Workshop Supply List
You may bring any medium you like and any easel you are comfortable with.
If you want to learn to use the acrylic medium, bring:
minimum 3-color acrylic paint palette plus white
homemade palette for mixing
stool or other support for your open paint box
at least once good large brush made for acrylic
canvases, panels, or boards gessoed with white primer, size recommendations
Professional grade acrylics compared -link to Lindsey Bourret’s
Choosing the Acrylic Paint that’s Best for You
Buy a fishing tackle box—NOT an art bin—with molded dividers, one compartment for each color.
- Molded dividers are important because paint can leak from one compartment to another if the dividers are the slip-in kind.
- Buy a box that forms a groove where the lid closes over the bottom. This is superior to a simple lid, which allows moisture to escape too quickly.
- A two-tray box is adequate for all the colors, but lately I’ve been buying a three-tray box which gives an empty tray on top where I can lay a wet rag, keeping the paints moist even longer.
- If possible get a box with a light-colored top to keep it from cooking in the sun.
I order from Bass Pro by telephone because of their great customer service. Fishing tackle boxes change frequently and Plano model 6103-93 which I recommended recently is now no longer available. Knowing this might happen I ordered several last time.
I hate to waste paint and I hate taking time to set up a palette for every painting session. The tackle box keeps the paints fresh from session to session because it has a groove in the lid that prevents moisture from escaping. I spray with water before closing as well as throughout the painting session.
Using a three-tray box I can keep paint in the bottom two trays and lay a sopping wet washcloth or similar rag on the top layer. That really works!
If you store your box in a cool place, out of direct sunlight, your paint will stay fresh for many weeks. If you paint indoors a lot, spray with water laced with a spoonful or two of vinegar to kill the mold spores. (Note — using vinegar regularly seems to cause the paint to solidify into a jelly-like blob. Using very little vinegar and simply changing the wet rag periodically may work best.)
Painting outdoors allows UV to kill off the spores so you won’t need vinegar.
To clean the box, leave as thick a layer of dirty paint as you can — don’t scrape out the paint when it’s wet. Leave the box open to dry for a week or more until the paint is hardened all the way through. Then fill it full of water overnight. The paint peels right out like leather.
I squeeze enough color into each compartment to last for three or four painting sessions and arrange the colors as I would on a conventional palette. The arrangement isn’t too important as long as you do it the same way every time; this saves precious seconds when you’re mixing.
is an essential when painting outdoors. Stand under a tree if you can. But when you’re in the sun, especially on dry or windy days, you’ll need to lightly but repeatedly mist your paints. I no longer buy the large size refill bottle of Windex for household use. Instead I buy individual Windex bottles and fill them with water after they’re empty, carrying one laid flat in my paint box.
Get the “original” half-size Jullian French easel. Mine is many years old. Avoid the cheaper Plein Air easel made by Jullian or any knockoff brands. The Jullian will be cheaper in the long run, and you’ll learn to love your reliable old friend.
You can add comfortable padded adjustable shoulder straps, made for backpacks and available at mountaineering stores, or slip the easel into a small backpack. I put my water bottle in the pack and my stool folded on top.
Folding Stool or Table
I use a simple folding stool to support the paint box if I’m hiking any distance.
Lately I’ve been buying inexpensive folding camp stools and removing the end caps from the legs, then inserting lengths of dowel and attaching them with duct tape. This saves my back by putting the paint box high enough so I don’t have to bend over.
Make a throw-away palette out of two pieces of foam board or cardboard, cut to fit inside your folded French easel drawer.
Hinge the two pieces together with duct tape to make a folding palette.
This is lightweight and cheap, and can be used for months until paint buildup renders it too heavy. It’s not necessary to gesso it before using. I set this open palette crosswise on the drawer of the French easel, open the fishing tackle box crosswise on the stool, and then pick up bits of paint from the tackle box and mix them on the palette.
This frees up my hands so I can hold the brush in one hand and a good cotton paint rag in the other.
I love white canvas that will show brilliantly through a thin wash. Synthetic canvas is great for using with acrylic, although I have come to prefer linen.
I highly recommend linen-covered panels from Tim Giles of New Traditions Art Panels, 801-825-7806.
Tim’s email address is: email@example.com
These panels are not cheap (though they probably cost less than any other linen panel you will find), but you will become a better painter the first time you use one.
They are archival, high quality, and extremely lightweight for their size and hence great for air travel.
I use the AC 14 portrait linen surface primed for acrylic.
They have the most beautiful surface I’ve ever found, slightly rough—just enough to grab the paint—but with a fine weave.
What size canvases to bring
The size panels or canvases you bring to a workshop depends on your circumstances.
If you are driving and large panels won’t be hard for you to manage, I highly recommend very large canvases or panels, up to 40”.
If flying, bring 18×20” panels as the larger size and 10×18″ as the smaller size–or two sizes of your preference.
Painting on a large canvas or panel can be freeing and will let you work without critiquing yourself since you can’t fixate on the whole image without stepping back ten or twelve feet. This is a plus!
Working freely and fast allows you to paint a “first draft” before focusing on the small stuff, and prevents you from criticizing yourself too much. You have the freedom to establish your composition and vision with big gestures and shapes.
If you bring mostly small panels, please bring two per day. It won’t hurt to leave with some blank ones.
If you decide to bring both large and smallI panels I’d suggest you bring at least one panel per day. A large piece may take two or more days to complete.
My palette of colors consists mostly of cadmium, pyrrole, and quinacridone colors. This is because you can simulate any earth tone by mixing these colors, but if you use only earth tones you can never get a bright orange. Now that pyrrole colors are on the market, I try to use them. Unlike cadmium colors they are not toxic.
Painting with high quality paints with excellent tinting ability is an absolute necessity. It’s impossible to achieve great results with mediocre materials.
Avoid student grade paints, which have lots of filler and relatively little pigment. Avoid any paint called a “hue,” which is another way of saying the color has been approximated with cheaper pigments (though there are exceptions to this, such as Hooker’s Green Hue, concocted because the original is not light fast).
You can get along with any of the three limited palettes below, or you can get all of the colors I like to use. You’ll have to work harder using fewer colors, but either the limited OR full palettes below should allow you to mix nearly any color you see.
In creating these suggested limited palettes, what I was after was to find the fewest tubes of paint for the greatest color range.
Every limited palette does not give a full range of color: for example the infamous limited palette touted by many, consisting of ultramarine blue, cad yellow light, and alizarin crimson. This particular palette doesn’t allow for a true lime green or chartreuse due to the reddish quality of ultramarine blue, and it doesn’t allow for clean pure purples or violets or magentas due to the brownish tint of alizarin crimson.
I believe it’s possible to come close to a full range with only 5 or 6 tubes of paint, an inexpensive way to try out acrylic without a huge dollar investment.
A limited palette is a great teaching tool. Each color takes longer to mix at first, but learning to mix with a restricted palette is a huge step toward being able to see and replicate any color swiftly and without leaning on the left-brain and its knowledge of “warm, cool, color charts, color wheels, primaries or complementaries.”
Mixing without using color names is a big part of this.
The idea is to learn to mix colors the way “Understood Betsy” learned right from left, by just jerking the rein in the direction she wanted the horse to go rather than trying to remember which was her right hand and which her left, and then transferring that knowledge to the rein and eventually to the horse.
Also a limited palette helps the painter focus on value. Since value creates the structure of a painting it’s hard to underestimate the importance of this.
I use Golden Heavy Body Acrylics, but there are many other reputable brands available. If you have a good local art store they will help you find the best quality professional acrylics, or try Dick Blick, Art Supply Warehouse, Jerry’s Artarama or other online art stores.
Add Titanium White, 8 oz or more, to all these palettes:
phthalo blue, red shade #1260
C.P. cadmium yellow light #1120
quinacridone red #1310
phthalo blue, red shade #1260
hansa yellow light #1180
naphthol red light #1210
quinacridone magenta #1305
6-Color Palette (Marcia’s choice)
cobalt blue #1140
turquois (phthalo) #1390
C.P. cadmium yellow light #1120
C.P. cadmium orange #1070 or pyrrole orange #1276
pyrrole red #1277
primary magenta #1510
Marcia’s full palette
Cadmium Yellow Light #1120
Cadmium Yellow Medium #1130
Cadmium Orange or Pyrrole Orange #1070
Pyrrole Red #1277
Primary Magenta #1510
Hooker’s Green Historic hue #1454
Chrome Oxide Green #1060
Permanent Green Light #1250
Dark Turquois (phthalo) #1390
Phthalo blue, green shade #1255
Cobalt Blue #1140
Dioxazine Purple #1150
Violet Oxide #1405
You can truly suffer trying to make a painting with bad brushes. A good brush is a tool that will help you easily accomplish what you want. My favorites are the Isacryl brushes by Isabey. These are synthetic, but they have plenty of snap and retain their shape for years. You should have at least one large (1” or wider, about a #16) quality brush. I like brights and filberts because they are short and stiff; I like to carve shapes with their thin edges.
For your smallest brushes, buy flats rather than brights or filberts. In the small sizes, a bright will splay almost immediately; because it is proportionately longer, a flat isn’t so likely to do this.
I keep some old bristle brushes around for times when I want a fuzzier, easier edge. If you use both oils and acrylics, or if you have a lot of leftover bristle brushes you formerly used for oils, they can be great for acrylics. All that oil paint will have conditioned them beautifully and they’ll far outlast bristle brushes you buy and use just for acrylics.
Please use old washrags, torn-up towels, all-cotton t-shirts, or cloth diapers rather than even the highest quality paper towel. Paper towels don’t work for my method of acrylic painting. You need a substantial absorbent rag in your left hand at all times.
Professional grade acrylics compared
PROFESSIONAL GRADE acrylics — see article by Lindsey Bourret,
“Choosing the Acrylic Paint that’s Best for You”