PART 3, CLASSICAL ACADEMIC APPROACH, THE PALETTE

The other item you will need right away is a 9-value (+black and white) palette.  12″x24″ is the most useable size.  Any smaller and you won’t have enough mixing room; any larger and it gets cumbersome and harder to reach over it.  Making this yourself is an excellent learning experience and begins to train your eye to see nine values in 10% increments, plus black being the absence of light on one end, and white being the absence of dark on the other end (based on the Munsell system).  You will have eleven value strips total.

Frank Covino created this and he calls it the “Controlled Palette.”  As of this writing, I don’t know if he still sells it.  A couple of years ago, he began making it smaller than the one I bought (and love) from him nearly ten years ago, and now I see on his site that it seems to be all a 5th-value gray, similar to Richeson’s Grey Matters palette paper (another excellent tool to provide that extra paint mixing space you sometimes need).  I suggest you contact Frank if you would prefer to buy a palette that is ready to use.  If you find that it is now indeed all gray, I strongly advise you to make it yourself instead.  Your acuity for values will be considerably heightened and, in the long run, you will become a much stronger artist for it.

Here is my palette in use. I still have Saran Wrap (the most non-permeable brand–I have tested this) over the colors. The flesh is still in verdaccio, since it’s always best to remember that “what surrounds the form affects your perception of the form’s values”:

JimAndAlma

Here is what it looks like:

PaletteFront

Front

PaletteBack

Back

You can print this value scale for reference.  Remember, there is a white strip to include at the right end:

PaletteColorChartValues

Supplies needed (all available at Home Depot, Lowes, Ace, etc.):

2 pieces 12″x24″ thin Plexiglas–glass is better for scraping or cleaning if you’re not going to be traveling with it.

1 piece 12″x24″ 1/8″ Masonite

6′ length of 2″ wide gray Duct tape

1 piece of 12″x24″ Contact paper of your choice (wood grain shown)

1 12″x24″printed or painted value scale on lightweight card stock, not paper

Coat one side of Masonite with contact paper, then assemble “sandwich” from the bottom, up, as follows: 3. Masonite (Contact paper on underside), 2. value scale, face up, 1. 1 piece of Plexiglas (or glass) to cover.  Duct tape edges with half the tape width showing on top and half on bottom, long edges first, short edges last.  Palette is complete.  The extra piece of Plexiglas is used on top of the palette to mix paint on and keep the actual palette clean.  When you use it, make sure to very lightly rub it with olive oil before you put the paint on, thereby making it easier to clean.  When the top gets scratched and mangled after many uses, just toss it and get a new top to go over your palette.

Test the measurements of this palette before you make it to ensure it fits in your freezer (adjust, if needed), as that is the way to store your paint for as much as six months.  This saves money because when you mix a flesh palette, for example, you can just use the remaining paint for another portrait.

All the best,

Marsha

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PART 2, CLASSICAL ACADEMIC APPROACH, THE SUPPORT

You will need a support for your painting, and rather than make it yourself (what I normally do), you may want to go and buy a pre-primed gessoed Masonite  board for expediency. The reasons for a hard support as opposed to canvas are many, not the least of which are longevity, durability, and more control.  If you absolutely need canvas, make sure to choose a fine linen weave on board, rather than on stretcher bars.

You can buy an 18″x24″ Ampersand Gessobord, uncradled 1/8″ flat panel, at Utrecht for about $17.  It is a sealed hardboard panel with an acid free, acrylic gesso ground that you can start using right away.  Or, you can buy Utrecht’s excellent cradled, 18″x24″ unfinished wood panel and gesso it yourself for about the same price.

Buy the best marble-inclusive gesso from Frank Covino.  If you gesso your own, make sure you protect it on the back as well so that it cannot absorb moisture and warp.  To save on the cost of expensive gesso and to give them a clean, fresh finish, I coat the backs of my boards with oil-based Kilz, a fabulous and reasonably priced protectorant/primer/sealer, then apply gesso on the front only.

Decide on the size of board, based on the Old Master work you have chosen.  For example, for most lifesize portraits on a 16″x20″ panel, the figure will end at the armpits.  A size approximating life is best, as a giant head can look grotesque–unless that’s the effect you want to achieve.  Keep in mind the following parameters for face sizes on the panel–smaller than life is fine but these are LIMITS you should not exceed:

babies:  5″ from chin to hairline
children 3-12:  5 1/2″
teens to age 27:  6″ maximum, male or female
adults:  7 1/2 for men with large heads, 6 1/2 for women with large heads

The other item you will need right away is a 9-value (plus black and white) palette–more about that tomorrow.