The paints that I use from Natural Pigments are called Rublev Colours. Natural Pigments makes a boutique line of paints that are traditionally manufactured. By traditionally manufactured they are not made by a bunch of monks but they are made with materials and recipes that are more traditional. That originally started off as their main focus, which was to make paints out of traditional, non-manmade, non-synthetic pigments that you couldn’t find anymore on the market and they bind them in simple binders without additives or stabilizers. What you find in these paints, because they don’t have stabilizers, because they don’t have additives, is just pigment and oil. You have a really high pigment volume concentration. Each pigment acts a little bit differently, because it’s ground to a different size and because each pigment requires a slightly different amount of oil or even a different type of oil. Some of these have bodied oils, some of these have regular linseed oil, so what you’ll find is paint that has a unique consistency, which is kinda cool. It’s definitely a lot of fun to play around with. Sometimes it’s challenging to play around with, but I’ll show you how I set up my palette with these colors.
Here are the colors that I’m using the most these days. I am more of a minimalist when it comes to my palette. I’m really a big advocate of having a limited palette especially when you’re a beginner. Over the years I’ve added new colors to my palette. I’ve become addicted to a few of them and now this is more or less the standard palette that I’m putting out these days.
What you’ll notice is that all these tubes have really nice, beautiful labels on them with the colors and they don’t come that way unfortunately. I went and did that because I figured an hour of my time spent making these labels is gonna save hours of my time rummaging through paint, straining to read the label, and trying to figure out which is which. I don’t know what it is when I’m painting but my brain shuts off and I can’t read very well, so I’m looking for hematite and I can’t find hematite because my brain isn’t processing the words. So I have the colors on the labels and I find it a huge help. I try to keep them organized so I am not wasting time looking for my paints. I really think it’s important to have an organized work space so that when you need to stop and grab a paint you’re not interrupting your flow by launching on a ten-minute search for a missing paint.
I’m gonna start by just laying out my palette for the day. Luckily, I will be doing some painting later so I’m not gonna be wasting all this paint. The first thing we need to do is put out my Lead White #2. Now there’s a few different lead whites offered by Rublev Colours, but this is the one I prefer. Making the transition from titanium white, I found this one the easiest one to use. It is the creamiest, but it’s still quite a bit different from titanium and you’ll see that in a minute.
Now when it comes straight out of the tube it is very thick and even sticky. It actually has a spaghetti-like effect. It will create little peaks, that’s a strength, but I also find it rather difficult to push it around. I’m not a bravura painter. I don’t just leave big brush strokes everywhere. I like things to be delicately modeled and really smooth so this interferes with me getting that effect. What I usually need to do to make it workable for me is I add a little bit of Oleogel. It can be linseed oil or Oleogel, but Oleogel is just so damned convenient to use, so that’s what I tend to use. You want to be careful when you do this to make sure you get the correct ratio and the correct ratio is just whatever works for you. Too much Oleogel and it gets to be too transparent and runny, too little and it won’t do anything for you. I just mix it in and now you get a really nice creamy paint that moves and pushes around just the way I want.
But there’s one more thing I can do to this paint, but I can use it this way and I often do just use it this way, if I want to really make the paint a bit beefier because it goes on rather thin now. If I want to have a little bit more body, if I want to have some brush strokes and impasto, I will add a bit of Velázquez Medium. Velázquez Medium or Impasto Medium are rather similar so either one of those will do, but I like the Velázquez Medium more and more these days. What Velázquez Medium is is a pigment, a colorless pigment, even though it appears white it actually is a colorless paint. You’ll see that when you add it to other colors so that it actually doesn’t tint those colors, because it is a colorless pigment plus a binder. Basically that makes it a paint and since it is a paint you can add as much as you want to your paints without actually changing the nature of your paints. One of the problems of adding medium to your paint, of course, is that you are weakening the paint film. The more oil you add to your paint the more you are weakening the paint film. You’re ruining that ideal ratio of pigment to binder. But because Velázquez Medium is technically a paint in structure you’re just mixing more paint into your paint so you could add as much as you want if you want to.
Now I’ve got a paint that actually flows really nicely. It’s really soft and buttery but it actually has a bit more body and it will stand up to the vigor of my brush strokes a bit better. Now you might wonder why I didn’t just leave the paint in its original state because what I essentially did was I just made it runnier then thicker again but the texture of this is completely different than the texture of the lead white out of the tube and I vastly prefer this one so this is what I do. I like to use this when I’m painting flesh. I get nice meaty paint application. I like it when I am painting white drapery, but apart from that I don’t usually add Impasto Medium. I just add Oleogel.
That’s been premixed. I’m gonna put that right there. I like to keep my lead white near my thumb. The reason is because a lot of my flesh mixing happens right here and to me it’s comfortable working like this, and I don’t like to be working like that. I see some people put the whites right at their elbows and I see them the whole time painting like this.
The next color on my palette is Chrome Yellow Light. I used to use Chrome Yellow Primrose a lot and then I discovered this one and decided this one just suited me a little bit better. It’s a very, very nice color, very similar to cadmium yellow. It’s interesting having this on my palette because it’s been years since I’ve had any cads on my palette or anything this dramatic. I was a very low chroma painter up until about a year ago until I finally added some chromatic colors back to my palette. I used to not be very discriminating about my colors. I would try anything that worked but then I went through this phase where I was trying to discipline myself and work with low chroma colors on a limited palette and that was really good for me. But now I’m sort of going back and I’m adding back the dramatic colors and it’s been a lot of fun.
This is Blue Ridge Yellow Ocher. It’s very similar to say Winsor & Newton Yellow Ocher Pale or Mars Yellow by Old Holland. It’s just a really important color for my palette. I’ve always liked having this color on my palette, really good for flesh. Just good for everything. Of all the yellow ochers Natural Pigments has this is my favorite both for the texture and for the tinting strength. Maybe that’s just my bias, because it’s so similar to the other yellows I’ve used in the past, but that’s what I prefer. It has just a really nice texture straight out of the tube, so I don’t have to do anything to it.
This is Orange Ocher. This is one of my favorite colors. I can actually get a color very similar to it by mixing yellow ocher and burnt sienna or hematite or whatever but I just love how it comes straight out of tube and it ends up being almost the perfect color for the red hair of some of my red-headed models. We are at the stage in this tube where there’s some oil separation happening. That’s one thing that happens with these paints quite a bit is oil separation because they don’t have stabilizers. What I do is I just squeeze a bit of paint onto a paper towel and clean up this mess while I am add it, otherwise it just winds up on my hands at a later date. I just let it sit on the paper towel for a little bit and what you’ll see through the capillary diffusion on the paper towel is the oil gets wicked out of the blob of paint. After about a minute or so you can just take it off. Mix it up just a little bit just to make sure it’s consistent throughout. And there’s the next color.
Setting up this palette is little bit higher maintenance than some of the palettes I’ve had in the past. This one is also separating quite a bit. I find that most of these paints have an oily spot in them and then you get through it and then towards the end of the tube of paint you’ll have some dry paint. It’s not actually dry just what I mean to say is that the oil ratio has dropped down so it’s mostly pigment at that point. When that happens you just fix the situation by adding a bit of oil and I think I’ve gotta a tube of paint like that so I can demonstrate that in a little bit.
The next color is Orange Molybdate, a really high chroma orange-red. I don’t use it a ton but when I need it, it really does help me out, especially in really dark shadow areas when I need to bump up the chroma without raising the value.
This is Hematite. It’s pretty similar to French Burnt Sienna, which is what I used to use instead of this one. I still really love French Burnt Sienna but this is the tube I have out so I tend to use it these days. I might switch back. They’re so similar; the only differences are French Burnt Sienna is much more transparent than Hematite and Hematite is a little bit rosier. The textures are a bit different; French Burnt Sienna is rather gritty and interesting. Hematite is kind of gelatinous and blobby.
This is Madder Lake. I don’t know if they make Madder Lake anymore. (Editor: Yes, we reintroduced Madder Lake this past year.) This is a really old tube. I think they’ve replaced it with Alizarin Crimson now. It’s also a staple on my palette for flesh. I usually use it on the rosy parts of a person’s face; not throughout just mostly cheeks, lips, the intense reds and someone’s eyes and it usually ends up being mixed with Hematite.
This one is called Cyprus Burnt Umber Warm. I love this color. It’s just a fantastic color but one thing about it is since I use it in the shadows a lot, especially in flesh since I use it in dark areas and shadows often pure, I like it to go on thin. I like to keep my shadows a bit thinner and this is just a little bit too pasty and thick for me to easily drag it thinly into shadows. What I do is I do the Oleogel trick again. Again, you can use Oleogel or linseed oil, it doesn’t matter. I just find it so easy to use Oleogel and I just mix a teensy bit of it in there and it just spreads the paint right out. Now it flows so much better. I can spread that thinly in shadow areas now.
I do the exact same thing with the next color, which is Cyprus Umber Dark. I would like that to have a much more flowing texture but I’m not gonna bother to demonstrate that again for you.
Next up is Ultramarine Blue (Red Shade). This is an important color for me. I use it a ton. I like to keep it here nestled between the umbers and the black because I use it intermixed with my umbers a lot. You get some really interesting neutral tints when you mix this with the Cyprus Umber Dark or Cyprus Burnt Umber Warm.
Next up, I am not going to put it out today because I am not going to use it my painting, but it is a really interesting color. It is called Roman Black and it is a black that is noticeably lighter in value than other blacks when you put it on the palette. Actually, I will put it out so you can see that. What I like to use it for is flesh. For a while I did not use black for flesh. The problem with using black for flesh is that it is too cool. It is too cool for school. It’s too cool to work with because it makes your flesh tones look a little to sickly, or greenish, or muddy or whatever, but this black, Roman Black is actually very neutral. I used to mix up a neutral tint for my flesh taking black and burnt umber. But with this black I can use it straight out of the tube, so I do not have to premix my black with a brown to warm it up. This is actually a great neutralizer for flesh tones, so anywhere the flesh gets less intense in color, less saturated and gets more neutral, I get my students to use this to add to flesh. This is the simplest way to get a student to lower the chroma on flesh. We are not using compliments. We are not being elaborate or complicated on how we are mixing colors. We’re just doing the simplest thing, which is take a neutral black and add it to flesh and usually we have this premixed in tints with different values and it’s a really nice simple way to control the chroma of your flesh. I’m not working on flesh today so I’m just gonna take it off my palette. I hope you can see in this film that this is lighter in value than this Bone Black. It is just kind of interesting. It’s not altogether very different from say Mars Black. I think chemically it’s the same thing. I’ll take that off.
Now the final color here is Bone Black. This is a really nice dark glossy black. I think I am at the point in the tube now where there’s a little less oil and you can see as a result it’s a little bit more matte than I would like. I want my black to be as glossy as possible when I put it on my painting, because I actually want to see how dark it actually is. If I were to paint this is on my painting right now, it’s matte. I might trick myself about how dark it really is. Then I would vanish my painting and then it would get darker, so I want to make sure that the black is the actual value it’s going to be when I varnish the painting. If I have to, I will add a little bit of Oleogel as well, just a teensy little bit. I’m basically just restoring the oil ratio that the paint really ought to have, because like I said the oil does separate in the tube and you wind up with these patches of paint where there’s not as much oil. That’s already glossier and darker and now I’ve got a more accurate picture of what that black is gonna look like so if I put that pure on my painting I know exactly what it’s going to look like after it is varnished.
The problem with Bone Black, and this is a problem with most blacks, unless they’re an iron oxide black, is that they just take forever to dry. Even when they seem to be dry the paint film seems to be really weak and that is just not very helpful, especially since as you know from my previous video I like to take a solvent, which is the essential oil of petroleum, or Rublesol Lite, and I like to use that to saturate my paintings, take a look at them and, if this color still isn’t dry, and usually it’s the last to dry, those areas might come off my painting. What I do to accelerate the drying of bone black, there’s a couple things you can do and one is to take an alkyd medium of some sort and add just a touch in there to accelerate the drying or you can just do something even simpler and you can take a little bit of your Cyprus Umber Dark, which is really dark in value. If you look at that we’re not really going to alter the value too much and just mix that in there. Umbers dry really quickly because of their manganese content, so I’m just adding some manganese dryer basically to my black and it will dry faster. So there you go.
So that’s how I set up my palette. It can be a little bit labor-intensive on some days but usually I’m not talking when I do it, so usually I get it done in about 10 minutes and that’s how it’s normally set up when I’m painting. This is the order that I like to have my paints in. I like to go from my lightest colors, to my yellows, to my reds, my browns, my blue, my black. If there’s a green it will go in here. I just kind of like that nice rainbow look.
If you’re interested in Rublev Colours Artist Oils or were thinking about buying my paint set, this video will acquaint you with how I prepare my palette. Many of the colours require some personalization before I use them. You'll see in the video.
Here’s the colour list:
Lead White #2
Chrome Yellow Light
Blue Ridge Yellow Ocher
Cyprus Burnt Umber Warm
Cyprus Burnt Umber Dark