Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Tubing paint

Today's entry is a little more grad school level than the last, however it may come in handy to know how to do this and it can save you a good deal on paint, if that becomes important to you. It also is useful to know if you want to premix certain colors that you may be routinely cooking up on your palette. Blogger doesn't seem to allow me to embed photos in the text very easily or drag them around much. Perhaps I just haven't figured it out yet. I feel the page layout on this one is a little clunky, and I suppose I will have to return to the paragraph, centered photo, paragraph layout that seems so common in other blogs I have seen. I will blog next about what I have on my palette and my mediums and thinners. I will also do an entry on brushes soon. Glad to have you following along. Put on your smock this is going to be a messy ride! Here we go!

My shipment of paint arrived from my colormaker today and I think I will show you how I get it into the tubes. When you read this and look at the pictures it looks like a lot of trouble but with a little practice it goes very quickly and I enjoy tubing it up. I get about 6 or 7 big tubes out of a quart of paint. I try to keep enough paint on hand to last for months. I start to feel insecure when I don't have a big store of paint in my taboret. It is probably a hold over from the old days when I often didn't have enough money for both food and paint and hard choices had to be made. If it hadn't been for the kindness of my various girlfriends I would surely have starved to death. Girls loved me when I was young. They imagined I was sensitive.
Most of you are not going to tube your own paint. Unless you use LOTS of it . There's plenty of good paint available from the many suppliers online and for most of you, of course, that's the answer.
I buy the empty tubes from Jerrys Artarama or Pearl Paint.
I order my paint from RGH Artists Oils. They sell 65 ml. and 250 ml.,jars, pint, quart, half gallon and gallon quantities of a very wide selection of different colors. Check them out at;
I think they make excellent quality paints and I particularly like their cadmiums. They are extremely affordable as you can see on their web site. You can buy a HALF GALLON of titanium white for $72.00. I use a whole lot of paint so it makes sense for me to buy in quantity.These are not student grade paints. RGH is a small artist owned company in Buffalo, New York. Tell them I sent you, please.
I buy boxes of nitrile gloves from a nearby auto parts store because this is a messy business. I use nitrile gloves a lot. They don't seem to be as clammy as the plastic sort. They are cheap and disposable. I shovel the paint into the open end of the tube with a flat palette knife. I try to put the knife well into the tube and scrape the paint off on its lip. I inevitably get paint on the outside of the tube, but that's OK, I can clean it off later with mineral spirits.

I repeatedly rap the cap end of the tube sharply on my palette to get the paint to the front of the tube and eliminate any voids. Only fill the tube about four fifths of the way so as to leave room to close it up. I am using 175 ml. tubes in these pictures but you can buy small tubes as well. I use so much paint that I almost never buy small tubes. I do put up a few small tubes for use with my pochade box. I don't use pochade boxes very often though, as I like my big Gloucester easel and I am willing to put up with carrying the weight of a heavy paintbox because I often work on larger canvasses outside than most painters.
Next I close up the end of the tube squeezing out any extra paint that is there.
I then lay the tube on my palette and press the side of my palette knife down firmly on the tube about
3/8 of an inch from the end.

I lift the tube to vertical putting a nice clean fold in the end. It works like a box brake bending sheet metal, as shown below left. Then the next step is to crimp the folded over end with a canvas pliers. My canvas pliers are from the late 19th cent. or perhaps the early 20th century, a friend of mine found them in a junk shop more than 30 years ago and made a present of them to me.They are a far better design than the new ones They have a ordinary coiled spring unlike the new ones which have a sort of leaf spring, consequently they open when the pressure on their handles is released.
They are however not chromed, they have that old timey drop forged look. I really squeeze those pliers hard to crimp that end, and sometimes I will turn it over in one more fold and crimp it again. Below you can see the finished result.

After cleaning any excess paint off the outside of the tube with a paper towel dipped in mineral spirits I label the tube using a permanent marker. You may want to paint a stripe of the color mixed with varnish or liquin to make it dry more quickly, around the top of your tube. Then it will look like a tube of Old Holland paint or like its from one of those fancy boutique manufacturers all the thoracic surgeons' wives use. I like the way my paint box looks, open on location. When other artists look in there, all they see are my hand labeled tubes . Looks tough as hell.


Mary Bullock said...

Oh my goodness! That does seem like a lot of work - I guess that I don't use enough paint to warrent tubing my own.
You mentioned that you sometimes work on large canvases outside - so these are not studies, but the actual finished painting you work on plein air? How large are we talking about here? Do you have help carrying your canvas and supplies?
So far, I have only used relatively small canvases when I paint outside - 12x16 up to 16x20.
Do you find that the wind catches the larger canvases? How do you anchor your easel and canvas>
Sorry for all the questions.
The Figurative Realm of Mary Bullock

Stapleton Kearns said...

I almost never paint smaller than 16x20 outside.I sometimes work 11x14 but I am happiest working on 24x30s or 24x36s or 30x40s. I have worked as large as 36x48. These are not studies but the actual painting.
There have been a lot of books written lately by artists who make small studies outside and blow them up into big paintings inside. But my heroes, People like Willard Metcalf or Aldro Hibbard or Edward Seago, worked full size on the easel outdoors. I do work on them in the studio, sometimes a lot.
Working small has the advantage of allowing you to develop simple designs because you can survey all of the canvas easily, including the relationship of its different parts.You can also make a zillion small sketches and use the very best of many to create a finished painting.The best of the contemporary western painters are able to blow these up without losing that simple design. But it also gives a "look" Which is OK too, if that's what you want.
I find however that working small outside adds a problem, miniaturization. Big world, tiny painting. I also am a brushwork guy and I feel like I get better brushwork when I work with big brushes, and not little tiny ones. Lastly even though I work on them in the studio there is something a little special about a painting made outside that can evaporate in one made from another, painted outside. In able hands both approaches may yield great results, and what I have told you is simply my preference and not the "right" w3ay to do it.
I use a Gloucester easel,you can see it in the picture on my post entitled hello. Its a huge tripod and my heavy box full of paint sits on the struts across its middle at waist height.It is very stable, so unless it is incredibly windy I don't have a problem. When it blows really hard I add a bungee cord to hold the painting into the easel and then I can work in anything short of a typhoon. No, I don't need any help carrying my easel and paintings to location. I am six foot four and weigh over 200 pounds.
I guess I will need to do a couple of posts on easels won't I?
Keep asking questions please, if I am going to make this blog useful it really helps me. Thanx

Susan said...

Just found your blog and I went back to the first post you made and am working my way through.
I just started taking up painting again and am loving it but haven't a clue, really, what I'm doing! But still fun.
I do have a small business so I can only devote one day to painting right now.
After reading your post on filling up your tubes, I wondered if you've ever tried using ( hang's going to sound weird!) but have you ever tried using a pastry bag? You can fill the bag with paint, much like a cake decorator fills the bag with frosting, and just squeeze the paint out of the bag and into the tube. See...I told you it's a weird idea!
Anyway, just a thought!
Now back to your blog.

Ronald said...
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Ronald said...
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Arty Quin said...

Thanks so much for this post! It is invaluable for those of us wanting to use more paint and save money. I originally found your blog while searching for more info about RGH paints, and I just spent way too much time reading your other useful materials posts so I could get back to this one, as I am tubing mine for the first time. So far, so good! BTW, loving the RGH paints. Appreciate all that you share!

Carol said...

Very very useful thanks. Have wondering about tubing my own paints for some time now.