The Rise Painting Parties and the Dangers of DIY

In recent years the art community has seen a rise in what you might call a “painting party.” For many small business groups, it’s the concept of a single night’s painting class in which a group of adults all paint a simple design while enjoying a bottle of wine or other beverage to relax. Thees BYOB nights have popped up all around the country and what started small has become a national phenomenon. However, with more and more people signing up for these events, I have to wonder about the long term implications of what might happen to artists and art as a whole. 

What does excite me about the opportunity these events bring to communities is how it opens new doors for many people and teaches them that they can be creative even if they have never thought of themselves as such before. In opening up new people to the world of art, it has begun to build their confidence in understanding the visual arts as well as being able to relate to artists rather than admire or gawk at them from a distance. However this understanding I believe can come at a high cost if we’re not careful. With the confidence to just paint something for yourself, these avid creators may not find the need to support and collect works from working professionals and skilled hobbyists anymore. 

Art should always feel accessible and “fun” for the creator, but this type of relaxing fun at these “painting parties,” cannot and should not take the place of fine art in our communities. In the mid 20th century there was a rise in the DIY culture for remodeling homes in suburban America. In most cases it became the norm to tackle large carpentry or interior designs to improve one’s home and lifestyle. These days hardware stores market themselves on this principle and it’s become integrated in our culture today. However out of the DIY movement came a slew of problems. Not all remodeling can be considered DIY, especially a number of electrical and plumbing projects, which have often plagued the average Do It Yourselfer and caused thousands of poorly designed and constructed homes across the country. 

So what does this have to do with painting parties? To put it simply when the visual arts are pushed into the DIY world, everyone suffers. If people reach a point where they decorate their homes with their own attempts at fine art, while at the same time moving forward with the mentality of “I can just make my own, I don’t need to buy something,” then the visual fine artist will go extinct. To limit the arts to simply something that can be done on a Friday evening for a couple hours, is to cause serious harm to the global art community and our culture as a whole. The dumbing down of painting in this case into the “party” mentality can potentially rob our society of the culture of great art; and in its place build an anarchy of DIY “arts and crafts.” 

However, this isn’t to say these party events are all bad. As I began, creating a fresh and engaged group of creative adults is something our culture is in desperate need of. The more and more people become engaged in the act of creating (in whatever form it takes), the more we will see a surge in the education and respect for the fine arts which could grow exponentially. I don’t feel that we are in either side of these extremes as of yet, however the dark side of them could easily overtake the culture not check on every now and then. As these types of businesses and events continue to flourish, it’s everyone’s responsibility not to simply limit our view of the visual fine arts. While the painting process is fun and rewarding it’s more than just something that takes a few hours while sipping on a glass of Merlot in a building that was once a pizza shop. Instead these events should be using the creative outlet to build up our desire for the beauty and aesthetics of work created by professionals and skilled hobbyists working in the field today.

The Pigment Database...

The Pigment Database and What I’ve learned about Hues

The more I paint and buy new paint tubes, bottles, and jars the more I have pushed to learn about paint as a whole. A number of years ago I was exploring the binders of each paint, and understanding the key differences between oils, acrylics, and watercolors. However, in recent years I have pushed to understand pigments in a more complex manner. One thing that many artists are aware of is the difference between a pure pigment paint and a “hue.” Hues are a single or multiple pigment used to replicate another pigment (such as sap green, cerulean blue, or alizarin crimson). Many hue colors, especially in acrylics, are designed to replicate a historical pigment without having the drawbacks of fugitive (or non-lightfast) colors. Artists want their paints to last and not fade over time in most cases. There are also parts of the world where certain colors are simply unavailable as they use heavy metals in their formula, the cadmiums and the cobalts are to blame here. Needless to say though many artists will chase after single pigment paints for their superior mixing capabilities and consistency across brands. It is in this brand to brand difference that learning exactly which pigments are in use in your paint becomes both cost effective for the artist as well as vital to the process when you start crossing viscosities and color lines.

So, in learning to research my colors more effectively I came across “The Pigment Database,” an online tool for cross referencing pigments, with color names, and common brands. Since discovering the database it has easily become one of my biggest companions in my weekly studio use as well as a shopping guide for future purchases.

Aside from its use in my purchases, it has also allowed me to slowly become familiar with reading the pigment codes on not just paint tubes, but on ink, markers, pastels, and a variety of other supplies. Being able to recognize color across brands, materials, and specific names I’m able to more accurately and effectively utilize color in creating different types of art.  Of course I do relate every pigment back to my acrylic colors as that is the medium I’m most familiar with, but even in doing so my understanding of each color and how it changes between medium has deepened immensely.

For a long time I also viewed a “hue” color to be inferior to a pure pigment color, and it wasn’t until the pigment database came into my workflow that I really started to change that opinion. Many artists (and I think very falsely so) see mixed pigment paints as lesser, when really it’s about the usage and skill level of each individual artist. Many hues are used in low end student grade colors which use not only a mix of pigments, but less pigment in general. These lesser paints will often have varying consistency levels, and leave paint mixes on your canvas to seem dull or washed out. However, professional tools don’t have this problem and this includes hue colors in these high end lines. Golden Acrylics’ historical colors are a great example of this. I’ve added a number of these colors to my palette in the past few years including Indian Yellow Hue and Smalt Hue. The original versions of these colors (at that time in oil paints) were not only single pigment colors, but known to be fugitive (colors that fade over time). Many of the modern mixed pigment substitutes  are much better than many artists think. While yes a color (like alizarin crimson) might mix a little different than it’s traditional counterpart, it will have a great color retention in the extended short term exposure in a gallery setting.

The one exception I’ve found to the hues would be the cadmium substitutes. These colors often have a drastically different mixing capability and are often only used by artists on a budget. However this also is in the process of changing. Liquitex recently announced a line of “cadmium free” substitutes for artists that retain the brilliant color of the regular cadmium colors without the need for the more toxic heavy metal pigment. In blind studies it has been running circles around the traditional colors, however I personally am more skeptical. For obvious reasons they are keeping their formulation under a hat for now, which leaves artists like me at an impasse. For an artist like myself who understands not just paint names but also pigments, I find it exceedingly frustrating to not be able to see the pigment codes for these paints. For a professional line of paint to not show the pigments used I feel isn’t useful to me at all. For some regions where cadmium pigments are unavailable the colors certainly have a lot to offer, but not knowing in advance if they are simple rebranded single pigments, or new hue variants I can say that waiting to try the colors would be in any artist’s best interest. I by no means want to criminalize Liquitex. I love their products, but I feel the omission of the pigment information is a misstep.

Ok, so ranting about brands aside let’s get back to the point. The Pigment Database is a wonderful resource for artists of any level. It has taught me a ton about paint, color, and where to draw the line with certain names. There’s still a lot to learn as well. As I continue to grow as an artist I’ll keep referencing the database to expand my color palette and push the limits of just what I can do with color!


What are your thoughts on this topic? Have you been to the pigment database? If not, will you and how will you use it in your own process?

Everything in the Studio

Artists are often asked what supplies they use. Being that I’ve collected a vast number of different media for my various artistic endeavors, I figured I was overdue to create a list of everything I own for creating one piece or another.

I have decided to forgo listing individual colors of things like paint, for the reason that colors are a preferential thing and not something that will likely be beneficial to other artists (at least for this list). I will be making brand notes where I feel it is appropriate, but not ever supply needs to be brand specific. Certain supplies like graphite and charcoal are pretty hard to mess up, so cheaper brands are usually acceptable. Additionally just because a supply is listed doesn’t mean that it gets regular use. Many of my supplies sit for months or even years before I have a project that can utilize them properly. Additional this list is not in any particular order. I simply stood in the studio and looked around. That being said, here’s my complete list:

Painting Media

·         Acrylic Heavy Body Paint (Golden, Liqutex, & Utrecht)

·         Acrylic Paint Mediums and Gels (Golden & Utrecht)

·         Golden Acrylic High Flow (1 bottle)

·         Water mixable Oils

·         1 Tube Gamblin Oil Paint

·         Liqutex Acrylic Inks

·         Acryla Gouache

·         Tube and Cake Watercolors (Tubes preferred)

·         QoR Synthetic Ox Gal

·         Masking Fluid

·         Black Gesso

·         White Medium Body Gesso

·         Gesso Brush

·         Paint Brushes (Flat, Round, Filbert, Fan, Liner, as primaries. Mostly synthetic bristles)

·         Glass Mixing Palettes

·         Painting Knives

·         Powdered Tempra

·         Bottled Tempra (Wet)

·         Spray Paint (Liqutex Professional Prefered)

·         Spare Spray Caps

·         Metallic Silver Spray Paint

·         Gloss Clear Coat (Valspar)

·         Cap Cleaner


Drawing Media

·         Liqutex Acrylic Ink (listed twice because they work for both)

·         Oil Pastels

·         Soft (Chalk) Pastels (Rembrandt & Blick Preferred)

·         Crayola Anti-Dust Chalk (Yellow)

·         India Ink (Speedball or Higgins)

·         Speedball Block Printing Ink

·         Drawing Pens (Micron, Prismacolor, Uniball, Pentel, Faber-Castell)

·         Sharpie Markers

·         Colored Pencils (Prismacolor Premiere Preferred)

o   White Prismacolor (single pencils used outside of full set)

·         Graphite Pencils (Wood & Woodless)

o   Ebony Pencils

·         Charcoal (Vine, Pencils & Compressed)

·         White Charcoal

·         Erasers (White/Plastic/Vinyl, Kneaded, Art Gum)

·         Blending Stumps

·         Tortillion

·         Feathers

·         Wood Drawing Stylus

·         Brayer (Rolly thing for block prints)

·         Compass

·         Circle Template

·         Chamois Cloth

·         Workable Fixative

·         Tacky Spray Glue


Papers and Supports

·         Canvas (Pre-stretched, Un-stretched/unprimed & Stretcher bars)

·         Wood

·         Cardboard

·         Sheet Metal

·         Illustration Board

·         Sketch Paper (White and Brown Toned, Canson Preferred)

·         Drawing Paper

·         Bristol Paper

·         Newsprint

·         Mixed Media Paper (Canson)

·         Light Drawing Paper/Tracing Paper

·         Black Drawing Paper

·         Dura-Lar Plastic Film

·         Watercolor Paper

·         Pastel Paper

·         High Gloss and Semi-Gloss Printing Paper

·         Sticker Paper


Hardware, Tools, and Misc.

·         Air Dry Clay

·         Sidewalk Chalk

·         Plastic Bags (for covering palettes)

·         Tool Box (For travel with painting supplies)

·         Bubble Wrap

·         Metal Stylus

·         Putty Knife

·         Picture Wire

·         Sawtooth Hooks

·         S Hooks

·         Screw Eyes

·         L Pins

·         Box Tape

·         Masking Tape

·         Duct Tape

·         Frog Tape

·         Needle Nose Pliers

·         Compressed Air

·         70% Isopropyl Alcohol

·         Wood Burner

·         Wood Carving Knives

·         Manual Hand Drill

·         Sandpaper

·         Staple Gun (& spare staples)

·         Box Cutter (& spare blades)

·         Rulers (listed here due to multiple uses outside of drawing)

·         Table Brush

·         Kleenex

·         Paper Towels

·         Glass Jars and Water basins

·         PVC Pipe, Bricks, Bolt, and Wing nut (live stream rig)

·         Paper Cutter

·         X-Acto Knife (for small paper cuts +spare blades)

·         Spotlight

·         Travel Telescoping Easel

·         A Frame Wood Easel

·         Nomad Art Satchel

·         Work Table

·         Stool

·         Mat Knife and Bevel Cutter

·         Rags

·         Backpack

·         Old Paintings



·         Surface Pro 3

·         HP Pavilion Laptop

·         Performance Custom Build Desktop (Not in studio, but used for video and art)

·         Canon XA 10 Camcorder (+Microphone, lenses, and filter accessories)

·         Sony Handycam SR-68 Camcorder (Old camera shoots 480p)

·         3 Tripods

·         12” LCD Monitor (VGA connection 2004 era)

·         Microsoft Lifecam (Webcam)

·         AA Batteries

·         Old Drawing Tablet (Wacom Graphire4, new Intuos Pro used with desktop)

·         Photo Camera


I’m sure I’ve forgotten at least one or two things, so this list of course is always growing and ongoing. I want to make note that I did not create this list to brag. Far from it in fact. The point of this list is to show my working set of tools. If you have seen my videos you will know that much of this list goes untouched, so it’s not really about the “stuff” that any of us have but instead about how we make use of it. I’ve also been painting for over 16 years and have built up a this set out of my own purchases, gifts, and donations that have been made to me from friends over the years. I hope this list inspires you rather than intimidates you, and gets you excited to try out new materials!