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.