Strange materials

My tools and techniques

Like most artists, space is precious as is light. My studio has good lighting and space. I work off a standing table and a couple of easels.

In terms of creature comforts, music, mainly jazz and avant-garde composers, folk and mediaeval music (there is a 24/24 internet station).

And some reference points.

  1. Turps Banana magazine; a magazine for painters by painters
  2. Works by and about Abstract Expressionist painters, and interesting modern abstract painters, including China and Japan
  3. Resources on Mediaeval art, Anglo-Saxon art, illuminated manuscripts.

Paints & Inks

I have a limited palette to work with, probably fewer that 20 colours, with most paintings using 3 or 4 at most.

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. The colour names used by the manufacturers can be misleading so I focus on the pigment codes and quality of the paint itself.

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

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

I use single pigment paints from Golden Heavy Body and Daler-Rowney Cryla for their quality and texture. Japanese Sumi-e (Moon Palace) ink which I get imported¬† from Japan courtesy Amazon and mineral chips for grinding specific colours.¬† Acrylic inks. Opaque Japanese watercolour called Kuretake Gansai Tambi, and Maimeri tube watercolour. I’ve used Liquitex, Tri-Art, Lucas, Schmincke, Pebeo as well.

Applying Paint

I use painting knives (RGM is my favourite),¬† brushes (from the great London stores) and the best big ones frlom Omega in Italy, rags, kitchen towels, silicone and metal tools. Most aren’t specific for acrylic paints.

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

Brush/tool brands: RGM, Omega, Russell and Chapple, Escoda, Robertson.


My preference is paper and hard surfaces with tooth.

I work on paper, wood and cotton canvas. I don’t stretch the paper as I have a wooden frame to hold paper in place. I use a wonderful Green Painters Mate tape (hard to find outside North America despite being made by a German company).

Paper, 300 to 850 gsm, is from paper mills (St Cuthberts, Moulin de Larroque). Sumi-e requires very light Chinese and Japanese papers (e.g. ‘rice’ paper, shikishi, xuan) and I buy from China or Japan through Amazon.

I use wood panels e.g. thin plywood panels cut 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.

I use cotton canvas when I feel like using canvas, but think canvas is too giving and I find that the stretcher shows through, so may simply paint on unstretched canvas.

Paper makers: Arches, St Cuthberts, Moulin de Larroque, Japanese/Chinese paper sources such as HMay.

Note/sketch books: ArtGecko or Artway.

Canvas: Russell and Chapple for rolls

Wood: plywood from local DIY or found panels.