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5 Tools (ok 6!) I use in my Art Practice

2 Years into painting abstracts and still going strong!


As of this summer, I’ve been painting abstractly for 2 years!  it seems longer.  It was around about that time that I wrote my first blog post… and I haven’t written one since. I've learned a lot in that time, so I thought I'd share some of what I've learned about the materials and tools I use in my practice.

Tools I Use

Applying the paint with a paintbrush is one way, but there are others too and I’ve tried many.  The 5 I use the most and constantly come back to are:


Catalyst Wedge by Princeton which is great for applying thick layers of paint but also scraping it back off too. 



A Palette knife for creating texture, it has it’s own unique results.


A decorator’s edging tool for making sharp edges but also for lovely thin straight lines too.


A sharpened stick, yes this has been a constant in my practice for two years and still the same stick!  I think it’s a bit of apple tree (I have many).  It sharpens perfectly and is reassuringly strong! Screw drivers, plastic forks, combs and anything that makes an interesting mark in the paint are also used.


Flat Brush, yes, I do use brushes, lots of different width ones and usually all flat because I like that square impression it gives on the painting.  This one in the picture is a Daler Rowney Graduate Flat Wash 1 inch.  It’s synthetic as are all my acrylic brushes and they take a lot of abuse!  You can see that the bristles are still in great shape, even though the handle is covered in paint!


Water spray bottle. (OK that’s 6! Maths was never my strong point 😅) Any old spray bottle filled with water. It’s great for thinning out the paint and making lovely drips. I even went mad once when I sprayed a whole painting to remove all the paint while it was still wet.  The wall below didn’t thank me!! 😏



Paint (Medium)

I use acrylic paint.  I’m impatient… people told me so but I didn’t believe them, but as I’ve grown older and wiser I’ve realised its true.  Therefore, acrylic paint is perfect for me because it dries so much more quickly than oils.  Anyway, oils are smelly and messy and take ages to dry… don't they? I’m too impatient to find out 🤣.


So any acrylic paint really and house paint occasionally.  In the two years I’ve amassed so many tubes.  Some I haven’t used at all and others I use again and again.  I’m drawn to blue, yellow (green), red and doses of neon pink and orange.  Daler Rowney, Winsor & Newton, Crown, Reeves, Golden (£££), Jacksons own brand, Pébéo, Ara the list goes on.  Mixing my own colours, in particular greens, produces the best and most unique colours, in my opinion.  I try and limit my colour palette within each series I paint, otherwise I find it can become a bit of a jumble sale, not very cohesive and get muddy… do you get me?


Other Mediums

But I use so much more! I use inks, oil pastels, colour pencils, charcoal, acrylic pens, pencils.  Anything that will give me a mark or texture that’s different from the last.


Glue for collage


Gloss Gel or Matt Gel by Liquitex is excellent for sticking down collage, it gives brilliant adhesion.  So much so that it’s a bugger to get it off your hands after it dries.  So I recommend you wear some light weight surgical gloves to avoid the mess!  I dip my various pieces of paper in water first so that they are mailable and smooth down onto the surface without air bubbles. I then use my catalyst wedge to squeegee out any excess water and glue.  It’s like doing a layer of paper maché.



Substrate

This is a posh word for what you paint on!  Be it paper, canvas, wood panel, concrete wall, neighbours fence! I prefer the first three myself. 


Paper is cheap and easy to use.  I actually prefer white sheets of square card (about 300gsm) this is brilliant for getting some ideas going, loosening up, trying colours out, experimenting.  They quite often turn out ok and I will either frame them, stick them to panels or find the best bits, cut them down and make them into mini works of art.

Stretched canvases come in so many different sizes.  Again, I prefer to work square, but have used rectangles too, either portrait or landscape.  Canvas has a bounce to it so when scraping and scratching into the surface you must be aware of that ‘give’.  You don’t want to break the surface!  I end up with so many layers of collage and paint it gives me a really strong surface to work with.  I’ve used ones from Jacksons Art, Hobby Craft, Seawhite, The Range, even Home Bargains and The Works (UK).


Wooden Cradle Panels are strong.  You can pretty much throw anything at them!  Scratch and scrape to your heart’s desire, they won’t give or break.  They don’t warp and last for centuries (as evidenced by many renaissance pieces!). They are also versatile and stable enough to add layers of paint and mixed media.  So, I love to use them as my work does include all the above and more and then some!!  They are more expensive though.  I’ve used ones from Jackson’s Art, Seawhite and even reused ones I’ve found in charity shops (apply a layer of Gesso or collage and you’re good to go!)


 

I'd love to know what your favourite paints or tools and brushes are to use. And if you found this interesting or useful or indeed have any questions, I’d love to hear from you.





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