Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Leftover Paint

"Yellow Day with Lupines," 6x8, oil

When I'm done painting, I always end up with a good deal of contaminated paint on the palette.  This contaminated paint, if used in color mixtures, will give unpredictable results.  For example, sometimes I'll notice my white has little bits of all kinds of colors in it.  If I'm trying to make a light, clean violet by adding alizarin crimson and ultramarine blue to it, those specks of yellow will certainly muddy things up.  But, who wants to waste paint?  So, I scrape it up into a pile, blend it with a knife — and I'm often amazed at the beautiful color this "mud" makes!

It's so beautiful, I often use it in the next painting.

The painting above was made with my leftover paint.  I wish I had taken a photo of the color, but it was a subtle, yellow-green.  A little went into all my mixtures.   You can see a purer version of it, mixed with white, in the lightest passages in the sky.

The color was appropriate for the day.  Although we're having torrential rain at the moment, last week we had a few of those hazy, bright days that make us think of deep summer.  The air is filled with a golden light.  I wanted to capture that sense of light in this small piece.

By the way, I don't recommend using leftover paint if you mix any medium into it.  The medium will change the character of the paint.  This is especially true if you use an alkyd medium; the paint will have "cured" too much in just a few hours to be useful.


Carolyn Thompson said...

Hi Michael, I recently took an oil painting workshop - first time oil painting in 30 plus years! The instructor did the same with his left-overs - made a gray pile out of it. I was wondering, if you don't use it right away (I'm back to pastel right now) where can I put it - to keep it from drying out - are there little containers with lids? Do you have any suggestions?

Michael Chesley Johnson said...

Good question, Carolyn! If I'm going to use the paint in the next day or so, I just put a sheet of plastic wrap over the whole palette. If it's going to be several days, or if I want to build up a collection of this leftover paint, I'll scrape it into a little glass jar with a tight lid. Baby food jars work well, but you can also find other similar jars at places like The Container Store (www.containerstore.com).

Daniela said...

Your colors are always good enough to eat, Michael. That little strip of red in this painting helps the eye to travel so well!
I buy (ahem) little plastic urine sample jars that have screw on lids and labels from the chemist store (Ithink you call them drug stores?) same as medical centres use for tests, for left over paint - 'splodge' I call it. Thanks for the tip on not using medium in the left over mix, very good to know.

Carolyn Thompson said...

Well, that is a novel idea! Never would of thought of it! Whatever works!