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Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Don't Starve Your Palette

Recently, I noticed the tendency of students to squeeze out small bits of paint for a class.  Painting when you don't have enough paint affects your whole attitude toward the work. It says "I'm probably not going to make a good painting so why waste good paint."  That's a poor position from which to start anything.  If you want to progress, then as a student, it's your job to use enough paint to learn.  Some may say cost is an issue but I think if you look at the bigger picture, the cost of hampered learning is much higher. Learning to paint can be frustrating. But some frustrations are easily fixed with good brushes and enough paint. 

Sometimes you won't use all the paint you put out. Nothing is more annoying then when I put out paint and don't use it. It gets a skin and it's done.  If you feel this too, then get your palette knife and some old support.  Make a simple study from palette scrapings.  It's fun and instructive!  Don't worry over it, don't do a drawing under it.  Just practice mixing the right color, value and shape. Place them in their relative proportions.   The more you paint, the more you learn!

Below is a small (8x10) palette knife study done with palette scrapings. Try it.
This idea is not mine, I read it in a Richard Schmid book years ago. Thank you, Richard


  1. Wow, nice palette knife painting, Richard. Those are hard.

    I'm a semi-beginner, so I understand the stingy palette thing. In my case, I put out small amounts because I wasn't very confident about my mixing (still working on that), but found that if I said "to hell with it, I'm going to mix a big juicy brushstroke worth of paint" that my mixing and paintings came out much better. If your a painting student its' best to be BOLD.

  2. Richard, great advice... I am using a palette knife more often just to not fall into that bad habit of stingy-ness. Nice portrait.

  3. Great advice Richard, and a very nice knife painting.

  4. Thanks! Glad you guys like the palette knife painting and advice.

    Candace, I think your right it is a matter of confidence. Your also right that using less paint is a false solution. I often notice students who don't put out enough paint tweak the color and value on the canvas rather than mixing on the palette. That's a bad habit. When they do that learning stops. When a student mixes on their palette to get to something observed and misses it, they can go back to the palette and try again with the knowledge of the first try still there to work from. It's simply, I'm at point 'A' and Mixing to get to point 'B'. Make a couple hundred of those attempts on a painting and students can't help but learn. Every mix is a series of questions asked and answered.

  5. Nice palette knife portrait. I love doing them myself. Bravo