What to do
when you are bored, have lots of time on your hands or avoiding work. My good friend Linda Blondheim, the materfamilias of the Florida plein air movement, has started an art supplies for the needy movement and asked for donations. I have a ton of extra and slightly used supplies and have been wanting to downsize anyway so I thought, rather than actually getting work done, I would go through my brushes and paints and cull out the ones I don't need or use and the extra tubes of cadmium pumpkin medium or Thalo Azo Quinacidrone Magenta that I bought in a moment of desperation and donate to the cause. Now I know I have a lot of brushes lying around but until I took them out of all of the vases and jars and hidden places and piled them up, I didn't realize how many. It was a lesson in brush care and money out the door that I suppose was good to get. I don't care for my brushes as much as I should so they get a little frayed and bent and crusty. When the flats and the brights lose their corners they are no good to me any more... unless they are big and cost $17, then I find use for them. I had so many scratch and dents in a pile that every artist who walked by my space said..."holy crap, that's a lot of brushes". this sampling to the right is about a 10th of my holdings. I tossed the lost causes, soaked the maybes in turpenoid natural (wonderful paint solvent, terrible paint medium) and salvaged all that I could. Got a box full for her.
Now then, it's time to go through my paints. I'm a bit of a paint tube hoarder so I went through my drawers and culled the decent tubes for the cause but found I had a ton of mostly used tubes of white, yellow, red, blue, etc. What to do, what to do... as it turns out I also had a few open tubes laying around that I was saving for just this moment. A chance to squeeze out every last drop of paint from the nearly spent tubes and mix them into custom florida landscape colors.
In truth, I did not invent the idea of mixing custom colors. I got it from Scott Christensen who extolled the virtues of using grays as a quick way to get to a color when painting. He got it from Edgar Payne. It took a long time to get what he was saying and it was this. If you work in a primary palette and you are painting outdoors, you have a limited time to arrive at a color and with the primary palette it takes a while to get the right balance of yellow, red and blue to properly neutralize a color note. SO, what if you have tubes of color that are median versions of the colors you find in nature: the soft purple blue of a tree trunk in shadow, the pale warm gray of florida sand or a general grass green that is neither bright nor dark. These colors, plus an array of warm and cool grays can be squeezed out and pushed to get to where you need to go a lot faster than the old fashioned way.
And really what is more fun than mixing big piles of color? Only two or three things come to mind. Pictured here is a blob of titanium white from about 4 tubes, some ultramarine blue, cad red medium and a squidge of yellow to neutralize the temperature. A little mixing with a large palette knife and VIOLA! the color of distant mountains or shadows on concrete, whatever. Now what? Time to grab an open tube and by open I mean open in the back, like a hospital smock, and with a small palette knife shovel it into the back. It's like a visit to the proctologist. Tap a few times to move it on down the line and once the tube is 80% full, cinch off the end and roll it up.
The fun part was thinking of what colors I can use, here in florida it's mostly greens so I mixed a bunch. The bright greens that I can never get too because my dirty palette is throwing my color off and dingifying my bright notes, cool colors that I never use but need to in order to balance out the warms.
I ended up creating 8 or 9 tubes of color that I can't wait to try out. It was a really productive way to waste time. Just like reading a good blog. And I ended up with born again brushes and a box load of stuff to give to Linda.