I have been working with Rublev Colours Artist Oils for the past several years now. So much so that my palette is nearly entirely comprised of their colors, and for my students you can buy the colors on the palette that I use in my workshops from Natural Pigments. This is for students who wish to use my full or limited palette.
Ultramarine Blue (Green Shade)
Antica Green Earth
Chrome Yellow Primrose
Lead-Tin Yellow Dark
Cyprus Umber Raw Dark
Lead White #1
Cobalt Chromite Blue
Verona Green Earth
Aged Refined Linseed Oil
Rublesol (odorless mineral spirits)
The list of colors and materials is an integral part of my working palette and it has been selected for fast drying time so that your progress in the workshop may run smoothly without the added difficulty of having to work over still wet or tacky paint. You will notice the large number of earth colors, umbers and lead pigments. The oils that bind these pigments and that will be used as a medium also exemplify quick drying times.
I paint on both canvases and panels. Medium to smooth weave is preferred, but bring what you are comfortable with. I prefer Claessens oil primed linen rolls and then stretch them myself. At other times, I use Artefex oil-primed linen on ACM panel, which are available through Natural Pigments. Though these are more expensive they are archival and also give great painting results.
My palette has been getting brighter and larger (in comparison see my earlier palette below). This is in part due to all of the colorful props I now paint such as flowers and fabrics and face paint, but also a change in style from tenebrism to a more direct approach where glazing is not the object and thus heavier colors are needed to support the more dramatic light effects.
Its also due largely in part to my visits with George and Tania O’Hanlon and Natural Pigments paint factory, their Painting Best Practices workshops, and their general willingness to discuss in depth the art of painting everywhere and anywhere. Whether in a refined sprawling vineyard or a casual small winery, in the redwoods, at one of the Portrait Societies of America (wherever those happen to be) or their home and factory they are ready with enthusiasm, humor, and deep knowledge and appreciation of the craft.
The importance of lead white and lead colors, for example, has become clearer to me. They form a stronger paint film throughout each painting layer and also speed up drying so that you don't get as much sinking in. They also look better, or I should say they get you that Antonio Mancini or Titian frothy white look easily and without fussing, if that is what you are after. Generally speaking they are less opaque and can be more easily mixed with other colors to make appealing flesh tones, for example. I used to hold on to my titanium white for when I wanted a more opaque white until I learned that titanium white was not good for paint layer formation (not as flexible as lead white). For my classes I recommend Rublev Colours Lead White #1 because it contains linseed oil instead of walnut oil, which means that it will dry faster. It's not a great idea to paint over a wet painting the next day.
But why stop there? There is also Lead-Tin Yellow Dark and Orange Molybdate, which also dry fast and form strong films. Orange Molybdate is an extraordinarily bright color which could be your substitute for Cadmium Red Light, not that anything is wrong with it. I am just trying to put this relatively little used pigment into perspective.
Naples Yellow is a fantastic color and more traditionally used in modern art classes than Lead-Tin Yellow Dark (which I have on my materials list). In truth, I keep both of these pigments on my palette, as well as a Naples Yellow Dark. But I didn't want to make students go out and buy too much at the start and its not necessary. Those are just my personal working methods. When I was in school I had a much smaller palette that I stuck with and only began expanding gradually throughout the years.
The other reason that I don’t list Naples Yellow is that Chrome Yellow Primrose is there and it is even brighter, so we have that base covered. With this and blue you can mix most of the bright “acid greens” you will need, but that aren’t likely to be found in the flesh palette anyway.
Antica Earth Green is a color that I turn to a lot for just about everything. I like Antica Green Earth because it is natural and not synthetic. I can feel the crumbly texture of the pigment particles under my brush as I paint and I like to vary that with finer particle size pigments, such as lead white. It’s medium tinting strength makes it great to throw into halftone mixtures, sometimes wet-into-wet and mixed on the canvas, and not done with a palette knife ahead of time on the palette as you might do with an Alizarin Crimson. It's also a nice lower chroma green. If I want a keyed up green than I mix one with yellow and blue.
Pozzuoli Red is another color that is very familiar to painters. Venetian Red is one of the closest replacements. I actually used to use a Venetian Red by Rublev Colours but after visiting their factory and seeing a batch of Pozzuoli Red being made (shown below) I brought home a tube and have been using it instead. It’s slightly warmer.
Ultramarine Blue Green Shade is another classic color and can be easily replaced with another brand’s ultramarine blue, if you need. Except that I have never encountered a blue like this one. Ruble Colours Artist Oils do not contain additives, so this is why the color's natural consistency lends Rublev Colour Ultramarine Blue Green Shade its unusual characteristics over other brands of ultramarine blue. It is honey like and ropy, extremely stringy and long and harder to spread (you might need bristles for that) but a joy to blend and manipulate with. It was one of the colors that got me interested in the possibilities of grinding my own paints and then having the choice of my own binder medium.
Lemon Ocher is a version of yellow ocher, a color that most people are familiar with. Again Rublev Colour’s are natural not synthetic iron oxides, so their yellow ochers all have very individual characteristics (they all come from different mines around the world). I chose this one as it felt very light and creamy, almost like whipped cream. It was also brighter.
Alizarin Crimson is a very high tinting color which I use mainly in my darks and for giving a reddish hue to dark pigment mixtures. I try to use it sparingly so a little will go a long way on the palette. I don’t have much more to say on it without getting into a discussion about lightfastness but as this is about class supplies, I would like to encourage students to use lots of paint in general. Put a lot on the palette and don’t spare it in mixtures, even though it might seem very expensive or wasteful, it is not and you will also be doing yourself a favor in the long run in terms of what you accomplish and learn. Additionally, take heart! For the majority of mixtures and paint mileage you will probably use earth colors and umbers like I do, and spare the more expensive pigments for highlights, tinting and accents.
Cyprus Raw Umber Dark is a fantastic color. I formerly used a generic raw umber that was synthetic, and sunk in… and was devoid of texture. The raw umbers I recommend hurdle over all of these issues. The French Raw Umber is probably closest to the other raw umbers you will find on the market, and is the one I am most familiar with using. And it is a lovely color with coarse pigment particles and acts similarly to Antica Green Earth. Meanwhile the Cyprus Raw Umber Dark is super dark, almost black, and is smooth and has been great for getting deep shadow colors without having to resort to too much black. Throw some Ultramarine Blue in instead perhaps.
Of course, nothing is wrong with black. I am not one of those painters that recommends leaving black off the palette entirely. But I do try to avoid reaching for it just because it is dark. Bone Black is one of the darkest ones you will find and it is a cold black. Black does dry slower, however, and so sometimes I like to throw some Orange Molybdate in with it to make it warmer and dry faster. Or I put in Ultramarine Blue, Alizarin Crimson, etc. These are all great colors for tinting your black without getting the chalkiness in it which might not make it look as deep. There I go giving all the secrets away, oh well. Old tricks, nothing new.
Now Maya Blue is a great new color and has been made available to painters again recently. It was never on the Western Art palette since it was used by the Mayans using clay and indigo to synthetically create this lovely color. Its a bit like an earth blue, meaning that it does not have as high a chroma as other blues might and it also goes really dark which I love. This is part of my extended palette, meaning you don't absolutely have to bring it to class.
Cobalt Chromite Blue is a pigment name that I am jut getting used to saying. Its only been on my palette for a few months and I loved it instantly. I think I was one of the first persons to try it out because I got it from the factory with a smiley face drawn on the back of the label instead of the pigment facts, it being tubed early at my request. Cobalt Chromite Blue is what I used to think of as Cerulean blue. It has a lovely hue and very strong tinting strength. This one comes darker than many Cerulean blues I was used to working with. This is also on my extended palette, optional. I guess I just like having lots of paints…
The next optional color is Vermilion, a very beautiful and historic red. One of its appeals it that it can be mixed with a lots of other colors on the palette and you get greys and lavenders and not as much brown or orange. It just reacts/mixes differently with other pigments than cadmium red and that takes some getting used to. It has replaced cadmium red on my palette for the time being, as I was curious to see what would happen if I coordinated my palette as whole to a more natural set of paints found on older canvases that I admired. It is optional, but if you don’t get it than please bring cadmium red to class.
Verona Green Earth is a higher chroma green that I like to have on my palette and reach for instead of mixing up my own green all the time. It’s optional.
Teresa Oaxaca’s Former Palette
This palette (see below) is from a portrait painting demonstration at the 2015 Portrait Society of America Conference. I prefer to lay out my colors from light to dark and warm to cool, so that I get to what my eyes looks like a harmonious display of hues. The important thing is that I have got used to this arrangement so I can send my brush or palette knife to the appropriate pile for mixing without having to think about it too consciously, thus freeing up my mind for drawing and value work on the painting.
On my palette are the following colors in order counter clockwise:
Crystal White—Rublev Colours
Lead White No. 2—Rublev Colours
Naples Yellow—Rublev Colours
Cadmium Yellow Medium—Windsor & Newton
Orange Molybdate—Rublev Colours
Cadmium Red Deep—Michael Harding
Venetian Red—Rublev Colours
Alizarin Crimson—Rublev Colours
French Burnt Sienna—Rublev Colours
Transparent Oxide Yellow—Rublev Colours
Verona Green Earth—Rublev Colours
Antica Green Earth—Rublev Colours
Viridian—Old Holland or Gamblin
Ultramarine Blue (Green Shade)—Rublev Colours
Cobalt Blue—Rublev Colours
Diyoxazine Purple—Windsor & Newton
Cypress Umber Dark—Rublev Colours
French Raw Umber—Rublev Colours
Bone Black—Rublev Colours
I like to work on oil primed canvas which does not necessarily have to be pre-toned. In the past I have used a dry warm brown or cool grey mid tone preparation, however I came upon the method that I use now by accident. When beginning an alla prima painting, or one day sketch, I prefer to rub raw umber and paint a medium heavy wash over the entire canvas and start working directly into that application. I find that I can rub out my lights easily and not commit to any sharp lines in the beginning stages that would distract me later. This method also helps me to work in terms of mass, using light and dark to sculpt the features broadly. I don't stay at this stage or bring it to a great sense of finish either; after about half an hour or one sitting I am ready for color.
Using color on a slightly wet and raw umber toned surface also has the advantage, at least for me, of giving my paint something to work into and "overcome". I find that I key my lights and chromas very high and that the slightly swampy underpainting brings them back down to earth and gives all the colors a unity that is only apparent when I compare the work to another similar pose done straight onto a dry surface. See the comparison in the next few images.
This is a picture of Impression of a Lady (16x20 inches, oil on canvas, sold) taken while she was still fresh on the canvas. You can see what I mean about some of the earth color blending particularly in the tuft of hair on the left coming down from her wig. The blue background in that section is muted considerably by the still wet underpainting and has led to some unexpected effects that I liked and let remain.
In this there was a sense of fighting with the canvas and living with the unknown; a bit like watercolor.
White Collar (16x20 inches, oil on canvas, sold) was painted over an already dry grey toned canvas. Comparing my works in hindsight I have noticed the relative crispness and control of the brushwork, perhaps a lack of unpredictability. I used to prefer this and at one time would have shrunk away from anything that would muddy my colors and make mixing and painting even more unpredictable, more difficult. I used shorter stiffer brushes, more blending and less texture; now I welcome a bit of this brush play and seek out long egbert-style* bristle brushes, economy hog bristle brushes, and more interesting paint.
Rublev Colours oil paints are quite interesting for many reasons. One is that they have different pigment granular sizes, which is apparently the natural way to experience and handle paint. For example, Cyprus Raw Umber Dark has very large particles and I can almost feel it grinding against the canvas. Ultramarine Blue (Green Shade), on the other hand, has a honey light consistency and very long flow. The lead whites, of which they produce several, are all good for different things like achieving more texture (such as Ceruse which has chalk in it) or transparency and brilliance (which the leaded crystal glass in Crystal White lends). Lead White No. 2, which is bound with walnut oil, extends lead white's somewhat short drying time, a thing that I am grateful for because I can then take the entire day and night to complete a passage. Or in other cases, I like the option of Lead White No. 1 bound in linseed oil, if I want faster drying time.
I have learned from sitting down with George O'Hanlon and Tatiana Zaytseva (Rublev Colours paint makers) that this behavior is more characteristic of pre-twentieth century oil paints. Pigments have ways in which they "behave", and its not natural or necessarily desirable to force them all to the same consistency as is the case of modern commercial paints. Someday I would like to take one of their Painting Best Practices Workshops, where they discuss the science and correct methods of preparing surfaces and paints, and their use.
It is safe to say that I do not use every color on my palette in every picture. The larger and more involved the picture tends to be the more paints that get used. When I started off painting I had a set palette of mostly umbers and not more than ten colors. This worked for figures in model rooms and darkly lit still lifes, and for a time in my studio after that. As I started to add more flowers and experiment with colors in my compositions, my palette grew to encompass what it is today. I could have stopped adding colors awhile ago and would have been fine but my curiosity with paint handling effects and new pigment behaviors and mixtures (as well as wanting sound and reliable paints) is what intrigues me about Rublev Colours.
For example, Orange Molybdate is a recent addition to my palette. It contains lead molybdate and has a very high tinting strength. While warmer than Cadmium Red, it could be used to replace it if it is mixed with Alizarin Crimson, for example. It provides a really nice range of mixtures. I used it on the doll and even in the red stripes on the frame (see picture below).
* The egbert brush is a filbert, but with longer hair. It has the advantage of holding more color, and it more easily flexes. Its relationship to a filbert is like that of a flat to a bright.
Learn more about Teresa Oaxaca and her art at her website.