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.