Thursday, June 18, 2009

Palette Cleaning 101 -Save the environment AND money

I share a Studio complex which has space for 30 artists. Despite the Managers installing sand filters for the sinks and Drums for oil paint, after a mere 5 months of operating at about 70% full, we are getting blocked drains. Since I paint with thick oil paint and am pretty prolific, yet put NO paint in the oil drums, much less down the sinks, I am at a loss to work out how that can be, unless there are a lot of artists out there who know not how to save themselves money and save the environment at the same time, by cleaning their palettes properly. So here goes: Palette cleaning 101.
Use a separate brush for each colour/tint you paint onto the canvas (this means your colours are clean and available immediately you require them). Stand the brushes (on their stick end) in an empty 1Ltre paint tin when not in use.
When finished for the day, scrape off the oil paint on your brushes onto your palette (where the paint is close to the colour on the brush) with a palette knife.
When scraped, put your brushes back into the paint tin brush-side down, until all brushes have been scraped. Fill the tin halfway with decanted turps (see later).
Meanwhile, work the paint on the palette into a homogenous colour blob (at least 2 cm round, mixing similar colours if need be) and scrape off the palette into a plastic "take-away"or other lidded container half full of water (or enough to cover the paint). Since Oil and water don't mix, the paint will be contained in the "blob" you placed it there as, and all the air will be excluded from the paint by the water - thus keeping the paint moist. No skins to peel back!
Then, swish the brushes in the turps and scrape against the sides of the tin to remove as much paint as possible. Wipe them down, brush first, on a rag. (Note: every week, I also wash the brushes again in clean, new turps, before wiping them down with a rag).
Pour the turps into a large 4Ltre Paint tin, where the paint sediment will settle overnight, leaving a layer of turps and oil which you can use as medium to paint with (no 1 to start but gets to no 3 after doing this for a while!) or to clean the brushes off after tomorrow's session.
Next, scrape the paint off the palette with your knife and place on a sheet of Kitchen Paper towels and discard into the bin. Wipe the palette with a rag (and a drop or two of turps, often on the palette after cleaning the brushes) if need be, to thoroughly clean your palette. This leaves a grey layer of very thin paint on your palette, which dries overnight and is a great colour for accurate viewing of paint as you mix colours the next painting session.
Note: When you start again the next day, you can use the paint in the containers as needed (it will keep well for 7-10 days, but is "touch and go" after this). You can also lose the sludge which forms on the bottom of the tin as a base for your next painting - it will be a coloured grey, depending on the colour palette used in your paintings.
So with this method, you waste no paint, waste no turps, have mixed colours the same as your painting to continue with as soon as you enter the studio, have a clean palette, and a great background for distinguishing your paint colours-and, best of all, no blocked drains and no environmental damage!!
What tips do you have for oil painters to save the environment? Post your comments here.

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