space saver

A typical mid-session mess.

For various reasons, I usually paint in the second smallest room in the house. My ‘studio’ working surfaces are a few book shelves (covered, predictably, with books) and a small table which is home to a computer, modem, keyboard, mouse mat, graphics tablet and a cup of tea. In short, space is short.

Out of necessity I’ve found various ways to cram the messy paraphanaelia of oil painting into as little space as possible. There’s enough space on the table for a glass picture frame (my palette) which when not in use can be balanced precariously on a section of my CD collection (the bad ones).

I’ve found that using glass as a palette is the easiest way to mix paint and the easiest to clean. I turned the lining cardboard to the front to create a neutral midtone. At the end of the session any extra paint is gathered up with a palette knife and transferred to the bespoke paint stick which was cut to fit in the frame. Large amounts of unsullied tube paint can be kept in separate blobs, but everything else is mixed up into a pile of mud. The stick is then wrapped in junk-mail clingfilm.

After the bulk of the extra paint has been saved, a few sheets of kitchen towel and a small blob of hand soap will complete the clean-up, no solvents necessary. In fact, I rarely use solvents for any part of the painting process, so even in this small room there is only the faint smell of linseed oil.

I don’t bother cleaning the brushes. Instead I get the worst of the paint out on a kitchen towel then dip the end of the brush in a mixture of safflower oil and a dozen drops of clove oil. This combination is very slow drying and will keep the brushes supple and in good condition for at least a couple of weeks before needing another dip. At the next painting session, just wipe off the excess brush dip and carry on painting.

In this small space, the easel is put up wherever it will fit. The lighting… well, that’s a problem I haven’t really solved yet. I want to get a consistent soft-box setup so I can draw the curtains on the sun beaming uncontrollably through the west-facing window. But that will be the subject of another post…


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