Mixing it up
Following my recent foray back into actually doing some art work, I have rediscovered one of the things I love about painting - mixing paint! This is clearly an obvious aside to the painting process but sometimes, when caught in the midst of a productivity block, you can forget the basic fundamentals of why you enjoy doing something.
My painting process has naturally evolved to often use large areas of flat, solid colour. Sometimes these remain untouched ,whilst other times they are used to sand/scratch back into, or to partially paint/glaze over. Whatever the ultimate outcome these areas are, more often than not, an essential part of my painting process. They become the ground that sets the mood of a canvas, and partly dictate the tonal values and colour selection for all other elements of the composition.
In order to achieve a very flat colour it is necessary to fully mix the paint to ensure a clean, even finish. Depending upon the colour required this could involve the mixing of a number of colours. From a coverage point of view the proportion of colours used will dictate how many layers of paint need to be applied. As a rule of thumb any mix with a high proportion of yellow tends to have a high translucency and so will require the application of numerous thin layers of paint in order to achieve the desired effect.
I use a number of vessels in which to mix paint. For small quantities I usually opt for camera film cases:
These are particularly air tight and mixed colours can be kept ‘good’ to use for a long time (I somewhat ashamedly admit that I have used some on occasions that have been *years* old!). However, in the increasingly multi-media world of digital-ness, these have become somewhat less easy to come by (although luckily my hoarding tendencies mean that I still have a good stash).
I also use these jars purchased from Ikea a couple of years ago:
These look quite smart, and are convenient to store, but are somewhat unreliable on the air tightness front. Some keep the paint ‘good’ to use for weeks, whilst paint dries out in others in a matter of either days or hours. They were all purchased at the same time, from the same batch, so I am not sure why their paint storing credentials are so inconsistent. I do however consider them to fall into the category of ‘style over substance’.
The old fail safe is to use glass jars reclaimed from various kitchen condiments and sauces:
These are all reliably air tight and often allow for the mixing of vast quantities of paint, which can again be stored for long periods of time. The only drawback is that their irregular size means that they can be a bit more difficult to store in a neat and tidy manner. Not that this bothers me much (they are usually scattered across my work table/studio floor/chair etc etc).
The more painting I undertake the more I become interested in the properties of the acrylic paint that I use. It is interesting that, even in air tight containers, certain colours will dry out quicker that others. Paints containing red and yellow pigment appear to be particularly notorious for drying out.
I am afraid that I do not adopt a particularly calculated or scientific approach to mixing colours. I very much work intuitively. This can result in the consumption of a lot of paint in order to achieve the required colour (I am ashamed to admit that I have even added the wrong colour to a mix from a paint tube because I have not been paying full attention!). However, part of the fun is trying to bring a colour mix back from the brink of disaster, and I never throw any colour mixes out as they always come in useful as bases for future mixes.
I am still not sure where my current paintings are heading. I hope I will have discovered some answers by the end of the weekend.