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When artists get together, it doesn't take long before you hear questions about materials.

"What do you use?"
"What did you think of...?"
"Is this or that any good?"

So, as a start, here is what I suggest that my students use. Keep in mind that one of the fun parts of painting is experimenting with new products, or trying someone's else's "secret" method. The important thing is to find your own path.
The following are lists of materials
I suggest for my students:



For Pencil Portraits:
  • Paper, 2-ply bristol vellum finish (a very thick paper that withstands repeated erasing). I like an 11x14 size but smaller would be fine too. Portraits done in pencil are usually small, the head being around 3-4 inches. Bigger takes a LOT longer!
  • Board slightly larger than paper by at least 1 inch on 3 sides. Masonite works well.
  • White artist's tape for attaching paper to board at corners.
  • Plumb line: 3 feet of heavy black button thread or braided fishing line with a small weight tied at one end. (nothing heavy)
  • Kneaded eraser (clean, please!). A pink pearl eraser can be useful for harder marks.
  • Pencils or Mechanical Lead-holder with leads: 2B, HB, 2H, 4H, 6H. Graphite only. (Nothing with wax). 
  • Sharpening device: for wooden pencils, an electric sharpener  for mechanical pencil, a sanding block or lead sharpener ( a really nifty little gizmo to sharpen tips of leads )

For Charcoal drawings:
  • Paper: 2 sheets of a good charcoal paper (one is for cushioning and makes a good backup if you wreck the first one!). Strathmore or Canson Ingres are good. White or cream. Size usually around 20 x 26 inches.
  • Drawing board to support the paper: masonite or other smooth support bigger than the paper. The drawing board with clips and a built in handle are kind of a pain (you have to cut the paper and the hole and clips get in the way, but it can be made to work).
  • White artist's tape for attaching paper to board at corners. Plumb line: 3 feet of heavy black button thread or braided fishing line with a small weight tied at one end. (nothing heavy)
  • Kneaded eraser (clean, please!).
  • Chamois (like used for cleaning cars), a clean piece about 4 x 4 inches. This is your renewable eraser used for all big erasing jobs, saving the kneaded eraser for fine details.
  • Vine Charcoal in soft, medium and hard. The best are made from actual vines so are NOT perfectly straight. The ones about 1/4 inch thick are easier to use than really thin (which break) or really thick (a pain to sharpen). Please NO charcoal pencils or anything with wax. If you can't erase it, you don't want it!
  • Sanding block: those medium grit sanding sponges work great, or make your own by gluing medium grit sandpaper to a 3 x 5 inch piece of something. Use rubber cement or the paper will buckle.


For Painting Portraits:
  • **The first day you may just need a Canvas and Charcoal & Chamois. If you are fast or confident you can start with color. Many prefer to start with charcoal, then do an under-painting with just raw umber. Once this dries you can scrub color over it without losing your drawing.... a very comforting idea if you're a bit nervous!
  • Canvas: the ideal is oil-primed linen. A decent backup (and MUCH cheaper) is an archival (acid free) cotton duck which you pre-treat with a coat of acrylic matte varnish to reduce absorbency. The varnish should be applied with brush strokes going every-which-way or rolled on so you don't end up with a big streak going right across the forehead! Pre-stretched canvases are fine. Size depends on how much time you have and your comfort level of working big or small. 11 x 14 or 16x 20 are good head & shoulder portrait sizes. 
  • Brushes: bring what you have and we'll discuss. If getting new, I like natural hog bristle "Filbert" style in sizes 2, 4, 6, 8 and 10. Filberts are flat, rounded brushes that are like having 2 brushes in one. You will do the vast majority of your painting with these "workhorses". You may want a few smaller sable or synthetic rounds or "cat's tongue" filberts for finishing details.
  • Charcoal (soft), Chamois and Sanding Block like above if you want to sketch shapes first right on your canvas. If you have pre-treated your canvas, the mistakes wipe right off.
  • Oil paints: If you have any, bring them even if they're old (I have some tubes 30 or more years old!)  If you are buying new, get the best you can afford, and stay away from anything that says "Hue." It's best to start with a limited palette that includes:
    • Ivory Black 
    • Cadmium Red light
    • Permanent Alizarine Crimson
    • Yellow Ochre ("Light" if there is more than one)
    • Ultramarine Blue
    • White: I prefer a white with Lead and Zinc if you aren't opposed to using lead. If using any white with Titanium you MUST use light-fast pigments as Titanium will cause fading of non permanent pigments. Zinc white alone will go transparent.
    • Other colors that are useful in portraiture sometimes are Cadmium Orange, Cobalt Blue and Viridian. If the model is wearing yellow or has blond hair you may need a warm and cool yellow.
  • Palette: There are many to choose from: wood in rectangles or ovals, in light or dark, large or small, white, even disposable paper. If in doubt, we'll discuss it at the first class. You can spend the day drawing in charcoal anyway.
  • Palette knife, also called a painting knife. I use primarily for corrections and cleaning a space on my palette. One that has a pretty sharp point and an angle in it is ideal.
  • Swiss Army knife or curved blade X-acto knife for scraping off dried on mistakes.
  • Turpenoid, Gamsol or other odorless turpentine substitute please! NO real turpentine. NO "Turpenoid Natural" (It's for cleaning brushes only and smells awful). 
  • Palette cups. One to hold turp, another if you want to get into mediums (we'll discuss those at length in class).
  • Paper towels or lint-free cloth. My absolute favorites are Viva (white please) or Shop Rags (White, NOT blue). Having a white very absorbent rag or towel makes your life MUCH easier.
  • Plumb line: 3 feet of heavy black button thread or braided fishing line with a small weight tied at one end. (nothing heavy).
For Painting a cast:
  • Canvas: the ideal is oil-primed linen. A decent backup (and MUCH cheaper) is an archival (acid free) cotton duck which you pre-treat with a coat of acrylic matte varnish to reduce absorbency. The varnish should be applied with brush strokes going every-which-way or rolled on so you don't end up with a big streak going right across some delicate passage! Pre-stretched canvases are fine. Size depends on how big your cast is. Often an 8x 10 or 11 x 14 works well.
  • Brushes: bring what you have and we'll discuss. If getting new, I like natural hog bristle "Filbert" style in sizes 2, 4, 6, 8 and 10. Filberts are flat, rounded brushes that are like having 2 brushes in one. You will do the vast majority of your painting with these "workhorses". You may want a few smaller sable or synthetic rounds or "cat's tongue" filberts for finishing details.
  • Charcoal (soft), Chamois and Sanding Block like above if you want to sketch shapes first right on your canvas. If you have pre-treated your canvas, the mistakes wipe right off.
  • Oil paints: If you have any, bring them even if they're old (I have some tubes 30 or more years old!)** If you are buying new, get the best you can afford. Ivory black Raw Umber White(s): Lead & Zinc, or Titanium & Zinc are fine, though when you switch to color, anything with Titanium will mean you need to have ONLY permanent pigments because it causes fading. For Cast paintings you can use pure Titanium for the brightest high-lights as it is a very bright white.
  • Palette: There are many to choose from: wood in rectangles or ovals, in light or dark, large or small, white, even disposable paper. If in doubt, we'll discuss it at the first class. You can spend the day drawing in charcoal anyway. The Indigo Art Store in the next room will have several choices.
  • Palette knife, also called a painting knife. I use primarily for corrections and cleaning a space on my palette. One that has a pretty sharp point and an angle in it is ideal.
  • Swiss Army knife or curved blade X-acto knife for scraping off dried on mistakes.
  • Turpenoid, Gamsol or other odorless turpentine substitute please! NO real turpentine. NO "Turpenoid Natural" (It's for cleaning brushes only and smells awful). 
  • Palette cups. One to hold turp, another if you want to get into mediums (we'll discuss those at length in class).
  • Paper towels or lint-free cloth. My absolute favorites are Viva (white please) or Shop Rags (White, NOT blue). Having a white very absorbent rag or towel makes your life MUCH easier.
  • Plumb line: 3 feet of heavy black button thread or braided fishing line with a small weight tied at one end. (nothing heavy).


For painting a Still Life:
  • Still life objects: If it's your first still life I suggest a single piece of fruit or an onion (which lasts a long time without changing!)  If you do fruits or vegetables, they may need replacing during your painting. Man-made objects are much more difficult, especially if they are symmetrical. Bring along more than you think you will need, and several backdrop materials. A fairly neutral cloth at least 2 x 4 feet is good. A medium gray, gray-green, beige or off white are good starts. Remember, the purpose of the background is to set off the still life objects and to STAY in the background!
  • **The first day you may just need your props, a Canvas, Charcoal & Chamois. If you are fast or confident you can start with color. Many prefer to start with charcoal to sketch in their painting. But you may spend much of the first class learning the various measuring techniques and setting up your still life. 
  • Canvas: the ideal is oil-primed linen. A decent backup (and MUCH cheaper) is an archival (acid free) cotton duck which you pre-treat with a coat of acrylic matte varnish to reduce absorbency. The varnish should be applied with brush strokes going every-which-way or rolled on so you don't end up with a big streak going right in the wrong place! Pre-stretched canvases are fine. Size depends on how much time you have and your comfort level of working big or small. 11 x 14 or 16x 20 are small still life sizes. For a single piece of fruit an 8 x 10 may be all you need. For quick studies the little canvas boards will do.
  • Brushes: bring what you have and we'll discuss. If getting new, I like natural hog bristle "Filbert" style in sizes 2, 4, 6, 8 and 10. Filberts are flat, rounded brushes that are like having 2 brushes in one. You will do the vast majority of your painting with these "workhorses". You may want a few smaller sable or synthetic rounds or "cat's tongue" filberts for finishing details.
  • Charcoal (soft), Chamois and Sanding Block like above if you want to sketch shapes first right on your canvas. If you have pre-treated your canvas, the mistakes wipe right off.
  • Oil paints: If you have any, bring them even if they're old (I have some tubes 30 or more years old!)** If you are buying new, get the best you can afford, and stay away from anything that says "Hue." It's best to start with a limited palette that includes:
    • Ivory Black 
    • Cadmium Red light
    •  Permanent Alizarine Crimson
    •  Cadmium Yellow Lemon (a "cool" yellow)
    •  Cadmium Yellow Light (a "warm" yellow)
    •  Yellow Ochre 
    •  Ultramarine Blue
    •  White: I prefer a white with Lead and Zinc if you aren't opposed to using lead. If using any white with Titanium you MUST use light-fast pigments as Titanium will cause fading of non permanent pigments. Zinc white alone will go transparent. 
    • Other colors that are useful sometimes are Cadmium Orange, Cobalt Blue and Viridian. 
  • Palette: There are many to choose from: wood in rectangles or ovals, in light or dark, large or small, white, even disposable paper. If in doubt, we'll discuss it at the first class. You can spend the day drawing in charcoal anyway. The Indigo Art Store in the next room will have several choices.
  • Palette knife, also called a painting knife. I use primarily for corrections and cleaning a space on my palette. One that has a pretty sharp point and an angle in it is ideal.
  • Swiss Army knife or curved blade X-acto knife for scraping off dried on mistakes.
  • Turpenoid, Gamsol or other odorless turpentine substitute please! NO real turpentine. NO "Turpenoid Natural" (It's for cleaning brushes only and smells awful). 
  • Palette cups. One to hold turp, another if you want to get into mediums (we'll discuss those at length in class).
  • Paper towels or lint-free cloth. My absolute favorites are Viva (white please) or Shop Rags (White, NOT blue). Having a white very absorbent rag or towel makes your life MUCH easier.
  • Plumb line: 3 feet of heavy black button thread or braided fishing line with a small weight tied at one end. (nothing heavy).