Thursday, February 6, 2014

New Addition to My Studio

I just added this great new palette to my studio.


I know, it's not the tools but how you use them. Still, I have to speak up for the virtues of a "real" palette (as opposed to the standard oval art-supply type). 

The Mighty Palette, reposing atop an also newly acquired marble side-table.

I purchased this one, (branded by Richeson) for $20 at Van Gogh's Gear, my local, independently owned art supply store after one of my students walked in with one. Utrecht sells them and Blick too, etc., I'm sure.

What's great about it? It's big. It's like having a lap desk you can hold in your hand. 

You know you want one.

It's also great because it's light (you don't get tired of holding it) yet reinforced at the handle (weighted, actually- however, not quite enough to fully alleviate pressure on the thumb, I'm finding). It curls around your body "ergonomically" when you hold it, and it's slightly concave, which seems to make it easier to manipulate from side to side when reaching for a pool of paint.

Well-dressed Russians know a "real" palette when they see one.

In short, it's been a revelation to me, and it's probably still nothing like the exquisite pear-wood (or some other exotic-sounding hardwood) one sported by the gentleman (Konstantin Makovsky) above.

By the way, as these pics show, it turns out the cutout area near a palette's thumb hole isn't primarily for gripping; it allows you to hold several brushes at the ready as you work. I can't believe I didn't know this until now.

Most painter friends of mine don't use handheld palettes at all. I understand they're not employed in the vast majority of art schools today (where, apparently, representational painting isn't the first priority, to say the least).

But maybe that's partly because the only ones you ever really see in person are the little ones at places like Michaels and A.C. Moore, which I think are just too small for serious work.

I didn't sand, stain, weight, and seal it like some folks do (though I'm thinking about it). So far, I just anointed it with oil (olive and, as a second thought, linseed) and started using it. Either way, it'll stain itself into a lovely neutral gray-green patina. One of the advantages of wood palettes over glass or plastic is that you may enjoy watching them get better over time.

I guess there are some interesting handheld palette designs out there once you start to look... What do other folks use?

Bring back the full-size artist's palette I say! If all handheld palettes were like the bad boys in these pics, more of us would be using them more often.

Now does anyone know where I can get a 19th century smock like this guy's? Preferably linen, of course.

"Love me, love my smock...... Now go away." - Anders Zorn


  1. Very nice I really like that it is weighted. I think somewhere in the art education programs that lost touch with the function of a handheld palette. I think it is the best method to learn about color matching and working from life. Enjoy.

  2. Thanks Jim -I'm very curious why you say the handheld palette helps in color mixing and working from life. What would you say are the reasons for this?

  3. I have always loved this picture: Matisse with his:

  4. Love the palette - I might have to try a handheld. For the linen smock, you could add some volume to this pattern for a similar effect: I've had making a linen duster for painting on my list!