Here Are a Few Of My Favourite Things (reposted from Women in Art WA)

copyright Mia Laing 2015

Here is my recent post from Women in Art WA – https://womeninartwa.wordpress.com

A few weeks ago I welcomed one of my Instagram followers over to see my studio and some of my recent paintings.  I was quaking in my paint splattered sneakers with introverted shyness…a stranger I needed to talk to for at least an hour…yikes!  I did some health and safety Facebook stalking and knowing we had a mutual friend (my brother) the date was set.

It was lovely! I really enjoyed spending time with an avid art lover and budding artist and it made me realise how far I have journeyed in the last few years – from hobbyist to professional; from beginner to a bit more of a beginner (always learning, that will never stop.)  From asking questions to answering them!  Lots of fun.

But don’t go getting any ideas of bombarding me to all come over and do the same…no, no, no.  I’m not ready for that!

Anyway, whilst sipping tea with Juliet, I tried my best to answer the many questions she had and realised how many tips I had picked up from my own art instructors, my art colleagues, the internet and from trial and error and how so many of them make my ‘life at the end of a paintbrush’ so much easier.

So here are a few of my favourite things…

Rosemary and Co - Newsletters and catalog

  • Rosemary and Co Paintbrushes. http://www.rosemaryandco.com                                                  Note – I am not affiliated or sponsored by Rosemary and Co in any way, but when I find something good, I make sure to yell it from the top of the mountains.  Rosemary and her daughter Symi run this family business specialising in handmade brushes.  These paintbrushes have CHANGED MY ARTY LIFE.  Serious.  I used to buy my brushes locally, but for the same price, I can order these handmade brushes from England. The quality is second to none and they offer a superb variety of natural and synthetic brushes for every medium.  I’ve tried quite a few of the ranges now (my birthday and Christmas gifts) and can’t say I have a favourite – they all offer their own qualities and beautiful marks.  Get online (you can thank me later) and order a paper catalogue.  Each brush is photographed in its real size which makes ordering easy and they do a terrific monthly newsletter. Think quality with your brushes, not quantity.Incredible Brush Cleaner by Chroma
  • ‘That Incredible Brush Cleaner’ (Yep, that’s what it’s called!) Now you have ordered your beautiful brushes, you need to look after them.  I keep a solvent free studio and so wash my brushes in baby oil to remove the excess oil paint, then I give them a thorough cleanse with ‘That Incredible Brush Cleaner’ and warm water.  It removes the last remnants of colour and oil and leaves them soft and pliable once again. Buy both a large and small bottle to begin with, then decant into the small bottle for on going use – the smaller bottle is easier to handle on a daily basis.Gamvar Varnish - premixed
  • Gamvar Varnish by Gamblin – note once again, I am not affiliated with Gamblin but love their product, Gamvar.  An easy to use, virtually odourless varnish that you don’t have to wait 6 months to use!!  This varnish can be used with just a few weeks of drying time (when the thickest paint areas are firm to touch)…yes, weeks, not months!  It offers a  semi gloss protective coverage that adds greater depth to colours and goes on beautifully in just one coat.   Bonus is that it can be removed super easily for paintings that need reworking…believe me, I’m a nutter for reworking paintings and this varnish really is easy to remove.My Paint Hook System - built by my 17 year old daughter.
  • Paint Hooks – In my quest to keep my studio organised and tidy, my daughter made me a hanging unit for my paint tubes.  I totally love it and can now find my exact colour at a glance.  Easy to make with some chip board, screws and bulldog clips.  Simple.Paint Box Freezer Palettes
  • Freezer Paint Boxes – Oil paint is very expensive.  Effectively storing left over paint will save you time and money.  I premix my skin tones and  some colour mixes I may need over  a whole paint project and store these blobs of paint in the freezer for up to 3 or 4 months.  The boxes are A4 plastic box  files available in most office supply shops, such as Office works,  and are  priced at about $5 each.  Within this, I keep a piece of thin ply board and cover this in Freezer guard paper stuck down with masking tape.  You can also cover the ply board with contact paper.  This acts as a palette for the left over paint and you just place the closed box in the freezer in-between paint sessions.Checking for tone and isolating colour
  • Tonal Strip – Tone is by far the most important part of painting. Tone is the light or dark in a painting and if used correctly creates the form (3D effect) or depth (shadows).  Tones refers to the darkest darks, lightest lights and midtones. Tone should be a priority over colour and is often the difference between a failed or successful painting.  Colour will complement tone.Tonal strip for checking tone and colour

    To find the correct tone on a reference photo I use a tonal strip…a strip of grey colours with 9 tones from white to black.   You can print these off the internet, laminate, then punch a hole in the centre of each square. Place the strip over the photograph and squint…If the colour disappears when you squint, you know you are on the right tone.   Start with your darkest dark and make sure it matches the darkest dark on the tonal strip. Work your way through the photograph assessing what square on the tonal strip it blends into when you squint. The tonal strip is also a good tool to use for assessing colour.  By placing the hole over the colour you are wanting to mix, it allows you to see the colour isolated without the distraction of surrounding colours. Use this tool often enough and you will eventually find your tones and colours by instinct.

    Proportional Divider

  • Proportional Divider – This quirky little tool has saved my butt on many occasions.  No matter how you start your project – by hand drawing, gridding or projecting your image, at some point in the paint application you are bound to lose your under drawing.  For portrait painting in particular, getting even a millimetre out of line can be noticed, particularly for eyes and teeth.   The proportional divider helps to get a more correct measurement between the reference photo and the actual painting and is an incredible tool for corrections. I’ve taught my daughters how to draw using a proportional divider…and though I have a lazy tendency to project my initial drawing (I paint big!!) drawing is an essential part of the art process. I ordered mine from ebay…one large, one small for about $40 Australian dollars.
  • Sales at Art shops – Take note of when your local art suppliers have their annual sales or better still, get on their mailing lists to be first in line for specials.  My two favourite art stores know me by name (a sign of far too many dollars being spent there!) and often have me on waiting lists for new canvas shipments.  I’ve learnt my lesson on far too many occasions of wanting to start a new painting but not having any canvas ready…so now I stock up on my most used sizes, try to buy them on sale and have a number of them gessoed and ready to go. Do the same with your most used paint colours…20% off can make a huge difference, especially on a series 3 0r 4 colour.

So there you go, that’s a few of my favourite things…I can assure you I have many more!  I’ll save them for another post.

I would love to know your favourite studio tips…

Mia x

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