So let's talk about palettes for oil painting. I just had the joyful(!) experience of trying to clean my super-very paint-encrusted palette. So I was wondering, what else could I use? Off I went and found out.
It turns out that any non-absorbent surface will do as a palette (bye bye art supplies store, hello shed). Glass, clear perspex, wood, melamine, waxed paper, tin, hardboard, marble and cling wrap are all options.
Of course the traditional palette was made of wood. And to look after this properly, it should be coated with linseed oil and wiped dry before use. At the end of a session (note to self!) the palette should be cleaned with turps and scraped with a razor, then coated with linseed oil and wiped dry again.
The old masters swore by pear wood. Allegedly, brushes wear out at 1/3 the rate on pear wood compared to glass. The pear, being a hardwood, has tight pores, hence it doesn't grab at the hairs of your brushes. Hmmm. Not having tested this myself, I can't really say, except that the logic does not hold up (glass is smooth and so shouldn't grab at your brushes at all) and the person giving this advice was also selling high-end pearwood palettes. They may well be the best, but for another reason perhaps.
I came across a few interesting tips along the way:
Waxed paper or cling wrap are great if you have the throwaway mindset. Just cover your work area (even an entire table!), mix paints as you want, then scrunch and bin at the end of a session.
If paint is on a waterproof palette surface, the whole kaboodle can be put underwater. Why on earth? Because oil paints 'dry' by oxidation. Submerging the paint means that no air can get to it and it stays usable on the palette for weeks. Apparently. I might give that a test run some time. It's good to know.
Glass or clear perspex have the advantage of being transparent. This is great as you can match the background of your palette to the background or ground of your painting by putting a piece of coloured paper behind the palette. Why would you do this? To help you judge and mix tones accurately. The disadvantage of glass is that it tends to be greasy.
The new smooth surfaces such as glass or melamine-laminate are very easy to clean. A lot easier than wood which gets the paint stuck in the pores.
So it turns out that I didn't need to drive all the way into the nearest city to get myself a new 'art store' wooden palette after all. Although I did manage to clean the one I have with an hour, a lot of elbow grease, turps and a scourer, I could have just rolled out the waxed paper sitting in the kitchen drawer and got on with painting. Ah, next time.
And yes, that picture is my CLEAN palette :)
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