My favorite tools/toys

Favorite tools/toys

If I found a hundred bucks on the sidewalk, I’d look around to see if anyone obvious dropped it. I like to think most people would. But if the sidewalk was otherwise empty, I’d definitely be tempted to put the cash in my pocket – and head to the nearest art supply store.

Forget the kid in the candy story. An artist in a good art supply store can be greedy, dreamy, inquisitive and acquisitive all at the same time. Oooh, what’s that? That looks cool. Oooh, what a great color! Hmmm, I could really use a brush that size. Evidence to the contrary, there is no such thing as too many art toys, I mean, supplies.

My favorites

When I was in art school, I would make my own stretchers and stretch the canvas myself, painting on two or three coats gesso to seal the fabric, and sanding between coats. When I started painting again just a few years ago, I used canvas boards. They have a tendency to warp, but they’re cheap, and it was a good material to practice on. Now, I usually buy pre-stretched and primed canvases. I discovered I couldn’t make them for the price I could buy them. So, I only make my canvases if I want a special size.

Ground color

I usually coat the entire canvas in Cadmium Red Light acrylic. Its orangey-red color adds tiny pops of color where there is no paint to cover itand the warm color can influence the color on top when the oil paint is applied thi

nly and translucently.

Sometimes, I’ll use a mid-tone violet or gray for a ground if the scene is going to be wintry or dark and I don’t want that hot red peeking through.

Acrylic and oil on the same canvas

Wait, what?? You’re right. Usually oil and water-based acrylic don’t mix. However, if the acrylic is applied first and allowed to dry completely, you can paint on top of it with oil paint. And I do. The opposite doesn’t work – no acrylic on top of oil paint.

Ready to try it yourself?

I happen to like Gamblin Colors paint, but I have used Winsor & Newton and other brands. Both offer a reasonably good student grade, but avoid cheap paint – the colors are sometimes off and there isn’t a lot of pigment per blob of paint. It can be very frustrating. The same pertains to acrylic paints – stay away from the cheap stuff. There are also some very high-end paints that are very pigment rich, that are hand-ground, etc. Frankly, I can’t afford them.

Go for it! You can’t hurt anyone if you mess up. You aren’t likely to be the next Van Gogh, but you never can tell what might happen. Just like everything else, the way to success is practice. Just paint and have fun.

I’m happy to answer any questions you might have and the people at Plaza Art are wonderfully knowledgeable and helpful. I’m also available for private or small group lessons. Happy painting!


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