Keeping Paints from Drying Out On the Palette

Keeping Paints from Drying Out On the Palette

How to Save Paint without Putting It in the Freezer or Refrigerator


Have you ever been told to put your palette in the refrigerator or freezer so your paint wouldn’t dry out between sessions?

I’m betting you have.

This is such common advice, and although well intentioned, it’s terrible advice for a couple of reasons.

Number 1: You should never store paints alongside of food. That should be enough right there. Paint off gasses. And you’re going to put it next to food??

Number 2: Temperatures below freezing alter the molecular structure of paint.

I get asked about this a lot, and about what to do instead. And after it came up again inside both my online course and free Facebook group, I decided it was time to talk about it some more.

After mixing a beautiful palette of paint, people want to keep that paint wet so they can use it longer.  No one wants to waste paint.

So I’m going to cover how you can keep the main three wet longer: watercolor, acrylic, and oils.


Watercolor (Remember they don’t have to stay wet.)
Mijello Fusion Airtight/Leakproof Palettes
Add a damp paper towel. Be sure to replace every week.

Masterson Sta-Wet Premier Palette
Nordic Ware Natural Aluminum Commercial Baker’s Half Sheet with Lid
Use 3-4 layers of damp paper towel with a piece of palette paper on top.

Masterson Sta-Wet Palette Seal
Any palette box with clove oil on pads or q-tips.

What’s your favorite way to keep your paint workable?

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Why You Should Use a Toned Ground

Why You Should Use a Toned Ground

One of the best ways to speed up your process, and unify your painting all in one go is to use a toned ground. And as an added bonus, you bypass some of the difficulties that are present when you’re faced with a blank white canvas. In today’s Quick Tip session, I’m going to cover what a toned ground can do for you, and a simple process to get started.

I want to go over first, what a ground is and then about how you would go about putting that onto your. Surface that you’re going to paint on a ground is simply the surface. You’re going to paint on top of, and sometimes it’s considered also the surface that you’re actually preparing, prepping and creating.

So it’s both the panel that you’re painting on. And it’s what you do to seal that panel or that canvas and using a toned ground. You bypass some of the difficulties. That are present when you’re faced with that white canvas, a lot of people are intimidated when they are staring at a blank white canvas.

It can be a little bit overwhelming someone. The first things that a toned ground can do for you is it can eliminate that overwhelm and that intimidation factor. So it is a really good idea as far as something that can jump, start your painting process and get you over that hurdle of the blank white canvas staring at you.

It also speeds up your painting process and, establishing a middle value. Very quickly so that if you want to create a strong sense of space and dimension, all you need to do add is a lighter value and a darker value to create that sense of space. So it speeds up the process from that direction as well.

And as a bonus, it also helps to unify the entire painting. I’m going to show you an example of that in just a minute. Now in the two panels that you see right here. This was one of my panel prepping afternoons, and I did it outside so that it would speed up the drawing time. I use yellow ochre as the tone color for my grounds, and I almost always paint on its own ground.

The only time that I don’t is in the middle of the Southern summer. If I’m painting a noonday scene or a mid morning, mid-afternoon the light here in the middle of summer is glaring white. So the town ground goes away at that time of year. But in general, the color of the light here is, has a gold tint to it.

So I ended up using yellow ochre. Now you can use acrylic to tone the ground if you’re, if you’re working on top of something that has an acrylic. sealant on it. So if you’ve used acrylic gesso, you can use acrylic paint to tone the ground. But if you’ve got something that has an oil primer on it, you cannot put acrylic paint on top of that.

So keep that in mind. I used, oil, acrylic paint on these to tone them and apply them very thinly. For the most part. One reason I blew this one up is so you can see the difference between the panel on the left and the panel on the right. The one on the left, the paint was thicker. And so it appears muddier and a little bit more opaque.

Than the one on the right. I like to keep it very thin. So it’s fairly transparent and you can see some of the white of the painting support showing through. Not as a glaring white, but as kind of a golden light. So yellow ochre is one of those colors that goes muddy in a pile when it’s thick, and golden and transparent when it’s thin. If you’re using an oil color to tone the ground, I advocate that you not use thinner or solvent. Don’t dilute the oil paint with solvent. I just take a paper towel and smear the paint thinly on, so that I’m not having to use any solvent to thin it out.

Avoid the solvent, but apply it really thinly. And it gives you that nice golden surface. Be sure to let it dry before you start painting, or you’re going to end up with a muddy mess.

People use different colors for toning or underpainting. If you’re working on a portrait, you want to use something that’s a contrast. What your subject is a still life that becomes completely up to you. I know people who use an orange color, and ones who use green and blue.

It’s really a personal preference and up to you. If you’ve never used one before, I’d experiment a little bit.

So in this one, you can see where I’ve toned to the ground really loosely, with a paper towel, smearing the paint around so that it covered the panel super thinly. Those marks you see are from the paint smearing with the paper towel, not from a big brush, but if you’re going to use a brush with acrylic, then use a giant one.

Don’t worry about the marks you’re making, because they’re going to get covered up for the most part. Then I have marked out the big shapes. Lightly really thinly, with the color that I’m going to block in with. So I use the tip of my knife, but you could use a small brush. I don’t always do this. I did this for a demo for a course, a class.

That’s what it looks like in the very beginning. Then at the end, that toned ground can be almost completely covered up.

Peeking through, down there in the bottom and the water reflections and a little bit up in this sky, then I’ve also added paint at the very end. That was almost the same color as the tone to ground. And then it begins to help pull it all together, but that underlying color can become a unifying factor.

I would strongly recommend that you prep some panels or perhaps some canvases or paper with a toned ground.

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The Taste of Cobalt Blue

The Taste of Cobalt Blue

I made this painting recently based on a study that I did down on the Edisto Island a couple of years ago in the fall.

“Dawn Light, Edisto”, oil, 8 x 10”, © Mary Bentz Gilkerson

“Dawn Light, Edisto”, oil, 8 x 10”, © Mary Bentz Gilkerson

October is one of my favorite times of year to be on the Island. The light then is spectacular. The color of the sky and the ocean becomes this rich, intense cobalt blue.

It always reminds me when I see cobalt of that time of year in the Southeast, between October and March, when the angle of the light shifts and gets lower. You have that really rich orange colored light, which leads to those super intense cobalt blues in the sky.

I love painting those.

And I love painting this particular time of day, early morning before the lights even come up before the sun’s fully risen into the sky.

So I sat on the front porch that morning, sipping a cup of coffee and quickly sketching in what I saw literally unfolding in front of me. The color of the sky before the light came up, was super dark and rich and blue. indigo almost so dark it was black. And then as the sun began to rise that indigo shifted to cobalt and became a whole range of blues in the sky.

That color blue says fall to me. The rich cobalt blue that fills the water and sky with the taste of blueberries, the color of a flock of blue birds rising out of a field, or the salty taste of the sea.

Cobalt blue pigment

Cobalt blue pigment

Now my saying that cobalt blue is one of my favorite colors may surprise some of you who know me really well, especially my students, because I don’t paint with cobalt blue.

Instead I use a mixture of ultramarine and phthalo blue that comes about as close as you can get to cobalt.

And I don’t use cobalt because it’s is a really toxic pigment. It’s out of my studio and off of my palette. The truth is you can mix cobalt from a simple combination that doesn’t have any of that toxicity, that also gives you the ability to mix that huge range of blues that you’ll see at any one time in the sky.

Take a look at this cyanometor.

A cyanometer

A cyanometer

I love this tool. It goes back to the 18th century when a visionary scientist/artist climbed to the top of a mountain in Switzerland to try to document the way that blue changes in the sky from the top to the bottom.

What he left out is that the blue changes as well, depending on seasons, it changes from side to side, meaning where the source of the light is as well.

So you’ll have a really cobalt, ultramarine blue at the top and something that’s a whole lot greener towards the horizon line. You’ll have a more intense, cooler blue on one.,left or right side, depending on where the sun is and a warmer range closer to the light source.

The key is to remember don’t mix just one in blue for the sky capture, at least 10 or 12 different blues. And you’ll begin to capture the richness that is even a plain sky without any clouds.

There are a lot of pigments out there. Some of the oldest ones like ultramarine blue used to be made from minerals, like lapis lazuli, a really expensive stone.

That is the reason that you have so few blues in medieval and Renaissance painting. But the blues that are there, they are luscious. And blue became the color of royalty. Then later scientists developed synthetic blue pigments like the modern ultramarine blue, actually a little bit more intense and again, safe.

Modern ultramarine pigment

Modern ultramarine pigment

Phthalo blue is another more modern synthetic pigment that we use a lot. Super, super intense, some would say a little too much.

But when you have those two blues, you can mix almost all the rest, especially if you have that double primary palette and you use the warm red, the cool red, the warm yellow, and the cool yellow to slightly alter and adjust those blues that you mix.

I’ve got a short tutorial on how to mix blues for the sky here.

You don’t need a whole pile of tubes of blue. You just need a warm and a cool, you just need ultramarine and phthalate blue. I hope that you will get in there and explore all of the possibilities that there are in blue.

What’s your favorite blue? Let me know. I’d love to hear. Happy painting everybody. Remember, stay resilient, your hands and paint on.

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The #1 Thing Thriving Successful Artists Know

The #1 Thing Thriving Successful Artists Know

In today’s episode I’m sharing the four key areas that can motivate an artist to create and the four can definitely overlap. In fact artists who have a balance of all four tend to achieve the greatest success and balance in their lives.

What do thriving successful artists know that gives them an edge?

They know their painting why – how they define success for themselves as artists.

I see four key areas that can motivate an artist to create: pleasure, innovation, recognition, and profit. The four can definitely overlap. In fact artists who balance all four tend to achieve the greatest success and balance in their lives.

Most artists start here, creating from a place of enjoyment, fun, entertainment and pleasure. Many artists in this category describe themselves as hobbyists, but don’t let that fool you. Painting for pleasure doesn’t mean a lack of skill. Quite the contrary. Many of these artists are quite skilled and spend a great deal of their spare time in painting. Artists who paint for pleasure often work when the mood strikes and enjoy the relaxing, meditative effect of painting. The main challenges they face can range from the lack of their own creative work space to frustration with lack of skill or carving out dedicated time to create. Connecting with other artists for community can benefit their skills development, beliefs in their identity as artists, and pure pleasure in the act of painting.

Artists motivated by the desire to innovate value creative exploration and artistic excellence. Their painting practice is more directed towards developing their own unique approach and voice regardless of their work’s market viability. Many of these artists pursue opportunities to share their work in nonprofit venues like museums and residency programs. They frequently are not interested in selling their paintings, and are happy taking an outside job in order to be able to paint what they want.

For an artist who is motivated by recognition, their top priority is communicating and sharing their work with a raving audience. Awards and competitive exhibitions, particularly professional ones at the regional and national level, feed their creative energy. But most important is that feedback loop with their engaged audience. Success comes in the form of fame rather than profit.

And then there are the artists who feel most aligned to their motivation when they’re able to achieve financial stability from the sale of work they love. For them, alignment happens when they focus on creating paintings that will appeal to their target audience. They are creative not only in their artwork, but in getting it in front of potential buyers and facilitating sales. Those sales may come from art fairs or festivals, gallery representation, or online marketplaces.

Ultimately you are the only person who gets to define what success means to you. Remember that achieving success in any of these four paths takes time and effort. But it’s definitely your time to thrive.

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Are You Ignoring An Important Voice?

Are You Ignoring An Important Voice?

Are you listening to your own creative voice?

I’ve been talking over the last several episodes about why painting matters, why your painting matters, why your art matters, whatever your art form might be. (Check out Reclaiming Your Inner Game as an Artist and Finding Inspiration in the Ordinary)

It doesn’t have to be painting. It could be cooking. It could be coding. It could be writing. It could be making music. It could be gardening. It could be almost any form of creative expression.

But if you’re not listening to your own creative voice, then you’re holding back on the rest of the world because the truth is you have a unique voice that’s waiting on you to unlock it, and if you’re not in complete alignment with what your voice is, it’s going to be really hard to be satisfied with where you are.

Being in alignment with your own creativity is crucial for living a happy, healthy, productive life. It’s important. For becoming resilient. Meaning being flexible in times that are challenging. Being able to go with the flow, being resilient, so you have to exercise that creative muscle. Every last person on earth is born creative.

It is not something like your guardian angel comes down and taps you on the head and voila, now you’re going to be a great artist. That’s just not how it works. It works by working. You know, a lot of us set fantastic goals at the beginning of the year. January rolls around in December actually rolls around and we start making grand plans about what the next year is going to be all about.
We’re going to lose 20 pounds. We’re going to make $20,000 more. We’re going to have dinner with our friends three times a week, maybe on the other side of Rona. We’re going to do all kinds of things that are going to make us different people. And we stick to that for about 10 minutes into the next year.

Maybe a little longer than that. But most of us let go of those things really fast. And one of the reasons that happens is lack of alignment that we don’t stop to chat to see whether it’s something we really want. So what do I mean by alignment? I mean that alignment, what you say you want. It’s something you truly do want.

It is something that is in alignment with your purpose, with where you want to go. When you are not on purpose, when you’re not in alignment, it will feel uncomfortable. It will feel uneasy. You know, people who have repressed their creativity, people who’ve shut the door on whatever their creative dream was.

Still have a deep hunger to create. It’s just that they’ve pushed it back somewhere. That may be one of y’all. It’s going to keep talking to you. That’s that voice I was talking about at the beginning. It’s going to keep whispering in your ear. It’s going to keep waking you up in the middle of the night.

It’s going to keep making you feel dissatisfied with the the job that is boring. The things that people have told you you should want to do. Don’t listen to those voices that tell you that your skills aren’t good enough, that your art doesn’t have any value, because that’s not true. Skill levels can be developed, valuables up over time, but if you shut the door on your creativity, if you shut down listening to that voice.

It’ll have a profound impact on your life and it won’t be a good one. Creativity feeds your soul. Creativity feeds your ability to handle every day life, and it doesn’t have to be going to paint. Mona Lisa doing something creative every day, exercises that creative muscle and it builds on itself. So that the next time you go to do it, it gets easier and then it gets easier and then it gets easier.
It’s just like starting a new exercise routine. It can be painful at first and you don’t want to, but you got to push through that and go do it. Because when you push through it and go do it, it gets a little bit easier every day. There’s this myth out there that if you’re a creative, it’s easy to go create, and all of us who are creative are exercising our creativity because we’re all creative.
Those stuff is to exercise it on a regular basis. No, you’re going to hit sticky points at times. You’re going to hit that messy middle. Which is where every artwork goes through. Every creative project goes through that stage where it looks like something the cat threw up in the corner. It’s by cat still behind me over there.

That’s just the way that it works. That’s part of the process. You can’t avoid that. It’s part of life. It’s part of the creative life, but leaving creativity out. That’s something that nobody should be doing. So figure out how you can answer that call. Yeah. Listen to that voice and begin to exercise that creativity just a little bit every day.

Find some creative ways. It’s not about going out and decorating your house so that it looks like a show place. That’s misplaced creativity. Unless it’s what you really want to do, then it’s fantastic. But to live a creative life, you get to decide what that means. You get to define that, not other people.

So spend some time and just a little bit of reflection. What is it that’s calling to you? What is it that. Needs to be expressed because the more you express yourself, the more you exercise your creativity, the more resilient you are going to be and the happier you’re going to be as a human being. So hope that’s been helpful.

I think it makes a big difference when you can tap into your creativity. Think about ways that you can begin to exercise that creative juice. It really will flow more often the more that you use it.

So remember, I want y’all out there looking for the beautiful in the ordinary search for the extraordinary and the ordinary. Then capture it in some way. If you’re not feeling particularly creative as a painter, get your cam or out. Start that way. Write about it. Make a note about it, but exercise that creative bone.

Find some small ways to just get started and share those over in the ART+WORK+LIVING Facebook group. I would love to hear how y’all are exercising your creative muscles.

Paint on!

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Reclaiming Your Inner Game as an Artist

Reclaiming Your Inner Game as an Artist

A strong creative mindset is central for any creative to thrive. But challenging times can get in the way of focus and shatter our mindset, our inner game.

That inner game is your inner studio space, a mental/emotional one. Lots of people get all hung up on the outer one, the physical studio space. Don’t let that get in your way! The mental/emotional space is so much more important.

How to cultivate that inner space no matter what’s going on in the world? In today’s video I go over 7 steps you can take to reclaim your inner game of painting.

Then let me know in the comments what’s helping you move forward in your painting. And what’s holding you back.

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