Strange materials

My tools and techniques

This is what I need:

  1. A big table, and a few easels.
  2. Music, mainly jazz and avant-garde composers, folk
  3. Some reference points.
    1. Turps Banana magazine; a magazine for painters from Londo
    2. Abstract Expressionism, Futurism, Kandinsky
    3. Mediaeval and Gothic art, Anglo-Saxon art, and illuminated manuscripts
    4. the world inside and outside
    5. and looking at and learning from the works of other painters (hence Turps).
  4. Time

Paints & Inks

I use non-toxic single pigment heavy-body acrylic paints, fluid acrylics, tube watercolours, and Japanese opaque watercolours. I am mindful that the names manufacturers give to paint have little relationship to the colour inside.

I use a limited palette, which does change over time, but the choice of colour is part of the creative process.

There is nothing wrong with working directly with paint from the tube (Mondrian used primary colours). I focus on mixing rather than having every colour made and keep a colour swatch notebook and a set of little colour cards of my colours, with the various names and codes paint makers use. The pigment codes themselves help prune the tree: e.g. PG1, etc.

I mix to get a variety of blacks, but do use premixed black.

I like paints that break down (fall apart) in water so the pigment comes out of solution. I call this homeopathic paint.

I use liquid Japanese Sumi-e ink (black) and mineral chips, or acrylic inks.

Brands I currently use: Golden, Daler-Rowney, Liquitex, Japanese Sumi-e ink, Kuretake Gansai Tambi, Maimeri watercolour. I’ve used Tri-Art, Lucas, and others. They are all interchangeable technically, though the dried finish may vary slightly.

Applying Paint

I don’t use brushes designed for acrylic paints. My tools for applying paint include brushes, rags, kitchen towel, paint scrapers (plastering tools), silicone shaping tools. Wide is good, narrow/thin isn’t so good for me (I feel cramped).

For Sumi-e, I have a selection of wolf and goat hair brushes in various sizes and some handmade brushes.

Brush/tool brands: Omega, Russell and Chapple, Escoda, Robertson, Royal Sovereign, and big brushes from the hardware store.


My preference is paper and surfaces with tooth.

I work on paper, wood and cotton canvas. I don’t stretch the paper. It is just stuck onto a big sheet of plywood with green painters tape (hard to find outside North America despite being made by a German company).

Paper, 300 to 850 gsm, is from paper mills by the sheet, or vintage paper suppliers. Sumi-e uses very light Chinese and Japanese papers (e.g. ‘rice’ paper). I’m thinking of using rolls.

I use wood panels e.g. thin plywood panels sliced into various sizes, or found panels. I gesso them sometimes, but often want the paint to sink into the grain. I’ve worked on MDF but don’t find it has enough tooth for me.

Canvas in various sizes , stretched or unstretched. I use cotton when I feel like using canvas. Not sure what the fuss over canvas is actually.

Paper makers: Arches, St Cuthberts, Moulin de Larroque, Japanese/Chinese paper sources, vintage suppliers;

Note/sketch books: ArtGecko

Canvas: Russell and Chapple for rolls

Wood: plywood from local DIY or found panels.