Project Friday: Using What’s Left on Your Palette

October 2, 2015


Above: Sketch using a black Stabilo All (which is watersoluble) on Strathmore 500 series Mixed Media Paper (7.75 x 9.75 inches). Left over gouache and Montana acrylic markers were also used.

Today’s Project Friday is the perfect follow up to last week’s Project Friday—experiments in making neutrals. Of course you have to do that project before you can do this project. (Yes, it’s all part of my cunning plan.)

Last week, you were putting paint out on the palette and mixing complementary colors. The goal was to find new ways to make a variety of useful neutrals that would give you warm and cool temperature options, as well as great contrast in your images.

So now there is a bunch of paint still out on your palette.


Play with it.

Pick up a pencil or pen, get someone to sit still for you, and sketch and paint them.

Surely someone you know will sit still for 15 to 20 minutes while you do this? If not, take those paints to the zoo, or somewhere in public, and sketch unfamiliar folk.

Have a goal in mind. In the above sketch I really had only one goal—use the Stabilo All I picked up, which was black, and see if I could paint over it with left over gouache to create a mix of the black and the color, that would create interesting monochromatic range.

This is a nice turn around from avoiding black paint in the previous Project Friday's experiments. 

You might find you really like using black solubles (ink, paints, etc.). You might find great fun in the resultant "mess." You might find that the color soluble media you can use is even more interesting than the black solubles.

You might just find a look you love and want to repeat and refine (which will keep you busy through Monday and beyond).

Suggestions on How to Proceed

Pick a sketching media that is not your usual, or which you haven’t used in awhile. If you’re going to paint too, let the sketch media be watersoluble—just for fun. Come on! Let the control relax for a little while.

Select a paper to work on that is suitable for the dry application of your sketch medium AND the wet application of whatever you are thinking is going to follow. I recommend Strathmore 500 Series Mixed Media paper for these types of experiments. It satisfies both those criteria.

Pick someone with a great nose. (I don't know about you, but this just makes it so much more interesting to me, and a fun challenge to work with a shape and shadows.)

Squint to see values.

When you start to add in the wet media, leave some of your dry marks un-dissolved. Make the selection thoughtfully. Make your selection work for you, supporting dark values as needed, retaining crisp lines in logical locations. Avoid the tendency to dissolve everything.

Also, resist the urge to wash your brush out too frequently. You can live with dirty colors for one sketch (or a series of sketches). You might learn something about your favorite colors.

Clean your brush off on your palette, depositing the “mix” of stuff on your brush so that it can be mixed with something else. Then use these resultant mixes elsewhere on your sketch for continuity. (There’s that mid-toned grey blue on my sketch.) 

Stop before you get fussy. (Actually for me that translates to, when I feel I’m getting fussy because I catch myself being fussy, which is usually two steps beyond when I should have stopped because I’m being fussy. But then I’m a work in progress.) 

Repeat this process several times, as you use up that paint left on the palette, from last week's experiments.

Have fun. 

Sketching Media to Play with:

In all the following media, use dark valued colors that will mix with your wet media and darken them. Think about using analogous colors if you want, but still use colors with dark values.

  • Stabilo All
  • Neocolor Il
  • Watercolor pencil 
  • Pastels (Pastel pencils)
  • Charcoal
  • Art Graf colors of Tailor’s Chalk
  • Pentel Colorbrushes in a variety of colors (These are the dye-based, watersoluble brush pens.)
  • Watersoluble ink in your favorite pen. (Get out the Pilot Parallel Pens with those watersoluble cartridges.)
  • Montana Acrylic Markers (or Molotow, or Golden High Flow) (If you let these dry for 2 seconds they are dry. And you can paint and draw over them without mixing. These aren't on the list for their mixing characteristics. They are here because they are a fun addition to just about anything.)
  • Uni Posca Paint Pens (I find I can paint over these almost immediately, so like the Montana Acrylic Markers, these aren't here for their mixing characteristics—they are simply fun to sketch with.
  • Tombow Pens  

What do we notice about the above list—most of the items are not lightfast or archival. Who cares?! We are experimenting right now. Use what you have on hand. DO NOT GO OUT AND BUY MORE STUFF.

This is an exercise is using up what you have on hand; on what you’ve already put out on the palette, and what you have in your drawer or cupboard.

Painting Media to Play with:

  • Watercolors
  • Gouache
  • Poster Paints
  • Tempera
  • Acrylics (I recommend that you stay away from heavy bodied acrylics if you're working in a journal or sketch book. Try Golden High Flow, or fluid acrylics, or acrylics in jars. I find tube and heavy-bodied acrylics tend to have so much acrylic polymer in them, that they make your pages stick together over time.)

One more time: DO NOT BUY MORE STUFF. No new art supplies. Work with what is out on your palette. And sketch with items you have on hand. 

This is about using up what's on that palette. And experimenting and finding some new approaches. Build your visual vocabulary.

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