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Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Bite the Bullet.

If I see one more dried up, twisted tube of watercolor paint in a student's tackle box, it will be too many. The supply list for my class is simple: just 8 colors, a couple of brushes, a palette, paper and water containers. Beginners often bring in materials that someone gave them or they inherited. More experienced artists may not have painted for years, so they haul in everything they used eons ago. Most watercolors have a pretty decent shelf life. But often the old tubes are hard as rocks. Some are made of lead. I set these aside and tell them they should dispose of them, but invariably I see the tubes going back into their kits. Why? I can't imagine.

Some artists slit the tube, spread it open and dab color from the hard chunk of paint inside. They risk ruining good brushes. If you can get chunky paint out of the tube, put it in a palette well with a couple of drops of gum arabic. It may become useable again. But if it's gritty, there isn't much you can do to restore it to its original consistency. There are artists who regrind the paint, mixing it with binder to a creamy consistency. Wouldn't you rather paint?

Another problem with using old paint is that there are a some colors that undergo chemical changes in the tube and become discolored. Also, you won't find discontinued colors on the market, so why use colors you can't replace?

Paints that dry up and become crumbly are usually student colors. Buying student paint is a false economy. The tube may be larger or cost less, but you'll need more paint to achieve anything near the intensity of good quality artist pigments. So, ante up and get the good stuff. You'll see the difference in your watercolor paintings.

Please, throw away those wretched, rock-hard, twisted tubes and use fresh, good-quality paint.

I'll have a rant on paper soon.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for your blog. I look forward to being inspired by your great ideas.

Beth in Juneau

5:30 PM  
Blogger Michelle Himes said...

Nita, I was one of those artists who resisted buying the artist grade paints for a long time. Too expensive. I was getting good strong color with the student grade, and I was winning awards. Then I tried the artist colors, and WOW! It was a lot less work to get strong vibrant color, and I my paints lasted a lot longer. I'm sold!


7:43 PM  
Blogger Gláucia Mir said...


What are these 8 colors you recommend to your students? Or if you had to recommend a few more then 8, what would they be?

9:02 PM  
Blogger Nita said...

The colors and how to use them are on my web site at http://www.nitaleland.com/articles/split. htm . Other options are listed in my book, Exploring Color, which is described at http://www.nitaleland.com/product/exploreproduct.htm .

11:31 AM  
Blogger mad4color said...

I am not a nut about the environment, but I hate waste. We all do stuff our own way.

I am currently restoring a large tube of DaVinci yellow ochre watercolor. I suppose the earth colors are the most likely to dry in the tube.

The tube was already slightly open at the bottom, and the the moisture had leaked out.

I sealed the bottom as well as I could with tape. I put some water and a dab of honey in the tube and dropped it bottom first into a small jar of water. I made sure I could see water at the top of the tube. The taped-up bottom leaked some into the water jar. painted a wash with it.

I cut the bottom of the tube completely open tonight. The paint inside was softer and more pliable. I scraped several chunks out of the bottom and dropped it into a small empty plastic pill bottle and filled it watercolor. I'll let it evaporate a few days then put the top on it.

I put the rest of the tube, with paint still in the top half, into a plastic baggie. But I may take it out of the bag and put it on my patio and let it dry, then drop the hard paint chunks into the little pill bottle. The ochre should dry hard outside and pull away from the metal.

Not hard at all. The earth colors are probably the most chemically stable colors anyway.

I did label the little pill bottle with the paint name.

Empty spice bottles would be great for this.

3:59 AM  

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