Come behind the scenes in my studio while I mix some oil colors.
The best oil colors are made from just two ingredients: pure pigment, and oil. Commonly used oils include linseed, poppy, safflower, and walnut. Because these oils have different strengths and weaknesses, it is important to know which oil is in your paints.
You can usually find the ingredients on the tube label (if not, research online or contact the manufacturer.) I prefer paints made from pure pigment and linseed oil.
I never recommend student grade paints, even for beginners, because of their the low pigment content. Paints with high pigment content (artist grade) yield the most vibrant colors, and are the most satisfying to use. The extra expense is well worth it.
Here is my palette.
I lay out my tube paints by color, with my own mixes at the bottom right. At the end of the day, I remove the leftover paint and preserve what I can. The next day I set out my colors again, clean and fresh.
The palette is glass. I painted a piece of cardboard gray and taped it to the back. I have lots of these in different sizes. They are easy to make and to clean.
Color can be described in three dimensions.
Hue is the color family (red, orange, blue . . .). Value refers to how light or dark it is (darkest blue to lightest blue). Chroma means intensity (dullest blue to most intense blue). To mix the color I want, I need to get it right in all three dimensions (dull light blue, intense darker blue, most intense darkest green. and so forth).
This is how the palette looked when I was painting some red leaves. You can see dull light reds, intense medium orange and orange-reds, dull medium green, and a slightly less dull lighter green. This photo also shows that I moved my whites to a separate piece of glass to keep them clean, and to give me more mixing room.
I use linseed oil to clean brushes while I work.
Since the pigment in oil colors is suspended in linseed oil to start with, it releases readily when I lightly scrub the brush in oil. Then I wipe the brush with a paper towel and keep painting. When it’s time to clean the glass, I wipe the surface with alcohol.
Just beginning with oil colors?
I recommend you start with a limited palette of one red, one blue, one yellow, black, white, and no more than 1 or 2 other colors. From these you can mix all kinds of hues, values, and chroma.
Mixing the color you want comes easier with practice! I once spent 3 weeks doing nothing but mixing colors, when I was attending a class on the Munsell color system. I have no regrets, it was a great way to boost my skills.
In the continuing series How It Looks in a Frame, here is Robin’s Nest, 16″w x 12″h, pastel pencil, charcoal, and graphite on toned paper . You can see it without the frame here. If you are interested in purchasing this or any other work, here is a link for How to Purchase this piece, and here is a link to the Prices page.
Being a working artist has its joys and challenges, but, through it all, your support and encouragement sustain me. Thank you so much for being my audience.