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The Well Equipped Student, Materials Explained

Being A Well Equipped Student

Dear young students and parents,

Oil painting for a young student should begin with the safest and most affordable (but high quality) paints, brushes and materials. Rather than give you a simple shopping list I am writing a more detailed overview for teaching responsibility and safety to a young student. Here is a list of subjects that I want all my young students to know about. (An adult oil paint list is included )

1. Solvent Free Studio
2. Oil Paints, Choosing and Using
3. Good Quality Brushes and how to Clean and Care for Them
4. Painting Surfaces, Posh to Affordable
5. Materials and Studio Maintenance Fee Explained

1. Solvent Free Studio, OIL ONLY

For years now I have been painting without odorless mineral spirits (OMS) or other petroleum- or citrus-based paint thinners or solvents. This is for many reasons, but mainly because I find it unnecessary. Paint thinner is traditionally used for thinning mediums and for using to thin paint for the initial under-painting phase of painting. Paint thinner is also used to clean the brushes after painting.

Solvents irritate the lungs and skin. They irritate throats, eyes and lips and may cause cancer or other health problems. They are not a good material to send down your drain into the public water treatment system. Most oil paints are pigments mixed with a variety of vegetable oils, and these oils dissolve easily with soap and water. These include Linseed Oil, Walnut Oil, Poppy Oil, Safflower Oil, etc. Linseed oil is the best oil in general and forms the strongest and most flexible paint films. These oils are safe to touch and use.

The oil mediums we will use in the studio include Cold Pressed or Refined Linseed, Walnut and Poppy Oil.

We avoid the following mediums, so please do not buy or use: Damar Varnish, Liquin, Alkyd Mediums or “Dryers”
Cobalt Dryers, Any Other “Dryers”
Mediums with Petroleum Solvents Added

2. Oil Paints, Choosing and Using

For young students who are still growing we will not use paints that include lead, cadmium or cobalt. There is no shortage of information available about the dangers of these metals. It is every parent's responsibility to know this when shopping for anything involving pigment, and this includes more than just paint. However, safe practices are easy to learn and painting with gloves and safe habits keeps artists healthy.

Lead, cadmium and heavy metals are dangerous to growing children because when these metals are in a child’s blood stream they are mistaken by the body for protein and are bound into the bones and skeleton for decades. All organs are susceptible to damage. It should be noted that most young adults are growing their skeletons and ossifying their cartilage until their middle twenties. 

The safest paints to use are “earth tones”, made from a variety of clay found around the world. Many of my “cadmium replacements” are simply laboratory-made synthetic pigments. These include the bright spectral colors that will replace cadmium.

The whites are Titanium, not lead or zinc. Zinc is safe but forms an inferior paint film that becomes brittle in a short time. Titanium will have an alarming new label due to the passing of the Prop 65 consumer labeling bill. Most highly-respected authorities are not at all fearful of titanium. Titanium White is very unlikely to cause any harm in the way an artist is expected to handle it. Titanium White is an adequate paint for a reasonably strong paint film, although inferior in strength or viscosity to lead white.

For young students who have just begun painting we have paints available to use that are non hazardous. As a mature student becomes able to handle paint and know how to keep his or her hands and clothes clean we use a wider range of paints, with the exception of leads, cobalt and dryers. all students are provided gloves and are taught safe practices for painting and cleaning.
3. Good Quality Brushes and how to Clean and Care for Them
Below is a link for buying Kolibri Brand, Imitation Mongoose Synthetic Brushes. Synthetic brushes have been improving more every year so I recommend Kolibri for the best brushes to buy online by Natural Pigments. Beginners can use about 6 brushes to get started but a well equipped student should have 40 to 100 brushes in a variety of sizes and shape.

How to Clean your Brushes

When you are done painting your brushes will be full of wet paint. The hairs will be saturated with paint even down inside the shiny metal part of the brush called the ferrule. Wipe as much paint off with a paper towel as you can. You should be squeezing with gentle pressure from the ferrule toward the tip, extruding the paint from the ferrule and the hairs.

Be kind to your brushes. They are expensive and you should also be kind to them while you paint with them. Lay your strokes down with some style and grace.

After you have wiped them off, dip them in a jar of walnut oil (first choice) or cheap vegetable oil and repeat the wiping process. Then wash the brush with medium-hot water and dish soap or cheap white bar soap. You should be wearing a thick and comfortable rubber glove in your non-dominant hand. Massage the soap and extrude the paint patiently and gently, so as to not damage the hairs. Always squeeze from ferrule to tip.

Note. Wash one brush at a time. Do not save time and attempt to wash a handful of brushes together. It just doesn’t work! You will be disappointed to find later that the paint did not get washed out and your hairs are hardened with dry paint. Take your time and do it right. Also, wash your brushes by the time you go to bed.

When your beautifully cleaned brushes are rinsed you can lay them flat with the tips hanging over the edge of a table. You may also reshape the brushes before they dry to keep them in form.

Links for Shopping For Materials
Dear Students, please read the following carefully, as this will be of benefit to you being a well-equipped artist. Many students share materials in the studio that we buy for common use. We share many things, such as drawing supplies and paint, but personal things like paint brushes and painting surfaces are things I want students to acquire for their own use.
I also want to list a few common things we all share that you may find very useful to use at home or in your own studio.
Painting Supplies may include the following;
Oleogel, quantities vary from 50 Ml up.
Impasto Medium, quantities vary from 50 Ml up
Linseed Oil Sampler, is a collection of four different kinds of oil for painting.
Refined Aged Linseed Oil, 16 ounce bottle for oil painting
Walnut Oil, 16 ounce bottle for oil painting
Oil Colors vary endlessly, but my personal choice is Rublev by Natural Pigments. The benefits of Rublev paints are many. Each paint is crafted from a single pigment selected for it's historical and technical value. Natural Pigments also provides excellent customer support and an active "Best Practices" community page on social media. There are ongoing opportunities to join conversations and attend on-line, or in-person workshops pertaining to all matters of choosing the best practices in painting.
My preferences for a Rublev palette include the following paints. However, there are many paints that can be added for additional range.
You may consider the Elizabeth Zanzinger Palette.
This would provide you with a sample of paints to expand to suit your needs.
Basic Recommended Rublev Palette
Blue Black
Roman Black
Ultramarine Blue (Red Shade)
Verona Green Earth
Chromium Oxide Green
Crystal White, Lead White
Lead White #2
French Raw Umber
Cyprus Burnt Umber Warm
Blue Ridge Yellow Ocher
Orange Ocher
Italian Raw Sienna
Transparent Red Iron Oxide
Chrome Yellow Primrose
Cadmium Yellow Light
Cadmium Yellow Deep
Orange Molybdate
Cadmium Red Light
Alizarin Crimson
4. Painting Surfaces,  Expensive or Affordable
Painting Surfaces vary widely. The most useful panel to bring to the studio is a rigid panel. Rigid panels have many benefits and come in a variety of surfaces. Whatever material you prefer, good dimensions range from 8 by 10 to 16 by 20 inches. My favorite posh surface is an oil primed aluminum panel by Artefex. More affordable wooden panels are available by SourceTek and Ampersand
Young Student's Palette
For parents interested in buying an affordable set of oil paints that is non hazardous I am providing the following local store and palette list.
Materials & Procedures

Your Local Independent Art Supply Store

Lenz Arts

142 River St,
Santa Cruz, CA 95060

Closed Sundays

Materials & Procedures

Oil Paints

Ivory Black

Ultramarine Blue Manganese Violet
Dioxazine Purple

Provence Violet Bluish by Williamsburg

King's Blue Dark or Light
Sap Green
Permanent Green Light
Titanium White, NOT ZINC or LEAD

Raw Umber

Burnt Umber

Yellow Ocher
Raw Sienna
Transparent Iron Oxide
Hansa Yellow Light or Medium
Mono Orange


Permanent Orange Pyrol,  Orange Permanent Orange

Perlene Red OR

Pyrol Red

Permanent Red Quinacridon Red Alizarin Permanent 

Refined Linseed Oil, 8oz bottle


5. Materials and Studio Maintenance Fee Explained
Studio Materials and Maintenance Fee
Registered students may be asked for a periodic $48 Studio Materials and Maintenance Fee. The fee may last a student from one to two months depending on the student's work in progress. The contribution pays for shared items we all need. Although these funds help support the collective program, students will be encouraged to acquire personal materials such as brushes or painting surfaces befitting a well equipped dedicated Artist. Thank you for keeping the studio well stocked for the benefit of everyone.
Regular registered students commit to supporting the studio program by sharing the expenses of stocking and maintaining the studio. This patronage helps us share art supplies as well as many general items we all need. This ranges from drawing and painting materials to hardware, cleaning supplies, subject matter, furnishing and office supplies. We travel to shop for and collect many things that are best bought in bulk or for special needs.
What does your contribution support? We regularly need the following;
Graphite pencils, charcoal pencils, chalk pencils, vine charcoal, pastels, kneaded erasers, retractable erasers, retractable eraser replacements, Olfa Japan sharpeners, drawing board clips, hundreds of sheets of various specialty drawing papers, pastel papers, masking tape, paper towels, still life fruit and subjects, antiques, draperies and fabrics, high quality plaster casts, utility lights, light bulbs, tubes of oil paint, linseed oil, walnut oil, poppy seed oil, brushes, palette knives, mediums, Duralar brand Mylar for painting, acrylic gesso, workable fixatif, palettes, tracing paper, clamps, electrical cords, copy paper, cotton balls, Q-tips, tissues, Teacher Pro electric pencil sharpeners four times per year, plastic cups, paper bowls, sand papers, flowers and produce, etc.
Thank you for taking the time to read this, Gabriel Coke