The Artist’s Materials, Tools and Palette

My worktable is made from to large tempered sheets of glass laid across a piece of plywood I use a tuna can for my odorless solvent, a cloth rag, a phone book that I use to wipe brushes, knives on. I use toilet paper for final clean up. I mix my colors with large plaster knives.

I use several different kinds of brushes. For the large areas and for blocking in I use large synthetic brights, usually sizes 8 and 12. I also use a large sable fan brush to smooth out things like backgrounds and large stretches of cloth or drapery, although I don’t use the fan brush to work on the figures or still life objects. For smaller areas, I use synthetic filberts to push the paint around and to block in areas, especially in still life and figures. But then I use sable filberts in a variety of sizes to work out transitions and details.

I use several mediums depending on what I’m painting. For skin and still life I tend to use a medium mixed from one part dammar varnish, one part stand oil and four parts turpentine (not paint thinner). I use turpentine for mixing my medium because odorless paint thinner isn’t strong enough to dissolve the dammar in the mixture. However, I do use odorless paint thinner to clean my brushes. For rendering drapery, I use straight linseed oil or Gamblin’s galkyd painting medium. My mediums are kept and squeezed out of squeeze bottles I got from a beauty supply store.

My palette of colors is consistent from painting to painting. I rarely add colors and I use every single color I have on my palette for every painting. I like to use Gamblin paints for the majority of my colors although occasionally I will substitute some other cheaper brands. I also use Winsor and Newton’s soft mixing white because I’ve found that it really is softer and more pliable than some other whites I’ve tried.

My palette is laid out in the following order:burnt umber, burnt sienna, raw sienna, yellow ochre, alizarin scarlet, cadmium red, cadmium red light, orange, cadmium yellow, lamp black, and Payne’s gray,

Since I’m a very systematic and planned painter, I also like to mix a majority of the colors before I even begin painting an object or a figure. This kind of “paint by numbers” approach is a way in which I can manage my anxiety, experiment, and keep my palette consistent. In order to do this I also have to think and plan the color scheme and mixtures for the entire painting.

Kenney Mencher is an associate professor of art and art history at Ohlone College in Fremont, California. His work is currently represented by Elliott Fouts Gallery in Sacramento, California, and Klaudi Marr Gallery in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

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