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ART SUPPLIES and TRAVEL TIPS
Painting the Impressionist Landscape workshop is an exciting approach to seeing and painting color and light outdoors. It is important to know what you will need and what to expect. Bringing the right things for a location workshop will not only make the experience more enjoyable, but helps you to eliminate a lot of unnecessary packing and carrying. Please remember that these are suggestions. Feel free to bring additional colors, easels of your choice; whatever it takes to make you comfortable.
Because I will encourage you to explore color boldly and fearlessly, you must feel free to experiment with paint. Although you always get the best results with top quality professional pigments such as Winsor-Newton, and Rembrandt oil paint, you may also choose their less expensive versions of some colors. These are generally more desirable than the very cheap, generic brands that you might find in your art supply or hardware stores.
For example, Winsor-Newton makes a series of colors called Winsor. Winsor Red, however, is less saturated, and more fugitive than the more expensive Cadmium Red. There are many less expensive, but good quality paints available such as Liquitex, Grumbacher, Utrecht, and Van Gogh. Many of the top manufacturers make a student grade paint, and these can be good choices.
When selecting student grade paint, make sure the colors are not too thin and oily when squeezed out onto a palette. Very cheap, generic paints by unknown manufacturers are usually made with fillers and extra oil, and do not have strong saturation and mixing properties. These can impede your progress and can end up costing you more in the long run!
Because they are not standardized, names of colors may be different than those listed here. I will explain them in detail in order to help you make your selection. Try to choose your colors according to my description and open the caps, if possible, to really see what they look like.
As you gain confident in your work, and begin to master the techniques, you should upgrade your pigments in order to maximize the quality of your color in your work!
I have honed down the list to include only the most important colors. The preferred colors are starred.*
Cadmium Lemon Yellow - Compared with other yellows, this is the lightest and coolest. It shouldn't be as bright as a primary yellow, in fact, it contains a little tinge of blue. Because the yellow family is so warm, Cadmium lemon yellow is an asset when you are need a yellow that appears warm in the light, but cool enough so that it recedes visually. When you want to warm a color with yellow, and would prefer to avoid making it too hot, this color is a good choice.
*Cadmium Yellow Pale - This warm, luminous yellow is the primary yellow of the color wheel, and the `true‘ yellow needed to create all the other mixtures. Your Cadmium Yellow Pale should look like the bright, pure yellow that from your `Crayola Crayon' days.
*Cadmium Yellow - This “yellow” is somewhat deceptive : In spite of its primary namesake, it is actually a tertiary color mixed from yellow and orange . It is warm, rich and vibrant, darker in value than Cadmium Yellow Pale and lighter than Cadmium Orange.
*Cadmium Orange - Mixed from red and yellow, Cadmium orange is a true secondary color. This pigment should have the same clarity as an orange Crayola crayon. Because it is a mixture of two warm colors, Cadmium Orange is one of our warmest notes, and can appear visually warmer than Cadmium Yellow.
*Cadmium Scarlet (warm red) - Rich reds are rarely primary: meaning that they tend to be slightly warm or cool. The colors listed here are general names for either of these reds, and are not standardized. It is important to note that the name, Cadmium Red, does not mean it is a primary red. In fact, it is an earth tone, a very grayed, dulled color. Because there is such a wide variety of reds on the market, the only way you can be sure if your red is rich is to mix it with white. It is also very hard to find a true primary red, so you must decide if you want a red that leans to the warm or cool side.
*Permanent Rose - This beautiful pink color mixes well with almost everything. It’s transparency requires that white be mixed into it in order to evaluate it. It is cool in comparison to Alizarin Crimson, but it is much warmer than Permanent Magenta!
*Alizarin Crimson & *Permanent Magenta -
These colors, both of which are transparent, are similar in value and intensity. While the former is a warm, the latter is a cool red-purple. It is to your advantage to know how these colors look directly out of the tube because they offer so much variety when mixed with other colors.
*Purple - These are dozens of violets on the market, some transparent, some opaque, some warm, some cool. Some called purple, violet, mauve. It is necessary to only have one at the beginning of your color journey. Since purple is easily mixed, you eventually may prefer to mix you own. Some people prefer purples that are mixed with white; note that these are more opaque and lighter in value. Violets and purples are the least standardized of all the colors, varying widely among the manufacturers both in name and degree of saturation.
*Ultramarine Blue - This is a dark, transparent blue, that when mixed with white, immediately calls to mind the true primary blue. This is our 'workhorse' blue, as it is useful for everything, and mixes beautifully with all of our colors. As a primary, it is the coolest blue.
*Cerulean Blue - This relatively warm blue was selected because it is a little lighter than Ultramarine, and is usually somewhat opaque. It mixes well with yellows to make a great assortment of greens.
Cobalt Blue - While Cobalt blue is warmer than Ultramarine Blue and cooler than Cerulean it isn't a true
mixture of the two. I find it useful because it makes a wonderful green when mixed with warm colors, thus providing an extended blue range. However, you will find that you won’t need to use it at the beginning, as you can easily warm Ultramarine Blue.
*Viridian or Emerald Green - Only one of the four following greens is necessary. Many people prefer to mix all of their greens, and sometimes I do too. However, if you like to have premixed green on your palette, it is helpful to know about this one. Dare and transparent, Viridian is the most standardized of the greens available on the market. When mixed with white, it creates a beautiful pearly green. Some so-called Emerald Green's -- a variety of cool greens-- are actually Viridians with white added to them.
Permanent Green Light or Cadmium Green Light - These luminous, middle-value greens are quite warm, and both work well with earth tones and oranges. As with most colors, these are not standardized and will vary greatly among manufacturers. In general, look for a very warm green.
*Yellow Ochre - This is a beautiful color, which is deceptively dark in value. It is my favorite of the 'earth
tones' and it has an amazing capacity to be both very warm and very cool. It mixes beautifully with everything, and I never cease to be amazed at its versatility! Yellow ochres vary a great deal. The prettiest one is made by Grumbacher, Winsor-Newton has a light yellow ochre. Again, look at your particular tube and see it is luminous and rich.
*Light Red or Indian Red or Burnt Sienna - In addition to Yellow ochre, pick one of the following earth tones. Light red and Indian Red are simply the names of different earth tones, light red is warm and Indian is cooler. I think one of the following is enough, but if you wish to include more than one earth tone in your palette, make sure that there are appreciable differences between them. These subtle, neutral colors mix well with everything. Burnt Sienna is darker than the other two. I use it when I want to darken a color, or neutralize it without lightening.
White - I use a Titanium white because I love its covering power and opacity. Thinner and more transparent whites are also available, so you should experiment to decided which you prefer. Regardless of your choice, make sure you carry a large tube of it!
WATER SOLUABLE PAINTS
I’ve recently discovered water-soluble oil paints.
The colors are as rich and saturated as regular oils. They have the advantage of drying quickly, but not as fast as acrylics. They feel like oils without the plastic quality of acrylic paint. Using one of the drying mediums made by the manufacturers, paintings are dry to the touch the next day. Talk about easy packing!
Paint left overnight on the palette remains moist and flexible. And talk about convenience. You never waste time looking for turpentine in a foreign city. And you and your car never smells of turpentine when you have a spill.
I have tried all of the available water based oils. All have a lovely assortment of color, but can be a little dry. My favorite brand is Lukas Berliner Water Soluble paint. Their pigments are really gorgeous, moist and fluid.
Do not run out and buy these paints and then immediately take them on a painting trip. I did this once in Greece, using a new brand of painting panels and Alkyd oil paints for the first time. It was a disaster. Give yourself plenty of time to get used to them before leaving for a workshop.
As a matter of fact, this is true for all supplies and equipment. Make sure that you familiar and comfortable with anything new whether it is art supplies or pochades. Familiarity with your equipment for working outside is a must. Reacting spontaneously to a fleeting light effect can be jeopardized when your easel won’t open or if you have forgotten an important item. Being prepared makes painting outdoors much more fun and rewarding!
A palette may be the most important item when painting outdoors because it is the main vehicle of your color mixing. This is not the item to skimp on. Frustration caused by mixing color only reduces the enjoyment of learning to see it!
The Jullian French easels come with good wooden palettes. Pochades have wooden drawers that are used for mixing. Prepare a new palette by rubbing some boiled linseed oil into it before using it. This gives you a slick surface preferable for mixing and keeps the paint from staining and drying too fast.
If you don’t have a travel easel, you can buy a good wooden palette or make one from good quality plywood with a birch or mahogany surface, called luan or ‘doorskin.’ Prepare the luan palette by sealing it with varnish or polyurethane, following with the linseed oil mentioned above. You may have to purchase a full sheet of luan from a lumber company, but after you cut out a palette about 12 x 16 or 16 x 20, you can cut the rest into small sizes and gesso them. They make a terrific and very lightweight painting surface.
You may prefer to mix color on a white palette which is usually made of plexi-glass.This type can be cleaned easily while working, and travels well, fitting inside your easel or sketch box.
I readily acknowledge the convenience of palette paper. You can buy plastic containers which have airtight lids that are made to carry them. The limitation to paper is that once the paper becomes filled with paint, it is impossible to continue using it. When you are trying to capture a light effect, it takes too much time to save colors & mixtures and transfer them to a fresh sheet.
Many art instructors won’t let you bring paper palettes with you. I am not such a martinet, but there is a solution. Purchase a large paper palette pad to hold the squeezed colors and then place a smaller pad on it. When the smaller mixing palette is covered, simply tear off that page and you instantly have a fresh surface to work on.
Charles Hawthorne wouldn't allow his students to use anything smaller than a putty knife to apply their oil paints. Fortunately, Henry Hensche allowed us to use a more convenient palette knife instead.
At first, using a palette knife feels similar to frosting a cake-unwieldy, stiff, and foreign. It is intended to keep painters from focusing on insignificant details and being too preoccupied with doing a 'finished' painting. Instead, the clumsy application of pigment with a palette knife is designed to limit students to thinking only about color.
Everyone starts out hating painting the palette knife. The irony is that by the end of a workshop week many people decide never to use brushes again. You may not think so at first, but the knife really becomes enjoyable. It is easier to clean than a brush, you need fewer knives than brushes and you don't need to carry additional items such as brush cleaning mediums and containers. It really lightens the load when walking to painting sites.
My favorite Palette knives are Loew Cornell palette knife # J-18 or Holbein Ecolse # 126. Both are 1 ½ inch diamond shaped palette knives that had a blunt, but definite point. You can find them in many art catalogs.
A palette knife should allow you to spread a lot of color while the point makes it easy to paint thin strokes and a bit of detail. I do not recommend a knife that is smaller in length than two inches, but do not hesitate to experiment with a larger diamond shaped knives preferred by many of my colleagues. What I believe is most important aspect of a good painting knife is the diamond shape. The thickness of the handle and the length of the neck will your choice. Experiment with different knives by different manufacturers to find out what you prefer.
For those of you who prefer painting with brushes, never fear! I now paint with both brush and palette knife and allow workshop participants to use both. Please bring at least 5 brushes in varying sizes such as 2,4,6,8. I do not suggest any one style of brush because that is a personal choice. However, I do recommend bristle brushes, not the softer type such as sable.
Do not forget medium and cleaner.
Using a palette knife inspires bold new ways of painting. You will find that you will use less medium; apply richer, thicker paint and gain greater richness than when using brushes. However- it is important that you feel comfortable in learning the color theory and so the use of brushes or palette knife is up to you.
A terrific advantage to painting with a palette knife is that paint can be applied easily, eliminating a need for painting medium. When using brushes, mediums and solvents are a necessity to make the pigment flow easily onto the painting surface. My choice for an overall medium is Liquin because I don’t have to mix it.
I am a ‘less-is-more’ person, and prefer not to do anything if I can buy it ready to use.. However, if you like to do this, there are many great formulas and recipes presented in art books on technique. You should experiment and find the one you like the best, and perhaps, which odor you can best tolerate.
Another advantage to palette knives is that you clean them with paper towels. Working with brushes requires a solvent in which to clean brushes.
Cleaning solvents like turpentine, turpenoid or mineral spirits are not painting mediums!!! Using them this way causes the paints to be applied too thinly lacking vitality. The choice brush cleaner is up to you. There are a number of products available that are made without resins. Using less toxic ingredients such as walnut oils makes painting much healthier.
Make sure your brush cleaner can be carried easily from car to location. I do not recommend coffee cans because their lids will start to ‘melt’ from the fumes of the solvent. If you don’t want to purchase an expensive portable brush washer, make sure that whatever screw type jar you use, has a firm cover.
DEALING WITH WET PAINTINGS
To speed up the drying time of oil paint, you can use an Alkyd white paint or Underpainting White paint instead of your regular oil white. Winsor-Newton offers a complete line of Griffin Alkyd colors which dry much faster than oil. They have all of the advantages of oil’s flexibility, but dry rapidly. If you do not want to buy an entire set of Griffin paints, using only an alkyd white with the rest of your colors will speed the drying process.
Underpainting White or Foundation white is available by many manufacturers and is used only for the first layers of a painting to speed drying time. It must not be used over itself or in subsequent color mixtures.
To use one of these whites, squeeze some out on your palette with the rest of your colors and proceed normally. As you continue to paint, you can either continue using with the drying white or start to use your regular oil paint white. By the week’s end, most paintings will be dry enough to pack.
Another solution is to use Cobalt or Japan Drier. The Cobalt dryer tends to look as if it going to discover the pigment, but it doesn’t. Use these dryers by adding 3 or 4 drops into three to four inches of white oil paint on the palette. Make sure it is thoroughly mixed. This makes the white paint work like an alkyd or underpainting white, allowing the painting to dry quickly.
One should be careful when using drier because the painting can crack if used excessively. However, used correctly, the convenience of packing dry paintings is really worth it.
Once paintings are dry to the touch, they can be stacked with wax paper placed between them and secured with masking tape or twine. If you wish, you can go to a hardware store and purchase “wood-joiners.” They are a staple like product and I use them for separating the wet painting panels for convenient transportation.
To make life even easier, you might want to find a small cardboard box that will hold your paintings once prepared to travel. Then you can load them into your car without worry or slip it into a shopping bag to take onto a plane and stash under your seat.
The color theory taught at the school can be easily applied to pastel, which makes it an excellent medium for learning color. Degas used pastels to the fullest potential, exploiting its vitality and brilliance.
It is most importance to have a big selection of colors. Many artists use Rembrandt pastels for the foundation of their painting, supplementing them with softer but more expensive brands for finishing notes. A large set of 300 Rembrandt pastels may seem like a huge investment, but it is actually the least expensive way to start. Pastels last for a long time so that you will get many paintings out of a large set. Don't skimp!
Acrylic paints dry too quickly to be used outdoors while learning this technique because it requires mixing wet colors into wet. However, many artists apply what they have learned to acrylic painting and are extremely pleased with the results. Hawthorne’s color theory, is, after all, adaptable to all mediums.
You will need something with which to draw simple shapes and outlines before starting to paint.
Pastels are excellent because they are actually dried oil pigments and the compositional outline mixes well with oil paint. Unfortunately, they tend to crumble when jarred around in a paint box. A good alternative is either Carbothello or Prismatic Pencils instead. Carbothello’s are pastel pencils that can be conveniently sharpened into points for thin sketch lines. Their pastel quality can sometimes crack when carried in a paint box or easel so the next best drawing tool are the Prismatic pencils. They are slicker than the Carbothellos and don’t mix into the oil paints as well, but they rarely break when sharpened. The colors chosen for these sketches should light in value, but discernible on the white boards. I usually use light blue or green.
Very important: Please bring a small sketch pad and some sketch pencils with you.
PAINTING PANELS AND CANVAS
THE BEST WAY TO LEARN SOMETHING NEW IS TO NOT BE WORRIED ABOUT EXPENSE. Following are suggestions for home made and store bought painting panels.
Please have two prepared panels per day to accommodate most of the week’s activities. Many people work very quickly and can complete three or four paintings per day. If you are such an artist or if you have the stamina to accompany me on a late afternoon or evening painting, bring extra.
Many workshop participants only use the best materials, but they too cautious or concerned about experimenting and wasting supplies. I am not recommending cheap, inferior quality supplies, but it is important to paint freely and feel unencumbered to waste some paint and canvas.
If save money, you can to prepare your own panels by purchasing 1/4 or 1/8 inch untempered or standard masonite cut into 9" x 12", 11" x 14", 12" x 16." I do not advise using larger sizes for the workshop. Apply one or two thin coats of gesso, sanding lightly between each coat. You decide whether you want a smooth surface or prefer to leave brush strokes showing.
Painting on a panel outdoors eliminates the problem of sun reflecting through canvas and it is less susceptible to punctures. Most pochades, by the way, are only fitted for panels. In the past, artists have used masonite for their indoor painting as well. As to the question of permanence, paintings done on masonite by my teacher Henry over sixty years ago have never needed restoration, They are as vibrant and beautiful as the day they were painted. Careful preparation is the key to permanence.
If traveling by air, you can lighten the weight of your luggage by preparing panels of “Birch plywood,” sometimes called “door- skin” or “ luan” found at lumber companies. It is more expensive than masonite, but incredibly light so I use it only for traveling. Because it can warp, gessoing both sides is a must.
Fortunately, plein air painting has gotten so popular that a number of excellent professionally manufactured gessoed panels are now on the market. There are many good brands such as Panelli, Ambersand, (not their smooth surface) Fresco Art Panels, and Ray Mar. Only buy gessoed panels made with real board or panels that have good quality linen glued onto their surface.
Avoid products called “canvas board” because this implies that is has a cardboard foundation.
I do not recommend this type of canvas boards. Despite the fact that they are cheap, the cardboard makes them porous which causes paint to dry too rapidly, especially outdoors. This makes it hard to cover the surface when trying to get a quick start. If you have to buy canvas board, prime them with at least two additional layers of gesso. This will create a less absorbent painting surface making it easier to spread paint.
The following are excellent sources for quality painting panels:
Wind River Arts - www.windriverarts.com - 972-342-4947
Canvas mounted to Gatorboard: lightweight firm and great to paint on. The best # is 350DP canvas.
Spectrum Art Panels - 505-437-8846 - Gessoed masonite panels.
SourceTek - 800-587-5462 - Clausen canvas on birch panels.
Daniel Smith - Danielsmith.com - 800-426-6740 - Multimedia Art Board is non-buckle board you can have canvas dry mounted for lighter weight, long-distance travel. Glue each to birch or mahogany panels upon your return from travel. Order #272020005 for a pack of 5, 16"x20" sheets. Other sizes available, too.
Additional Equipment information.
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Lois Griffel · 3363 S. Calle del Albano · Green Valley, Arizona, 85622 · 520-207-4055 · Email Lois