After all these years, I can still make an awful painting

Quiet Moments in the Studio

Quiet Moments in the Studio

After seventy-three years, I can still make an awful picture.  After seventy-three years, I am just beginning to learn the rudiments of painting.  I would like to live long enough, but I think it would take till the 21st century to have something of a sense that I know how to paint.

Robert Motherwell

Good evening.  This blog post is in response to Corey Aber, an artist-writer-blogger who commands my highest respect.  You can check out his work at

Corey recently asked me to post information concerning the equipment I use in my art making.  I’m always glad to share this information.

1. My paper is D’Arches cold press.  I buy sheets of 300-lb. to cut to whatever size I choose.  I also buy the blocks in 140 lb. measuring 10 1/4 x 14 1/8″.   I don’t like the price, and also don’t like the way the paper starts pulling away from the block by the time I get to the last five or so sheets.  But it is a convenient tool for packing about when I’m working en plein air.  When I am ambitious, I love to soak 140 lb. sheets and stretch them on canvas stretchers, using a staple gun.  I love the tight drum-like quality of the dried out paper, the springing sensation I get when I brush on the surface, and how fast it dries when I’m working wet-on-wet.  But it is a pretty good chore stretching it, and I have to be in the mood.

2. My pigments are Winsor & Newton.  They are all I use.  And my palette is extremely limited now.  I use three blues–Winsor Blue (Green Shade), Winsor Blue (Red Shade) and Phthalo Turquoise.  I use only one yellow, Transparent Yellow.  And I use three reds–Winsor Red, Quinachridone Red, and Permanent Rose.   Occasionally I use Winsor Violet, to tone down the Transparent Yellow.  And I use Winsor Green and Alizarin Crimson to mix my blacks.  That’s it.  The reason for the colors mentioned above is the transparent, clean quality they have when mixing.  I can get the best greens, oranges and violets from those combinations.  And all my neutrals come from these colors.  I ceased using colors such as Sepia, Burnt Umber, Burnt Sienna, Yellow Ochre, etc. years ago.

3. My favorite all-around brush is a Winsor & Newton size 12 Sable Round.  It holds a great deal of water, and the tip can be made razor sharp for grasses, detail lines, etc., and I don’t have to keep reloading the brush because of the quantity of water it holds.  I also use a couple of flat brushes, sable, Winsor & Newton.  1/4″ and 1/2″.  From Bob Cook, I learned to make an “ugly brush” for foliage and drybrush rendering of weathered wood and tree trunks.  This is a quality 1/2″ flat brush (Winsor & Newton) that I cut diagonally with an X-acto knife, then shredded out plenty of bristles to create a jagged, ragged brush.  This makes very, very fast work of foliage and textures in drybrush fashion.

4. I use a few watercolor pencils that I keep sharpened, and drag a wet brush along them to dissolve the hard line.  These are Albrecht Durer pencils manufacted by Faber-Castell.  I like to use Dark Sepia, Warm Gray VI and Cool Gray VI.  I also keep sharpened HB pencils around, as well as water-soluble graphite pencils in HB and 8B.

That’s about it.  Thanks for reading.  And thank you, Corey, for asking.



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6 Responses to “After all these years, I can still make an awful painting”

  1. Suzy Frisbee Says:

    Thank you! I’m especially happy that you listed your paints–a very limited palette is making more and more sense to me all the time. Have a great Monday with the kids.


    • davidtripp Says:

      Thank you. I have Art History tomorrow, and am really looking forward to it. Yes, the limited palette has improved my work greatly. I wish I hadn’t taken so many years to pull that trigger.


  2. coreyaber Says:

    Thank you for posting that! Your paintings have such clarity, and I understand how your pigment choice really enables that. I am often struck by how brilliant your paintings look.

    I have gone the opposite way with my pigments–using more granular paints for their materiality and also shying away from staining pigments where possible (viridian instead of Pthalo green, for example) so I can lift and get some atmospheric effects that are enhanced with the granularity. I haven’t been focusing on painting light, though, and I wonder how these will work in those cases. These California scenes I have been working on are about aerial perspective–the particle laden air, as a friend of mine once said–not so much about luminescence. Watercolor is such a cool medium with so many possibilities. Thanks again for this post. I have learned a lot from you


    • davidtripp Says:

      I wish I could live five more centuries just so I could get closer to the bottom of watercolor and its possibilities. Every time I make a new painting, it seems I turn over a dozen new possibilities. Who would have ever guessed that we could accelerate learning in the years after school?


  3. anna warren portfolio Says:

    So interesting to hear what you use. I too use a similar limited palette for oil painting, no browns or ochres. I was taught some time ago that you can mix almost every colour you need from the basic six or seven. More just makes me feel confused!


    • davidtripp Says:

      I was always told that I could mix the necessary colors from a reduced palette. Don’t know why it took me years to listen. What I’ve noticed is that my paintings are more unified now than they were from the days of using dozens of colors on the palette. And the unity has really tightened up my compositions. I’m glad I finally went in this direction.


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