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Some thoughts on preparing the palette

Some thoughts on preparing the palette

Never skimp on the good stuff. Cheap materials make cheap artwork!

Put enough paint on your palette without retrenchment. Especially the colours you will use often, such as white, yellow ocher, cadmium red and burnt sienna. I often see students adding medium hoping to obtain more amount of paint.  Always use the same order. The sequence you determine yourself, for example the darks left, white in the middle, and the lights on the right, or from dark to light with white left. Or the yellows and reds at the right and the blues and greens at the left side. It does not really matter as long as you always keep a fixed order. You must find your way blindly. (keep your kitchen organized!)organized palette

I am in favor of premixing some flesh colours. This palette is also called the closed or set palette. Take your time to premix this colours. For me preparation is fundamental. If, after premixing, there is no time enough left to start painting, put all mixtures on a tile that you save in an airtight container, and store it in the refrigerator until the next day.

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Comment Section

9 thoughts on “Some thoughts on preparing the palette

By Maranatha A. Obasi on 3 October 2017

Dear Ben,

I am an art enthusiast and quite an artist myself. I am talented at sketching/drawing people exactly as they appear and have possessed this gifting from an early age. I have followed your advice and guidance in purchasing additional book materials on how to perfect my drawings. The only thing left for me to do is to begin painting. Indeed I have already purchased water color and oil paints as well as other painting tools to begin the process. I would like to start with oils, but what do you advice? How can I start painting, a hobby I have so desperately longed to start and something I need to learn and perfect at this stage in my life? It seems daunting. Can you help me?



By Ben Lustenhouwer on 8 October 2017

Dear Maranatha. From here it is difficult to advice. Just start to use oilpaint and see what happens. It is not an easy technique, but once you control it it is marvelous. In my two long videos I show I to get started and step bu step I show how to paint a portrait.

By Frank Holmes on 26 March 2014

Hello Ben
I hope you don;t mind me being so formal with you .
I am retired inSpain Roquetas de Mar Almeria I tend to paint in solitude as there are not many painters near me.
I have just started painting in oils after painting in Watercolours for some time,I sometimes find the medium difficult to work with but I will persevere with it.
I am painting a portrait of my Daughter who has just graduated from university,but find it is not easy ,I have read much about it but cannot get any real lessons on how to do it ,so I am struggling a bit .
Can you give me some advice ?it would be much appreciated,I am 80 years old so it is late for me to be learning ,but I have the time I hope to get to grips with it.

Yours Frank Holmes

PS Do you live in Spain?

By ben on 26 March 2014

Dear Frank.
I’d love to help, but where to start? I get many questions like yours and what I usually advise is to buy a video tutorial. That will help you to get started.
If there are still questions remaining, I would like to answer them. Yes I live in Spain, In Chelva, Valencia.
Kind regards.

By George M on 14 January 2014

Mr Ben, may I ask you something:

your comments on preparing your palette is in any way associated with other minor practices as an artist? I mean what kind of advice would you further give on keeping a steady schedule on actually painting among other obligations? (especially for people who have a family, like you do).
And also what are your, lets say, inner resources for having preserverence towards accomplishment of your goals? Is it faith? Self confidence? Family support?


By ben on 14 January 2014

Hi George. Some complicated questions. About schedule I cannot say much. I am a fulltime painter and I have a professional studio. So for me working conditions are ideal.
But in the beginning it was´t. So I have been fighting years and years to get everything done. I did so in the belief that this was my only goal. Motivation is different for everyone. What I can say is this: take what you do very seriously. I got full support of my wife and daughter. Otherwise I would have been unsuccessful. Of course, I was convinced that I was able to achieve something. But the most interesting question is: what do you do when you fail? Give up or fight back? I would not complain, but the road often is very lonely. I have learned to be very critical, not content with cheap applause. I have learned more from your losses than from my victories. But, as in life, it’s all about the right balance. Balance between what you want and what you will be able to do. Balance with yourself. Balance with your partner, with your family. That are my inner resources. Finally this. As a portrait painter I want to be a modest reporter of harmony. Regards. Ben

By Jude on 5 January 2014

Hi Ben, approximately how much paint do you put on your palette of each colour…for what looks like an A3 sized portrait you are painting here? I usually end up with too little paint like you mention … Should i have say 10-12mls? (The size of a small non professional tube of paint) And when you’ve mixed a color would you mix about the same amount?

By ben on 6 January 2014

Hi Jude.
The amount of paint depends on the size of the canvas indeed. Have a try and add if needed. Than you know for the next time.
But I have to say this: I throw away more paint than I use on the canvas. It is like sharpening a pencil. 90% disappears in making a sharp point. Life is hard sometimes.

By Zorro on 2 March 2014

Or you can scrap all your leftover paints in jars, a jar for light, a jar for dark, add some linseed oil and use it for background. Or you can mix them together to make nice grey color.

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