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Art Talk: Brushes and Paints

Whether you are a seasoned artist or getting into painting for the first time – making sure you have the best supplies to empower your art is important.

I’ve been actively painting with acrylics for about five years – and painting regularly (3 times a week) since the pandemic hit. I wanted to share lessons I’ve learned along the way.

It is important to recognize that art is a journey and while you can master certain techniques – artists are always learning and growing. We can develop unique styles and master regimens, but the best artists are always open to growth. Masters like Monet, Van Gogh and beyond – learned from making mistakes and developing their craft.

The most unique artists I’ve studied (including modern masters and YouTube experts) studied other artists and practiced techniques from past ‘masters’ to learn technique and open their vision from paint to palette.

The point – don’t be afraid to try different styles of art and take a tutorial on how ‘Van Gogh’ painted – creativity is part orignality and part collaboration. You can learn a lot through online tutorials or putting your own spin on historical paintings (just reference the original artist when you are done). Ginger Cook (YouTube Acrylic Teacher ) has a great series of how to paint the masters on her channel.

Also don’t be afraid to test out different styles of art. I personally love to paint landscapes, but recently I’ve tackled abstracts. Within my landscape portfolio I try different views on the same landscape – from impressionism to abstract to expressionism. Sometimes I fail and it’s okay – it is only paint! You can paint over a canvas if you mess up! I always learn more from mistakes than successes in painting. Work with the process.

  • I work fulltime in software sales – but art is my passion. I try to block out time to paint daily – but let’s face it – life happens. So what I recommend is blocking off your calendar for daily ‘art’ time – even if it is watch a tutorial or combing through an art book.
  • Notice your surroundings – how light touches trees at different times of the day…how shadows and light play together in regular daily settings. Observing light and values in day to day life will help you become a better artist
  • Invest in materials

The biggest advice I can give from my experience in art is it is worth investing in quality supplies – especially if you are a beginner. While the buy one = get ten free sales at Michael’s on student paint seems tempting – in the end you will waste time and money by ‘saving’ cost upfront on student paints.

Why? I used to buy fifty paintbrushes for $10 on sale -but they were impossible to paint with. I had to use tons of extra paint to get it to stick to the canvas – not to mention tons of paint hairs would wind up on the canvas stuck in the paint.

Cheap canvas? They can be redeemed with gesso but a cheap and ineffective canvas can be like sandpaper on your brushes…unable to keep paint on the canvas and leaving blotchy spots.

  • Gesso can help with this to provide better binding – but if possible invest in quality affordable canvas.

Paints – while there are some decent student grade paints -most are watered down and have less pigment so you end up using a tube of paint just to finish a painting. The mixing quality isn’t as good.

I’ve tried lots of different paints, brushes and supplies over my art journey and continue to test new products. The standbys I always invest in are listed below – they provide the best value for the investment and help me to provide the best art to my clients and continue to improve as a painter.

Acrylic Paints:

I recommend investing in your primary colors first and then adding on specific specialized colors that are harder to mix (magenta, dioxinade purple, etc…)

Invest in a color wheel and mixing guide so you can make more colors from less tubes of paint.

  • Golden: I love Golden Paints – their heavy body paint is thick and easy to blend and spread. Golden is my go to for specific colors like ‘Light Phthalo Blue.’ I love this color because it provides an ideal sky blue or is a good blending blue. I spend $20.00 a month on this color – but it is worth it!
  • Liquitex: Liquitex Basics is an awesome quality starter paint that I continue to use 90% of the time. Liquitex also has professional series from soft body and heavy body paints. The heavy body is great for thicker landscape/strokes and the softbody is good when you want a more flowing stroke (from my use anyway 🙂 Liquitex also has great glazing and acrylic additives.
  • Soho – Jerry’s Artarama brand – I use it for primary colors – quality affordable paint
  • Windsor and Newton – I love their Naples Yellow and Mixing White
  • Lukas – I like their blues and yellows – good price and quality paint
  • Sennelier – this is a favorite of paintings – Van Gogh and Monet used Sennelier paints for oils. Their Abstract paint is great for mixed media!

Brushes:

I spend a lot on brushes and have also saved a ton of money and time by doing so. A quality brush is essential to painting – from beginners to professionals.

I recommend Silver Brushes – they are my absolute favorite – especially Ruby Satin.

However, I also supplement with Soho (Jerry’s Artarama), Princeton and Raphael

I order from Jerry’s or The Brush Guys

Canvas:

  • I like Creative Mark for affordable quality canvas
  • Jerry’s and Blick both carry lots of quality options with great sale prices.

I’d love to get you feedback on what products you love

Painting through the National Parks

Painting the National Parks: Sequoia Roots

Sequoia Roots buy on Etsy

This week I continue my art journey – painting through America’s National Parks- I decided to paint Sequoia National Park.

I planned a trip to Sequoia prior to the pandemic that was cancelled. I planned the trip over several months so while I’ve never been to Sequoia I feel as though I visited the park (at least in spirit).

I will be blogging about ‘Sequoia’ soon on my sister blog American Nomad…in the meantime check out this awesome factsheet about Sequoia – the land of Giants

Painting Sequoia was challenging because the trees are towers of ancient forests – that converse with the sky. Building perspective when the tree cannot fully fit on the canvas was difficult. I studied numerous reference photos and decided to create my painting as an ode to the forest – focusing on the reddish/brown hues and thick trunk with distant trees in the background.

I started this painting with an grounding color of unbleached titanium (one of my favorite blending colors) and raw sienna and burnt umber.

A grounding color does several things:

  1. A blank canvas (with gesso): When I first started painting I would sketch out my image with watercolor pencil then start painting the colors directly on the canvas (as they appear in my reference photo). This always was a struggle because the paint wouldn’t adhere well with the first coat to the canvas. I’d end up using lots of paint and it would be clumpy -not a great look. I tried adding more gesso, but that could make the canvas texture too thick.
    • I learned from Ginger Cook that acrylics bind well to one another, so a grounding layer helps to build your painting.

2. It also ensures that you don’t have any ‘white gaps’ underneath your painting that appears unrealistic.

From there I began to build the ‘King’ Sequoia, layer after layer – constantly looking at the lighting and values in my reference photo.

Details are important, but in my current art journey I really am looking at the values (light and dark); color quality and trying to match that and adjust as needed.

This painting took about 3 hours to complete. A common misconception new artists (or non artists) think is that just because a landscape or painting is impressionistic or more open with brushstrokes – it is simple to paint.

I actually find my landscapes with their open brushstrokes take longer than some detailed paintings just because you really lean into the layers and details of the colors and you are constantly adding small touches.

Landscape painting is like a walk through Sequoia National Park – you don’t need to rush. It is meant to slow you down and be relaxing.

Paint supplies: I use a variety of paints and brushes in my paintings depending on the subject.

I’ve said this on a previous post but you must absolutely invest in quality supplies – yes I understand the cost of supplies is a lot for a beginner – I learned the hard way you’ll spend way more if you start off with cheap supplies. Why? The paint is watered down -so you will have to use a lot more paint to get the same results – so you will run out of paint quickly.

  • The brushes are key – I found my early paintings key have stray brush hairs) and no matter how much paint I put on the brush it wouldn’t spread on the canvas.
  • I had to purchase new brushes at least twice a month – they’d die a quick death – even with good soap and water.

For new painters(and seasoned pros):

  • I really love Liquitex and Liquitex Basics
  • Jerry’s Artarama Soho Paint does well for foundational and accent colors
  • I also love Golden, Lukas, Windsor and Newton Paints, Amsterdam for day to day professional use.
  • There are lots of great brands, but just make sure you are purchasing professional paint.
  • Your local art supply store can help – or watch tutorials by Ginger Cook and The Art Sherpa who break this down in some of their tutorials.

Brushes:

I typically use Silver Brushes – they are may favorite because they smoothly cover the paint and I have good control with the brushes. I also like Princeton, Raphael and I use Soho (Jerry’s)

I usually purchase from Jerry’s Artarama or The Brush Guys; Dick Blick is recommended too

Helpful resources:

Art Sherpa and Ginger Cook great online videos and resources

Thanks for supporting Adele Lassiter Creative by purchasing my art on Etsy