my palette when I finished the painting

One thing I enjoy about painting in plein air is sitting on a log or tree stump and mixing paint colors. Every time I go out to paint I mix a few colors to use that day. It usually takes me 1/2 hour or more to get 6 or 7 colors and values ready. This is how they taught us to mix colors at York Academy of Art, on the palette, not on the canvas. Mix extra paint so you don’t run out of the color. You can save left over color and use it later by putting a little piece of plastic wrap on top of your paint blob. I’ve saved colors for weeks and had enough that remained workable. The plastic wrap also keeps dirt out of the paint when my palette is open. That’s a constant problem for a plein air painter.

I like this kind of palette box for painting in plein air. I put duct tape on the back of a piece of glass that fits the box. It’s easier to see the colors and values you’re mixing on a gray background than a white background. And the lid has little plastic sprews to keep the glass from moving so the paint doesn’t smear in transport.

It’s more comfortable to stand up at the easel to paint than to sit down, so I always build up a little make shift table to hold my palette using my art cart, or here a tree stump, and those old towels. It’s low but it’s ok.

Artist friends, I wish you all could experience mixing colors in the great outdoors and taking your sweet time with it like I do. This is the life, baby.


4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Gretchen Getsinger
    Jan 21, 2015 @ 17:01:38

    We had a beautiful sunny day here in CT, but the temp was 32. I’m thinking that it’s much warmer where you are. Thanks for posting your mixing technique and your enthusiasm for plein air painting.


    • chris ludke
      Jan 21, 2015 @ 17:20:08

      Hi Gretchen, yeah, most days it’s warmer here in VA. but I was so bored with the cold dreary weather I did go out to paint when it was in the 30s once or twice. It usually goes up into the 40s this time of year here.
      Someone typed into my search words something about submerging an oil paint palette in water to save paint. I never tried it. Have you ever saved paint under water?


      • Gretchen Getsinger
        Jan 21, 2015 @ 19:33:32

        It was a great day to get out just because of the sun, here today. Not warm enough for watercolor or to sit but great to be in the sun.

        I once tried using an 8″ x 10″ white enamel butcher tray as my palette and then covering the paint with water in order to save the paint I’d mixed. It worked well but wasn’t without problems as it didn’t transport well in the car, even though the tray had a cover. The water droplets that remained after pouring the water off made it difficult to mix paint. I tried drying the moist surface with a tissue but that was a drag, too, as I had to be so careful not to wipe out the paint.

  2. chris ludke
    Jan 21, 2015 @ 20:43:41

    Thanks for the info about your experience saving oil paint under water.


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