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Frequently Asked Questions - General

FAQs - General

I always use professional grade paints and here is why. Cheaper brands, often marketed as student grade, are really a false economy.  In order to reduce the cost for these paints, manufacturers reduce the "pigment load" or the amount of pigment in relation to the medium (such as gum Arabic for watercolours). The pigments are also often replaced or reduced with artificial colouring that may not react in the same way as true pigment would for a particular hue. Chalk and other fillers further reduce the quality your colours.  You would need to use far more paint and in many cases can never achieve the proper saturation. My collection includes Winsor & Newton, Da Vinci and M. Graham but there are many other quality brands of artist grade paint.

My basic palette consists of 8 colours. I vary these, depending on the effect that I want. Permanent Rose, Cobalt Blue, Aureolin (Azo) Yellow comprise my delicate triad. They are not staining and are what I use for initial washes. These three paints can be scrubbed out back to the white of the paper and easily softened later. As I move into deeper tones, I tend to use Alizarin Crimson (a staining paint), Ultramarine Blue, and Gamboges Yellow. To these six paints I use Burnt Sienna and Burnt Umber for my earth tones and mix with the other colours to create an extensive array of colours. Of course, when I want to capture a certain hue of an object, I may add other paints but these are my stand-bys.

Arches 140 lb cold pressed watercolour paper is a staple in my studio. When paintings are larger, I like to go heavier with 300 lb to keep buckling to a minimum. I tape down the edges about 1/4" onto the paper on a large Masonite board. Some of my tiny miniatures are painted on 6" x6" Strathmore Artist Tiles.

I use both. Sometimes when the lighting is just right and I know that it will change before I can get it painted, I take a photo. I continue drawing and painting on site and then finish in the studio using the reference photo. The problem with using a photo from the start is that you often lose the sense of depth that being there gives you. That being said, I snap lots of photos as I go through my days. 

Frequently, my models are friends, students and neighbours. A rapport is already established with them and makes the experience better for both of us. Regardless of our relationship, our modelling sessions are kept professional and models are paid for their time. While traveling, I'm often lucky enough to photograph the locals without them bothering about me at all. These are often the gems that become my favourite paintings. I also like to make quick sketches of them and make notes to set the feeling for the potential painting.

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Rembrandt Soft pastels are a good overall pastel but I also use NuPastel when a harder stick is needed. Derwent Pastel pencils are great for the final details. As with my watercolour paints, I always stick to professional grade pastels which have a stronger pigment load and perform well.

For several years, I have used Canson Mi-Tientes paper and art boards I am currently experimenting with different surfaces for my pastels, looking for greater "tooth" to hold the pastel in place for more complex work. I will post my findings as I try the different surfaces out.

Usually, time and complexity determines the dimension of a painting. I know that some artists often stick to the same size for framing purposes, but I would rather the subject dictate how large or small I make it. I like to work larger but sometimes it is rather satisfying to get a little painting started and finished in one or two sessions.

My process is inconsistent when it comes to doing preliminary sketches. I often work out the decisions about a painting in my head, mentally switching out elements, palette and values until it is what I want. Then I become a painting machine, often painting almost non-stop for several days until the image in my head jives with what is on my easel.

That being said, working out your stategies on paper before you start painting may save frustration and grief when you have already invested time and materials on a project.