My favorite thing is an oversize palette table that sits in front of my studio easel. It is a 2 x 4 foot table covered with a sheet of glass of equal size. It is a tool that has transformed how I work and, as a consequence, the very nature of the paintings I produce. My original artistic training was in a traditional atelier or studio school. As a consequence I learned procedures which most traditional artists learn. I was taught to set my easel next to the model or subject I am going to paint, but to make all of my observation 5-6 feet in front of it. This way I am able to take in the entire canvas in a single glance, and observe the developing painting from the same distance it will most likely to be viewed by others.
Because of this there is a lot of walking back and forth from the viewing point and the canvas. And it was also for this reason that I was also taught to use a wooden thumb palette – so it is always at hand for mixing paints.
But over the years I have evolved as an artist. When I first began painting I used little dollops of paint and little brushes. But as time has passed I have used ever larger mounds of paint and ever larger brushes. Likewise, I graduated from a little thumb palette, to larger and larger palettes. At some point I found the larger palette too cumbersome to hold all the time so I set it on my taboret and mixed my paints at a fixed point in front of my easel. Since I wasn’t holding the palette I eventually got rid of the thumb palette altogether and started mixing my paint on a plate of glass (I think I took my cue from a book by John Howard Sanden). However, the real transformation came the day I purchased a 2 x 4 foot table and covered it with a plate of glass of the same dimensions.
This is what I now use to mix my colors. I still walk back and forth from my viewing point to the canvas, but the palette table sits directly in front of the canvas so that is where I do all of my paint mixing. I feel it has transformed my work since it has liberated me to mix copious amounts of paint with large bristle filbert brushes. I use bristle filberts of all sizes, but for the initial lay in I like to use number 12 filberts (about ¾ inch wide), and larger. I have several that are number 24 (about 2 inches wide).
So my oversize palette is a favorite thing. But to make using a large glass palette practical, I have to mention another favorite tool. I used to use a small razor blade window scraper to clean my palette. It was a habit I picked up from other artists, and it seemed more efficient and effective than using a palette knife. But one day when I was at the hardware store I discovered an extra-large window scraper with a four inch blade, and I now find it indispensable for quickly scraping and cleaning the large expanse of glass.
Kurt Anderson says
I was painting a more traditional still life when I wrote this blog, but there is another side of my artistic personality. My “contemporary” florals are often of single blooms painted oversize, very loosely, and with copious amounts of paint. These demonstrate how the palette has allowed me to explore and expand my repertoire.