This is my first proper blog in a long time, but I’ve been testing out some new materials and thought it’d be useful to write about it.
I was recently contacted on LinkedIn by Ben Smith of Loxley Arts (www.loxleyarts.co.uk), who asked if I’d like to test out some special palettes for acrylic paints. The request was out of the blue but much appreciated, and is a testament to the ubiquity of social media these days; don’t underestimate the power of Twitter, Facebook and other online networks, as you never know who or what you may find when using them!
I started using these palettes last week: They’re called Sta-Wet by a company called Masterson’s and they’re designed to keep acrylic paint wet and workable for an extended period of time. I’m sure most painters are acquainted with the way acrylic paint dries so fast. It’s one of the reasons why I use the medium, as it enables me to paint quickly and spontaneously. There are times however when I need to keep a particular colour I’ve mixed, or when I’ve had to take a break from my work and hope to continue with the same paint later. In the past I’ve resorted to drowning the palette in water and covering it with cling film to preserve it, but after 3 or more days (especially in the warmer, drier summer weather) the paint still dries up.
This is where the Sta-Wet palettes come in. They work by using a soaked sponge placed beneath some specially prepared paper, onto which your paint is applied just like you would with a solid palette. The paper is quite durable and even withstands my palette knife when I mix paint on it. The sponge and paper are kept inside an airtight plastic box, so that when you’re done painting for the day, you can seal it up and come back to it later.
I’ve been using these palettes all week and was quite impressed with how they’d kept the paint wet. I didn’t get much chance to do my work for almost four days and when I returned to my palette, the paint was still workable and absolutely wet, with no sign of ‘clotting’ or forming a skin.
You do have to be careful if there’s too much water in the sponge when you seal the box, as the humid atmosphere in the container can actually dilute the paint, but if you remember to take out the sponge and gently press out the excess water before placing the special paper back on top, the acrylic paint is pretty much exactly as when it came out of the tube. I also think it’s a good idea to mix paint on a separate plastic/wooden palette and transfer it to the Sta-Wet surface, as I’ve found that when I’m mixing colours, they can spread out a bit and reduce space for adding more paint to the Sta-Wet palette (you can see an example of this in the photos in this post!). Basically these things do exactly what it says on the tin: they keep paint wet, so if you want to mix more on the palette, you’ll be doing it in the wet surface on the paper. I’ve been using acrylics on dry palettes for such a long time that I had to remind myself that in this case they weren’t going to dry in time for me to work over in-palette!
So would I recommend other artists to get these? Given how practical these palettes have been, and have saved me the mess and minor expense of using my clingfilm/water method (!), I would say yes. No doubt the pads of special refill paper carry an added cost, but I’d say it was worth it because you save on paint. If I think back to all the times I’ve had to scrape off thick, stratified layers of dried acrylic from my palettes, as well as the frustrating moments when I’ve mixed the perfect colour, applied it to my canvas, been distracted away from the work and then returned to find that wonderfully perfect hue completely dry and unusable, I’d say these little boxes are very handy and economical indeed.