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. Books on Abstract Expressionist painters, interesting modern abstract painters
  3. Books on Mediaeval and Gothic art, Anglo-Saxon art, illuminated manuscripts and cave art.

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 prefer: Golden, Daler-Rowney, Liquitex, Japanese Sumi-e ink, Kuretake Gansai Tambi, Maimeri watercolour. I’ve used Tri-Art, Lucas, Schmincke, Pebeo.

Applying Paint

My tools for applying paint include painting knives (RGM is my favourite),  brushes (from the great London stores, and the best big ones are Omega from Italy), rags, kitchen towels, silicone and metal 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, 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 by the sheet, or vintage paper suppliers. Sumi-e requires very light Chinese and Japanese papers (e.g. ‘rice’ paper, shikishi, xuan).

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, vintage suppliers

Note/sketch books: ArtGecko or Artway.

Canvas: Russell and Chapple for rolls

Wood: plywood from local DIY or found panels.