Essential Encaustic Paint Colors for the Beginner

Going to the encaustic Conference this week? Before you enter the wonder of the vendor room, be sure to read this post. This list is a great start for the beginning encaustic painter as well as advanced to find the color combination of your dreams.

Last year, I wrote a popular post listing the Encaustic Paint Colors I Can’t Do Without and as a result a reader requested I write a post listing some colors for the beginner. The International Encaustic Conference is starting this week with it’s overwhelmingly wonderful vendor room, so now is a perfect time for this post.

There are only a handful of colors one really needs in order to mix all colors; magenta, yellow, cyan, black and white or the primary colors Red, Yellow, Blue, Black and White…actually, you don’t even need black, you can mix that by mixing all the colors in equal proportions. But who has time for that, it’s just easier to have some colors at the ready and I developed this list with that thought in mind. I also thought about some colors that are just so luscious you might want them all the time without having to mix them. I started with a varied color wheel and branched off with a few oddballs you might find interesting. As a beginner, it’s important to start small and purchase some, rather than all. Buy the small sizes instead of the mega size, find what’s right for you and go from there. When I first started painting with encaustic, I only used 4 colors and slowly added more. This list is a good place to start for the beginner as well as advanced and I hope it helps you find the color combination of your dreams.

Other things I mentioned in the first post that I would like to reiterate. I never use colors ‘straight out of the tube’, all of my colors are mixed with 2-5 colors and yours should be as well. It creates a more personalized palette when you do this as well as a more interesting painting. Once again, this list is in no particular order and I photographed the paints on top of an in progress painting just as they are…messy, mushy, splashed with other colors, alluding a little to my process and looking like colorful little sculptures. If you’d like to see the paints pretty and clean, just click on the links to the paint distributor’s sites. If you’d like to learn more about encaustic color mixing, take a workshop with me, I discuss paint mixing in a all of my workshops.

If this post was helpful to you, please let me know, I invite your comments questions and suggestions in the comments section now located in the upper left sidebar of this post.

Stay tuned for my next post, Part Two of my Evolution of a Mark series of posts in which I trace back to my beginnings as an artist to where I am today. If you haven’t done so, make sure you read Part One so it all makes sense.

Enjoy the lovely flowers blooming everywhere.

R&F Paints

  • Alizarin Orange I LOVE this color, it will be on any list I make regarding paint colors. Bright and versatile, it can go from a light gold to a rich rusty orange in one swipe. When mixed with white or any other color, it retains it’s richness.
  • Payne’s Grey  Like Alizarin Orange, this color will be on any encaustic paint color list I make. I use this instead of black to darken any color. For me, black tends to deaden the color as it darkens, while this one allows the original color to retain it’s voice.
  • Warm Pink Like neutral white, I have used this color since I started painting in encaustic. It brightens any color and when mixed with a little and painted next to or on top of earthy blues, grays or greens, the eyes vibrate!
  • Brilliant Yellow Extra Pale I love to use this color instead of white as it not only lightens, it adds just a touch of yellow and whimsy as it brightens as well. 
  • Cobalt Blue A bright, clear blue, I use it more than any other blue.
  • Malachite Green I use this color way too much. It’s one of those colors that changes as it’s painted next to different colors. It makes any color and any painting sing.
  • Phthalo Turquoise Another color that looks dead in the package and like black when it’s melted, it is actually one of the brightest and most versatile colors. Add just a touch of any white and watch the magic happen.
  • Phthalo Blue Embarrassingly I just read what Phthalo colors actually are a few years ago and now buy anything described as such because of its unmatched intensity. There is a clarity to this blue that you will find in no other for water, skies, anytime you need blue. It mixes beautifully and always retains its voice.
  • Alizarin Crimson I do not have a Cadmium Red on this list, which may be odd to some, but quite honestly I have rarely ever used it because it always reads slightly orange to me. To be clear, Cadmium Red is the purest red and I would be remiss to tell you not to have it in your collection. However, I always find myself reaching for the Alizarin Crimson instead. It’s a cross between magenta and red and leans on the darker side of both. However, when it’s mixed with only a slight amount of white, it comes alive and is quite bright. It also makes a wide range of lovely pinks when mixed any light or white color.
  • Cadmium Green Pale  Not really true green, not really yellow, its a good mix of both, but I wouldn’t call it yellow-green. This is my go-to green, it can be lightened beautifully as well as darkened.
  • Zinc White Not having Titanium White on this list may also be a color faux pas but again, I rarely ever use it because it’s so uncomfortably white and a bit too pure for my taste-kind of like a bridal gown that almost looks blue it’s so white. Zinc white is a cross between Titanium and cream. Zinc is very white, but it’s just a degree off and lightens colors just as well as Titanium, yet keeps them just a degree to the left.
  • Cadmium Yellow Medium & Light We have to have yellow, it’s the indispensable color, which is why I have two on this list. I almost always go for the Medium yellow, but sometimes I just want less and pick up the Light. R&F also offers a Deep Yellow, but I wouldn’t advise going for it just yet, it’s a bit orange and may not be needed for your palette if you have the other two.
  • Cobalt Violet Light  I don’t use purple much and frankly, when I need it I mix it myself. However, this color is unusual, is difficult to mix and works well to add just a hint of pinkish-purple-violet to any other color.

Enkaustikos I can’t link directly to each color, so this link goes to all of the colors listed below, just scroll the list to see the color.

  • Opal Aquamarine I love this color so much I buy it in huge bulk and for all of my workshops. It makes any blue or green bluer and richer, like the most amazing, clear glacier water. 
  • Indian Yellow Bright, clear, not quite yellow, not quite orange. I reach for it time and again in place of yellow and mixing it with R&F’s Alizarin Orange is magical.

Evans Encaustics

  • Manganese Black The only black you’ll ever need, I was instantly smitten when I first used it. So creamy rich, so deep and consistent. It’s a true black, no blue or brown or gray cast. You only need a teeny tiny bit to darken any color. If you use black by itself, you’ll never find grayish spots or be a bit dissatisfied with this color.

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Kama Pigments I can’t link directly to each color, so this link goes to all their colors , just scroll the list to see the color I listed.

  • Rose Hornyak/Hornyak’s Pink Again, me and pink-I’ll buy any pink. This one is so Pepto Bismol its almost gross, but it does so many things that the average pink doesn’t do! It adds just that tiny bit of purple that makes other colors vibrate. Try mixing this with Alizarin Orange and/or Warm Pink and/or Brown Pink for a pink magic fest.

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3 Essential Art Evaluation Questions

In this article, I introduce three simple questions that encourage artists to delve deeper and therefore allow for the exchange of new ideas regarding how and why we look at, respond to and appreciate art. Once I began introducing these questions to my group critiques, participants were also able to apply them to their personal work. I’m happy to share them with you so that you can do the same.

How do you evaluate your art or the art of others’? What makes a good work of art? Do you only know you ‘like’ or dislike something about it? What is that something? Certainly there are many other questions that come to mind when looking at art and those answers will always include some measure of subjectivity, which is always welcome and makes for a lively discussion. Its the usual questions regarding design fundamentals and what is ‘liked’ about the work that usually does not make for interesting discourse. Please note, I’m not bashing the consideration of design fundamentals-they should, and always enter the conversation. However, it’s the discussion of ONLY these things that makes for a very technical conversation and one that really doesn’t cut to core regarding what makes us RESPOND to a work of art. When I was teaching at Tyler, I found critique questions that attempt to push beyond design fundamentals to be too esoteric and often led to discussions that were not helpful in actually growing the work. To begin the discussion and to simplify things a bit I came up with three simple questions that would allow each student to delve deeper and therefore allow for the exchange of new ideas regarding how and why we look at, respond to and appreciate art. Once I began proposing these questions in my critiques, students were also able to apply them to their own work and I’m happy to share them with you so that you can do the same. After each question listed below, I have included a list of characteristics that I notice I consistently respond to in a work. I have also included a few examples below of my answers to these questions in reference to specific works from my recent art travels.

  1. What attracts you to this work? What makes you cross the room to take a closer look? Detail, use of color, drama, movement, materials, pattern, ornament, gesture, visual poetry, repetition, raw emotion, deconstruction, drawing and line.
  2. Once you cross the room to view it, does it hold you there? What is it about the work that keeps you looking? Mystery, poetry, finding hidden treasures, a puzzle, a story, innovative use of materials or structure, surfaces, layers, not necessarily having all of the information slapping me in the face, good design, process, skillful craftsmanship and execution, immersive-ness, hauntingly dark, strange anomolies.
  3. Does the work introduce a thought, concept, idea and/or make you think on a higher level? Anything that speaks to dreams, time, memory, connection, open-endedness, explanations of personal struggle, redemption, vindication, love, loss, good/evil, hope, life lessons, experience, transcendence, inspiration, imagination.

Examples

  1. Ryoko Aoki Installation at the Armory, NYC

I was attracted to this installation because of my love of anything textile and embroidery, the placement of the pieces with lots of white space around them and the geometries of the forms having a conversation that invited me to listen. Getting in close,  I was loving the pattern, exquisite craftsmanship and detail, references to drawing and home, handwork, domesticity. Despite the crowd, there was a calm, delicate, quietness that hovered over the whole installation and as I continued to study each grouping, the room slowed and got quieter. I walked around the table a number of times and fell deeper in love with where this piece took me each time.

2. Patrick Jacobs, Pink Forest at the Armory, NYC

If you follow me on Instagram, you know I love me some pink! So of course, I was attracted to this loveliness as well as the combination of interesting materials. Similar to displays at a natural history museum, the installation was inset so the viewer could stand close enough to touch it and almost feel a part of it. I spent a lot of time getting to know this world, I was transfixed by the details and kept finding hidden treasures within this strange forest. It was interesting to discover that the piece is composed primarily of man-made materials made to look natural, which brought ideas of our fading environment to the surface. My mind started to drift as I stared into the seemingly distant center and then the questions….It looks like a landscape I would see everyday, but what is that strange landform in the center? What made this world turn this strange color? Is it toxic? Will it make me sick to stand in front of it? Because of its friendly pink color and serene forest scene, it would appear calming but the longer I stood there and the more questions that came to mind about it, the more off putting it became. I loved that I couldn’t solve this mystery and that it took hold of my imagination.

3. Gustavo Diaz, cut paper sculpture at the Armory, NYC

I was delighted to discover these wonderful cut paper pieces, the tiny details and the unique nature of the work beckoned me to take a closer look. The pieces are interesting from every angle so that keeps the viewer interested in looking-enjoying the many layered details, trying to figure out how these pieces were constructed and how they are staying together being so ridiculously delicate as they are. These piece brought to life a few of the cities described in one of my favorite books, Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino and just like the cities in the book, I wondered what it would be like to live in one of these cut paper pieces. I began to imagine tiny people, vehicles, trees, grass, etc. populating the cities. Even so, there is something about these cities that is unfathomable, uninhabitable, peculiar, not quite right..and that’s what kept me looking even longer.

4. Tomas Saraceno, Entangled Orbits at the Baltimore Museum of Art

Probably my most favorite work of the year so far, this piece attracted me because of its drama. Set in an extremely dark room that forced me to immediately turn a corner upon entering, I was a bit disoriented and it took my eyes a moment to adjust-there is no hint to what one is going to see here. Within a vitrine in the middle of the room, the only lights were highlighting these amazing spider webs!! I ran over and stared, were they real? I’m a bit squeamish of spiders and for a second I wondered if there were a number of them in there, but I looked a little closer to realize that the webs were made from wire. Again, thoughts of man replicating nature and doing it quite well made me both sad and intrigued. I stayed in the dark, quiet room checking it from every angle, immersed in the craftsmanship, process and patience it must have taken to create this amazing spectacle.

I hope this article was helpful to you. As always, I look forward to your comments, questions and suggestions-the comments section is located at the upper left sidebar of this post. Please let me know if you’ve applied these questions when out gallery or museum hopping this week or if you’ve developed your own series of evaluation questions. I’m also interested in what characteristics you can add to the lists above. What characteristics most make you respond to a work? I’m most interested to hear whether or not these questions have helped you in your own studio or teaching practice. Let me know, I love hearing from you!

Stay tuned for my next post which was suggested to me by a reader. This post pares down my list of favorite encaustic colors to those I recommend for the beginner. It’s a helpful list whether you are a professional artist or a beginner-you might just be surprised at what few paint colors you actually need in the studio.

 

 

 

 

7 Essential Portable Art Materials

Are you an artist who loves to travel? In this post, I share with you 7 Essential Art Materials so you can be Art Prepared for your next trip. Whether you’re a hiker, a teacher, a commuter or a tourist, like to sketch indoors or out, if you’re planning a trip and don’t want to lose your creative mojo, this list will be a help to you.

Spring seems to be struggling to get here in the Northeast, but that hasn’t stopped me from thinking about summer teaching trips, hiking and painting in the great outdoors. I love to travel and fortunately for me, I do a lot of it as a result of teaching workshops. As you have learned from many previous posts, especially the last two on artists hikes, my favorite way to experience new places is to hike them and paint as I go. It’s important to me to not only record what I’ve seen via photographs, but to also record the essence of the place through my own marks. Please understand that these are just sketches, not masterpieces, they help me to keep my artist brain in tune when I’m not in the studio and they serve as memorable references for larger paintings. While I’m teaching a workshop, it’s sometimes difficult for me to get out and hike, so my favorite thing to do to wind down is sit in my hotel room and sketch. All of the materials I’ve listed in this post are inexpensive, lightweight, and fit neatly into my backpack, carry on bag or suitcase with plenty of room to spare. They are also TSA friendly so you can take take them with you when flying. Whether you’re a hiker, a teacher, a commuter or a tourist, like to sketch indoors or out, if you’re planning a trip and don’t want to lose your creative mojo, this list will be a help to you. Additional product images, examples of my sketches and how I use these materials are below each product description. Again, my sketches are not masterpieces. Be kind. ; )

  1. Piccadilly Open Bound Sketchbookz-craft
    An essential for any traveling artist to take along on a trip is the sketchbook, of course. I was introduced to this wonderful book through a workshop student last summer. There are so many good qualities I love about this book, the most important being that it’s compact, lightweight and can accept a variety of media, including water. Also important to me is that due to it’s open-bound binding and with a little breaking in, it lays flat without that distracting spiral between the pages most sketchbooks have. It also has a handy pocket to hold postcards, plants or anything else I collect on my travels. It doesn’t have a closure like other field sketchbooks, but that is easily remedied by a homemade tie, mine being a lovely piece of raffia. I don’t really like the word ‘SKETCH’ on the front, but that is also easily remedied by a little camouflage. Unfortunately, this book has been discontinued by Barnes and Noble, where I purchased it, but you can still get copies of it through Marketplace sellers here.


     
  2. Koh-I-Noor Watercolor Wheel
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    I love watercolor for quick sketches and have purchased a few portable watercolor sets over the years, but this stackable set of 24 colors by Koh-I-Noor is definitely my favorite. I found it in a museum gift shop near the children’s art supplies so I wasn’t expecting much in the way of quality, but I was totally blown away by the color intensity when I did my first tests. If you’d like to see a more comprehensive comparison to better quality watercolor sets, watch this short video. I’m no watercolor expert and I’m sure I don’t need a whole 24 colors, but I love having them at my disposal if I want them. I’m used to working with gouache, so I’m always searching for white when working with watercolors and this set has white! It really doesn’t work the way gouache works, but I like having it there for that little bit of opacity I always seem to need. It also comes with a handy mixing tray that screws right on top. This set fits perfectly in my pack, but it might be a bit bulky for some, so just unscrew the stack and only bring the colors you need. The set is very inexpensive compared to most portable 24 color sets, so if you’re daring you can go for the mega 36 color set available here or the colossal 48 color set here. The 24 color set is sold by many online stores and you can compare prices if you Google, but if you’re in a hurry just click here.

  3. ArtGraf Water Soluble Graphite Disc
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    ArtGraf is simply brilliant for all that it offers in the way of water soluble products. I was first introduced to their products by way of their water soluble graphite pencils and sticks that I love. When I was in the art supply store purchasing more, I found that they also make water soluble graphite products that they call ‘discs’. The disc is more like a block, it’s shape inspired by tailor’s chalk and comes in many colors. I first purchased the Carbon Black disc, it’s rich velvety black almost simulates sketching in straight Sumi ink. I loved it so much, I bought the earth tone set and just love it for sketching the desert landscapes I gravitate toward when searching for hikes. The colors are so rich and complex, I can achieve a wide value range just by changing the amount of water I use. Although I would love to, I can’t take all of the colors with me, so I always have the dark brown disc in my pack. Its as rich as the black, but not as harsh and simulates the earth tones a bit better. Just like the black I can achieve a wide range of values and it’s great for simple sketches when I don’t have the time to break out my watercolor set. The discs are sold individually or in sets through many art supply stores, but for online convenience most of the products are sold by Amazon here.

  4. General’s Sketch and Wash Pencil
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    When I work in any medium, I’m always about adding the line, the mark and in my case, lines and marks add up to many tangled swirls. For me, working in watercolor is not about painting in detail, it’s broad, blended swaths of color that yearn for a little detail-and swirls, of course. This pencil allows me to add those details in lines ranging from very crisp to a thin wash. The pencil works like any other watercolor pencil by either adding water after drawing or dipping the pencil in water first, the latter being what I prefer. What sets this pencil apart from most other watercolor pencils is the rich black line I get when it’s wet. Most black watercolor pencils seem to start strong and then fade out when wet-this one does the exact opposite, starting out a lighter gray when dry and then getting more black when wet. Its the perfect tie together finish for a bright watercolor sketch. It’s available at most art supply stores, but I purchase mine here.

  5. Pentel Aquash Water Brush
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    What to do with all of these watercolor art supplies, you ask? The answer is, purchase a good water brush! I’m embarrassed to say that I purchased my first water brush in 2016 when yet another workshop student introduced me to these wonderful things. At the time, I had never heard of them and also had a difficult time finding them even online. Fortunately, they are pretty much everywhere now and come in a few brands which I have tried. My favorite is the Pentel brand because of it’s quality tip that I can’t kill no matter how hard I use it and I don’t have to hurt myself to get the water out of the brush. I purchased this set (not from this merchant), being wooed by a bigger pen with a variety of tips. Unfortunately, the tips soon fell apart, the water either came out in a waterfall or not at all and I had to squeeze the pen so hard to get the water out, it would break my painting rhythm. Although the Pentel brand is a bit pricier and looks smaller, the brushes last, they’re easy to use with an even water flow per squeeze and surprisingly hold more water than the larger brushes. My favorite, most versatile tip is the medium round, it gives me a broad stroke down to a fine line. I can’t do without this brush and carry one everywhere, even in my everyday purse. Just a side note-if you’re flying and taking this pen with you, make sure you have emptied it of all water or TSA will confiscate! Purchase both Pentel individual brushes and sets here.
  6. Faber Castell Pitt Artist Pen
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    There are no limits to the love I have for this pen. It’s super black, versatile, comes in a variety of sizes and writes beautifully on any drawing or painting surface. When I’m out hiking, I use it to make quick sketches, write field notes, add depth to my pencil sketches and details to my watercolor sketches. I have the extra small, small and fine point pens and use them all in the studio, but always have the small size in my pack. Read this post for more about this pen and to see a series of drawings I did with it. These pens are sold individually at most art and craft stores and online, but I found a nice assorted nib 4 pen set here and a mega set with all kinds of interesting nibs here.
  7. Eberhard Faber Design Ebony Pencil 6325
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    I love drawing with pencil, I could do it for days. The problem is that it takes me about that long to draw anything because I use so many different kinds of pencils and leads, constantly switching around to get the right value. Unfortunately, I can’t bring them all with me in my pack, so this pencil is a great substitute for many of those pencils. It’s hard enough at the tip for fine line and soft enough to achieve a variety of values, from very dark to very light. The best part about it is it’s ultra velvety smoothness, I’ve never seen or felt anything quite like it. The smoothness enables me to draw in many smooth layers without annoying skips and dark spots. It must be kept sharp to achieve fine line, so instead of ruining my pack with a messy sharpener that takes up space, I use my trusty pink pocket knife every hiker girl should have and the pencil elements go back to the earth from whence they came. Unfortunately, these pencils have been discontinued but they are available from a variety of Marketplace and Ebay sellers if you’re patient and search. I found a good article that mentions other alternatives to this awesome pencil-I haven’t used any of the pencils mentioned in the article but there are substantial reviews to read for most of them.

I hope that this article was helpful and introduced you to some products you may not have been aware of before reading. As always, I look forward to your comments, questions and suggestions-the comments section is located at the upper left sidebar of this post. Please let me know what your favorite portable materials are, I’m always looking for new products to try.

Stay tuned for my next post which offers 3 Essential Questions to ask yourself when critiquing art, either your own or another artist’s work. When I was a professor at Tyler, these three questions helped simplify critique and went beyond the typical critique discussions to analyzing the overall impact of the work and what compels the viewer to respond to one work over another. Whether you are a professional artist or a beginner, this article will help you determine what makes an interesting work of art. See you soon.