool shade of the basic colors--- red, yellow, blue, green and brown  I could indeed use only these colors for any painting. But often I don't.

Titanium White (I like Permalba)

Burnt Sienna (any brand)

Burnt Umber (any brand) essential for "dulling down"

Yellow Ochre (I now use Old Holland Gold Ochre and                   

        Old Holland Naples Yellow as well) This has replaced the 
        Raw Ochre of my past

Cadmium Yellow Light or Cadmium Lemon (Windsor

        Newton) or a new one I just heard about-- Nickel Titanale

Cadmium Yellow Medium (Gamblin) or Hansa Yellow Light (Gamblin)

Cadmium Red Light (Gamblin)

Rowney Rose (Rowney) just because it is a color I CANNOT seem to mix

Cobalt Blue but not Cobalt Blue HUE (any brand) 
Prussian Blue now known as Pthalo Blue as well (any brand)

Ultramarine Blue (any brand) for a cooler blue

Permanent Green Light (Gamblin) (or Rembrandt’s Per. Green Dark)

Viridian Green

Landscape Essentials --- Over time, I have added a few colors I need for landscape work. I do not use all of these on every painting, but have them available as needed. 

Van Dyke Brown

Sap Green which I find essential for landscape work – a dark earthy
          transparent green with yellow undertones

Old Holland Geel Yellow

Old Holland Warm Grey (I cannot live without this for seascapes)
 I am told I should have Chrome Oxide Green and  Sevres Blue (Rembrandt) but seem fine without them.

Optional Greys ---  And just because I am lazy, I do often use one of the other greys--- don't tell anybody
Old Holland Warm Grey light 

Old Holland Shev. Warm Grey

Payne’s Grey really a way to cheat when you need a near black hue

Glazing --- transparent or lakes, I LOVE these, use them rarely, but they work wonderfully. 

Indian Yellow — warm yellow makes painting look lit by sunlight

Transparent Orange — warm orange for sunrise/sunset

Transparent Earth

Shevringen Blue Lake (Old Holland) I actually like ALL lakes!

Alizarin Permanent A MUST and really should be part of my basic palette
            (Gamblin), and sometimes Red Madder, and Quiniquidrone Red

Quinicridone Magenta (Gamblin)

Orange Lake (Old Holland)

And after a tip I have just ordered  Gamblin’s Manganese Blue Hue — a cool (toward green) transparent water blue and their Phthalo Emerald — a warmer, more natural looking Phthalo Green. I just ordered them from Cheap Joe’s Art Supplies.

The medium I use is Gamblin, both gel in a tube and liquid in a bottle. It helps the paint dry faster, and leaves a lovely sheen almost as if painting has been varnished. I use turpenoid for keeping my brushes in during a painting session, and to mix with paint for an underlayment-wash. And sometimes for "dripping" though I have to be careful of lean over fat, and try to add some linseed oil to the turps when I do that .

If you have any favorite tubes of paint, add a comment and let us know! Just click on "comment"


  1. My head spins at all those colors!

    My approach to a watercolor palette is reductio ad absurdum.

    Hooker's Green Dark
    Hooker's Green Light
    Leaf Green
    Sap Green (not sure what the diff is between leaf and sap)

    Ultramarine Blue
    Cerulean Blue
    Cobalt Blue (in an expensive brand that someone gave me and which I use sparingly because I'm saving it)

    Burnt Sienna
    Burnt Umber
    Van Dyke Brown (If it was good enough for Van Dijk, it's good enough for me)

    Alizarin Crimson
    Cadmium Red

    Yellow Ochre
    Cadmium Yellow
    Gamboge Hue (which I bought by accident and only use in moments of stress)

    Payne's Gray (when I'm feeling lazy and don't want to mix a gray)
    Chinese White (used straight from the tube for fudging things)

    I never clean my palette and just sludge around colors in it as needed to come up with nice muddy, dusty colors of indeterminate hue. Very satisfying for my kind of work.

  2. Interesting that your watercolor palette is so similar to my oil palette Lew!