Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Stupidly Simple Tips #1 : Good, Cheap Water Pots

In yet another effort to keep my poor neglected blog updated on a more regular basis, I've decided to post a series of super short posts I like to call, "Stupidly Simple Tips".  These are just little things that I've done a certain way, for so long, that I no longer give them much thought anymore.  Some things will be certain techniques, or methods, or even tools that many painters have been doing that seem to make painting life a little bit simpler.  Many of them you will already know, and some will be minor little "eureka!" moments for you.  Nonetheless, I hope that some will be of some help to you in your mission to become a better painter.

SST #1: My Favourite Cheap Water Pots
The Games Workshop store I used to work at long ago (Games Workshop Metrotown, based in the Metrotown mall in Burnaby B.C., within spitting distance of Vancouver) used to have a small painting table for staff and customer use.  Our painting placemats were comic book backing boards covered in comic bags (made for a decent disposable palatte too), and our wash water pots were simply plastic disposable cups (like you get for picnics or for crappy watered down beer at a sporting event).  They were fine in many cases... cheap, disposable, and held just enough water for a brief painting session.  However, they had many drawbacks.

First of all, they barely held any water at all.  We found ourselves changing the water out on a constant basis.  I guess this is a good thing for painting discipline... after all, you SHOULD be changing out your wash water whenever you change colours, or go from a flat colour to a metallic (metallic paints have little shiny particles in them that will contaminate your other paints).  However, the reality is that if you're on a roll, the last thing you want to do is to disrupt your painting momentum by going to the bathroom (or other sink) every 5 minutes.  A larger water container is required for power painting sessions.

Secondly, they seemed to always tip over.  Since the base was much narrower than the top lip circumference, that meant that they were always top heavy when full.  One remedy was to only fill them half way, but that only exacerbated the lack of water capacity problem.  Knocking over your water every time the table shook, or you were too focused on your model and tried a "no-look" swish of your brush in the water pot to clean it, was a major pain.  Stopping painting, especially to clean up your paint station, was a major waste of time, and really blunted any creative momentum you had built up.

At home, I found two cheap alternatives that worked much better.

First was the empty margarine / cream cheese / etc. container.  It was shorter and wider in body than the tall plastic beer cup, which meant it held a greater volume of water, and was very stable.  No more knocked over cups, fewer trips to the bathroom.  Also, it didn't resemble a drinking vessel, so I wouldn't accidentally drink from it if it was next to my cup of Diet Pepsi, or accidentally swish my paint-laden brush into my Diet Dr. Pepper.  Also, a big bonus was that I could use the upside down lid as a painting palatte that was easily washable and reusable.  On top of that, if I needed to take a short break from painting, I could turn my painting palatte rightside up, and use it as a lid for my water pot (it's original purpose).  If I came back to painting soon enough, the humidity inside the magarine container would actually keep the paint on my palatte fresh, and I could resume painting without wasting paint.

The only drawback to the magarine container was that they probably didn't look all that professional in a store's painting table... something about using my old recycled plastic containers plastered with nutritional info (or lack of nutrition, for that matter) would probably have been vetoed by my GW store manager.  Still, at home or on the road, it worked damn fine.

My other go-to water container is a large leftover jar.  Something smaller than a pickle jar, but not too small. I find that spagetti sauce jars seem to work fairly well.  Not only am I environmentally friendly again with the reuse of an otherwise discarded item, but it also holds a decent amount of water, is nice and stable (the weight helps), and the bonus is that the glass jar is transparent, allowing you to easily see how dirty your water is, and if there are too many floaties in it to continue painting with (I'm talking about bits of dried paint and metallic particles, not the other stuff, you sicko).

Again, you can use the old lid to seal the jar when you step away from your painting station (although it's a bit small for use as a palatte), keeping the water from evaporating or having dust contaminating it.  And if you're worried about looking like you're sponsored by "I-Can't-Believe-It's-Not-Butter" (as you would with the magarine container), the paper labels come off easily if you run the jar in the dishwasher one or two times.  I daresay this would work great in a store setting too.

That being said, I am becoming a big fan of wet palattes (which I will get into in a later blog post).  Right now, I'm using a converted P3 wet palatte (the only "original" component in mine is the container... both the foam and parchment paper have been replaced with the real art-store equivilants), but still using a glass jar for my wash water pot.

Anyway, if you're still using a dinky little plastic cup, give the magarine container and / or the glass jar a try.  Like all my Stupidly Simple Tips, it won't turn you into a Golden Demon painter overnight, but it might make life a tiny bit easier and painting a teeny bit more enjoyable.

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