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Building My Palette

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Over this long weekend, I have managed to make time to work with the Sennelier ‘Abstract’ acrylic paints I mentioned last week. I only got red, yellow, blue, black and white, which means lots of colour mixing. That was the whole point of the limited set but it means I have not only been learning more about colour but also about the possibilities and perils of mixing acrylics.

Lesson one was that a palette knife is a better tool for mixing than a brush. The knife can pick up a controlled portion of colour, combine it into the mix and be easily cleaned with minimal waste. In comparison, loading a brush is less precise and, by the time you have combined two colours, you need to give it a good rinse before moving onto a third. Brushes would be okay for small amounts of colour but, even for the size I’m working at, a palette knife is the way to go.

Lesson two was that, in order to use a palette knife, you need a flat surface. My watercolour palettes, which have generous declivities for pools of watercolour, don’t suit mixing with a palette knife. Mixed in with that was lesson three, that acrylic paints dry out quickly unless you keep them in a moist environment. That has led to me experimenting with various DIY stay-wet palette ideas – a wick for moisture like a paper towel under a mixing surface within an airtight container.

The first attempt was an old food storage box. Paint preservation was accomplished (if anything, I had it too wet) but the sides were too high and the mixing area too small. Yesterday, we found an old tray and I had a large, clear bag to cover it. I had a small mishap with the handles on the bag (now removed) dragging through the paint but managed to clean that up. This morning, I discovered that the mixing surface I was using – baking parchment – wasn’t durable enough and was falling apart into the paint. The current iteration uses a plastic ‘slippy’ document holder on top of the wick and I’ll see what state the paint I transferred to it is in this evening.

Still, I’m learning all about mixing including the physical requirements, so the job is being done in that regard.