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Wednesday, July 06, 2011

The Perfect Studio Tabletop Palette

Every artist is different, but for me, I like clean and organization, but when it comes to an artist's studio, they are usually anything but clean and organized. One thing I've noticed over the years is the many different ways artists prepare their studio palettes.


For instance, this is the glass studio palette of artist Brian Kliewer.  A piece of glass over a light gray (possibly white) background - sometimes the way the camera captures color is tricky.  This is very much how my palette has looked in my studio for over a decade.


This was my studio palette for years.  I had a piece of tan canvas under a sheet of glass which I had cut for me to fit my tabletop.  I also had the edges of the glass smoothed and rounded so that neither I nor my children would get cut on it.  The color of the canvas beneath the glass was suitable for me to see the lights and darks for years, although in my subconscious, I knew it should be darker.  I was too lazy to change it.


This is the glass palette of my artist friend David Darrow aka "Dave the Painting Guy."  Dave is a fabulous artist, mostly portraits in oils.  He has a UStream show that you can visit HERE  and a blog that you can visit by clicking on his name above.  He is a wonderful teacher and very funny.  I love his show on UStream and have learned a lot from him over the years.  He talks to visitors of his show while on the air too, so you can ask him questions when he is live and on the air. 

One question recently posed to Dave was "why don't you scrape off all the paint and clean your palette?"  To which Dave replied "I like to see where my paint goes" or something like that.  He didn't want to have to think about how to lay out his colors each and every time he set out his paints.  I can understand that.  He said he leaves his globs of paint on his palette and then scrapes off the skin and puts on more paint. If you watch his UStream show enough you see him doing this frequently.  I cringe every time I see him peel off the paint skin.

Now in my opinion, he has one big mess there, and personally, I do not like having dried oil paint skin anywhere on my palette because it always manages to find its way onto my painting.  I hate having to pick off the bits of dried paint from my painting and my brushes - I know you know what I mean!!


This is Nelson Shank's palette.  In the traditional sense, he uses his wood palette, even in the studio from what I have heard.  He sets out his paints meticulously on his handheld wood palette with medium attached.  As organized as this is, it is definitely crowded.  The color of his wood palette, however, makes for a wonderful ground in which to see his lights and darks.



I don't know whose wood palette this belongs to.  He uses a lot of cool colors though.


This is the glass tabletop palette of Richard Schmid.  In the same respect as David Darrow, he leaves some dried paint around the perimeter of his glass palette to see the colors, making it easier and faster to lay out the palette for a new day of work.  If you notice, the color of the ground beneath the glass is gray - again making it easier to see the lights and darks.


So today, I decided to change things up a bit while I cleaned my studio.  About a year ago, I took a piece of tan canvas 24 x 36 (the size of my glass tabletop palette) and I made a semi-circle listing of all the colors I like to use for most of my paintings.  Then, I put this canvas under my glass palette.


The other day, while at Michaels Craft Store, I found some golden dark tan canvas.  I'm talkin' the perfect dark golden tan - not too hot, not too bland, not too light, and not too dar - "just right" said the three bears.  "Wow" I thought, "That's exactly the color I want to tone my canvas before I start a painting."  And so this Bear of an artist purchased this perfectly toned canvas and took it home.  And pressed it. 

Why did I press it you ask?  Because I am going to use it beneath my glass palette and if I don't press it, then it will have creases in the fabric that cast shadows where I don't want them.  Pressing is good for the soul anyway - unless you're in a hurry.


Then, I cut it to the size of my glass palette + a little bit bigger than the finished size of 24 x 36, and I pressed it again for good measure.


This was my palette this morning before I changed things up.  Oops, didn't clean my palette.


I had some foam board and cut it to the size of my palette table (24 x 36), and in the process left some dents where my knees were.


With the beary nice dark golden tan canvas beneath the foam board, and some beary nice craft glue from Martha Stewart, I glued the canvas to the foam board - but only on the back.  There is no need to glue the canvas on the front of the foam board.


Isn't it pretty?  This canvas is actually darker golden tan than you see here.  The light from outside was filtering in through the windows.


I placed it on my palette table and admired it.


Then, I took some paper and mapped out my palette, deciding which colors I wanted to leave in and which colors I wanted to remove.  Basically, I wanted to figure out my color plan.  As for colors on my palette, I am not a minimalist.  I am more a Richard Schmid (12-14 colors) or Nelson Shanks (20-30 colors) type who would rather have the immediacy of the colors at hand rather than having to mix everything, although I do a lot of mixing and have used a minimalist palette of 5 colors in the past.  Yes, you learn a lot from a minimal palette, and when I paint in plein air - the minimal palette of 5 colors goes with me.  But for my home studio - well, I think you can see that i have about 14 colors on my palette. 


You probably have to squint to see it, but with pencil, I drew a light semi-circle on my canvas leaving room to write the names of the colors and place color squares above the names.


Next, starting with Cadmium Yellow as the color at the top of my color wheel palette in the middle, I wrote in marker the colors I wanted on my palette - warm colors to the left (light to dark) and cool colors to the right (light to dark) except for the Portland grey at the bottom right of my color wheel palette.


Next I took a paintbrush and my paints and I painted 1 inch squares above the names of the colors on my canvas tabletop palette.


And I left some blank space on the left in the warm colors and on the right in the cool colors for any colors I might add to my palette for a specific painting.


Next, I cleaned my glass palette and placed it on top of my dark golden tan canvas with my color palette all laid out in full view.  Not only can I see the colors on the canvas, but I can see the the lights and darks much better.  I am also able to keep my palette clean between sessions in my studio - and I like that.

How do you lay out your palette in your studio?



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