Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Supply Lists—Oil

Some of my oil paints - and I have many more!

In my last post, I wrote about supply lists in general.  Now I want to offer the supply list I use for oil painters in my plein air painting workshops.  Over the years, I've varied it a bit, but I always use a split-primary palette, with variations.  (You can always find the current supply list here.)  Although in my own practice I vary my palette frequently, for workshops I always make sure I'm teaching with what is on the list.

Would you like to take a workshop with me?  For schedules and details, visit www.MChesleyJohnson.com/workshops/

To avoid confusion, I keep the supply list short. But here I thought I would be helpful to comment on my choices.

Paints:  Split-Primary Palette: Cadmium Yellow Light, Cadmium Yellow Deep, Cadmium Red, Permanent Alizarin Crimson, Ultramarine Blue, Sap Green, Titanium-Zinc White.  Earth Colors: Yellow Ochre, Burnt Sienna, Raw Umber. (I use Gamblin for all my oil painting materials.  The Gamblin 1980 Oils are "student grade" but work well, and I recommend them if you don't want to pay for "artist grade.") 
Commentary:  First, let me say that all the paints I use regularly are from Gamblin Artist Colors.  The paints are consistent from batch to batch, and they play well together.  Plus, Gamblin has offered me tremendous support over the years with my workshops, and they even asked me to design a color ("Sedona Red") for the Sedona Plein Air Painting Invitational several years ago.  They've even named me a Gamblin Dedicated Workshop Instructor.  Scott Gellatly, the product manager, has been very helpful whenever I have technical questions, and as a painter himself, he deeply understands concerns painters have about materials.  So, you can understand my bias towards Gamblin.  All that said, there are many brands of paint out there, and each painter has his own reasons for favoring one brand over another. 
My palette is a modified split-primary palette.  The standard split-primary palette has a warm and a cool version of the three primaries.  My variations come into play with the blue.  I have just one blue on this list—ultramarine blue—and I have added sap green.  Yes, you can make your own green, but sap green is very convenient color to have, although you always will want to modify it with another color.  One interesting thing to note:  add a bit of sap green to ultramarine blue plus white, and you get a warm, greenish-blue that is perfect for a clear sky close to the horizon.  (Some of you may remember I used to have phthalo green on this list; beginners have such a hard time controlling this color that I've removed it.) 
I have the earth colors on the list because they are good modifiers for the more intense pigments on the split-primary palette.  Raw umber, for example, greys down ultramarine blue nicely to a more realistic sky color.  Yes, you can make the earth colors (more or less) from the split-primary palette alone, but like sap green, they are convenient to have.  (Speed is of the essence in plein air painting, and the less fussing you have to do with mixtures, the better!)

Thinner:  Gamsol.  Please, no turpentine.
Commentary:  I use Gamsol (Gamblin's odorless mineral spirits) for washing my brushes and also for thinning paint.  Again, there are other OMS products, but make sure you get genuine OMS and not some "natural" substitute.  Some students bring Turpenoid, which is fine because it is OMS, but don't bring Turpenoid Natural.  This is a citrus-based solvent that is good for washing bushes, but you can't use it as a thinner—it never completely dries. 
Turpentine is just plain evil.  It has a very strong odor, and in the studio, it will give everyone headaches.  Even if you use it only outdoors, when you bring your paintings into the studio for critique, the odor will be overpowering.  Don't bring it to the workshop.

Medium:  Galkyd Gel (dries faster) or Solvent-Free Gel (dries more slowly) - but I don't use it very often, so it is optional
Commentary: If I use a medium at all, it might be for either of two reasons.  First, if my paint mixture isn't workable enough, I'll add some Solvent-Free Gel.  Second, if I'm worried about my paint not drying fast enough, I'll add a little Galkyd Gel.  Both of these are from Gamblin.  You can certainly bring some other medium, such as Liquin.  I do like the gels because they don't require me to use a metal cup to contain them.  (After only a couple of uses, the lids on those metal cups seem to get welded on.)

Panels:  Hardboard panels to which two coats of acrylic gesso have been applied.  (Bring 9x12s - plan on 2 panels a day for full-day workshops - and also a few 5x7s).  Avoid the cheap cotton canvas-covered cardboard panels.  If you prefer not to make your own panels, Ampersand Gessobord is fine, although it is more "slippery".
Commentary:  For my method of painting, where I am working wet-into-wet and with a lot of layering, it's important for the intial block-in to not mix very much with the layers I put on top of it.  I like the panel to absorb some of the thinner and oil from the block-in so it is somewhat "fixed."  This approach doesn't work with a non-absorbent panel.  The cheap panels seem to be coated with Teflon, which is why I avoid them.  Ampersand Gessobord is better, but you still have to develop a knack for working wet-into-wet.  A more absorbent panel, such as what I make myself, works better.  (I use hardboard panels from Dick Blick, apply a coat of Gamblin PVA to size it, then two coats of acrylic gesso; if this is too absorbent, I will brush on a layer of Golden Acrylic Matte Medium.  Each of these layers has to dry before the next layer, of course.)

Brushes:  Hog Bristle Flats (#10, #8, #4) plus a couple of small hog bristle rounds (#4, #6). 
Commentary:  I use good brushes—Silver Brush's Grand Prix line—but whatever you bring, make sure they don't splay and have "wild hairs."  Some of the synthetics are good and don't wear down as quickly.  I've started using Silver Brush Bristlons for my block-in, where I am rather vigorous with the scrubbing.

Painting Knife: I like a small, trowel-shaped one about an inch long
Commentary:  This small knife is great for scraping (both palette and failed paintings), for mixing paint and also to paint with.  I use an RGM "Idea Line" knife 19/5 IR.  This is made of a single piece of metal with no weld to break.

Also:  Wet panel carrier, container for thinner.  Handy Porters or PanelPak for carriers; I use the smallest Holbein brush washer for my thinner container.   If you are traveling, you will need these carriers to get your paintings home!
Commentary:  I can't tell you how many times students forget they need to get their wet paintings home.  If you're flying and have to pack light, consider also using Galkyd Gel in your paints, as this will help the painting dry in a day or two.  As for the brush washer, don't use a glass jar—it will most likely break in the field when you drop it on a rock.  I've used my stainless steel Holbein brush washer for over 15 years and have had to replace the gasket only once.  Although it's expensive, it's worth it.

Next time, I'll share my supply list for pastel.

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