Life is Brief, Art Endures

Vita Brevis, Ars Longa

For Artists

 AMIEN forum
I just found a new website called
It answers artist's questions about things like linen vs. cotton canvas, mediums, varnishes, paint pigments and other archival questions.  Really informative.

Buying oil paints:
I have just ordered new oil paint to replace some used up tubes.  (Some of my oils I have had since college.  If keep properly, it will last indefinitely)  In ordering, I have looked at countless websites and even called companies to decide on a brand of paint that is archival and handles well. 
I first went to an art supply store and opened the tubes of Cerulean blue that I needed and noticed that the colors were different in different brands.  The price was also extremely high in one brand.  I went home to research the chemical makeup of the paints I needed before purchasing.  I have several charts that list the pigments and include the lightfastness of different brands.  I also have reports that discuss the archival properties of diffent pigments.  I refer to this whenever I use a paint color I am unsure of. 
What you need to know:
Are the pigments genuine or synthetic?  Is it the original pigment or replaced with more lightfast or cheaper ones?  what oil binger do they use?  Linseed oil produces the strongest film, but darkens over time.  Some brands claim walnut oil is best. Lighter colors and white sometimes use poppyseed or safflower oils.  It seems poppy-seed produces a more brittle paint.  Why do some brands command such high prices for paints containing the same pigment? Is the pigment lightfast enough to risk using it?  So it boils down to Pigment, binder, light-fastness and price.
The top brands are Winsor & Newton, Grumbacher, Gamblin, Old Holland and others. 
What I bought:
A few tubes of Permalba by Weber.  I am really picky about my blues, reds and yellows.  The cerulean blue is the right color and has right chemical composition.  It turned out to be have very little tinting strength (how much it takes to tint white or light colors).  The black is wonderful and I like the chromium oxide green by them.  They use a high grade of linseed oil and safflower for their lighter colors.  Plus they have spent a lot of time researching the pigments that will make all 64 of their colors get a light fast I rating.  I had to call to get a chart for the chemical makeup, but they were happy to mail me one. I use Permalba white exclusively for the non-yellowing factor and the flexible film is produces over titanium or zinc white.  There are plenty of great artists that use permalba including John Howard Sanden and he makes a lot more money than I do.  Even though price wasn't a factor, the price is outstanding on this paint and it is usually on sale. The low tinting strength of some of the colors make them useful for the soft shades I need for portrait work.  I would switch to a different brand for dark areas that I need a more intense color.  I am still looking for the perfect Cerulean Blue. 

Tip for getting your supplies for a good price:
Get on the e-mail list for specials from art supply companies like and Wait for the good sales and the free shipping.  I waited until I needed a large order so I could get free shipping and got 20% off on top of the summer sales at Jerry's.  My new french easel is gorgeous and I got it for $55 instead of $369.  Bought my canvases in bulk also to get a great price. 

Buying canvas:
Canvas drives me crazy.  I have the hardest time getting what I want in one and my studio is full of ones I rejected once I found a flaw.  I have ordered really expensive ones to find they weren't tight enough or have the weave off.  I find I usually have to restretch myself to get it like I want it.  I want a smooth weave, but portrait smooth is too thin and fragile.  I want the right texture and grade in the cotton.  I gesso them again at least once myself to be on the safe side.  I apply an archival sealer on the back to prevent humidity problems.  I have tried stretching my own, but it is hard for me to get the tension I want.  I tried linen which at least sounds more expensive, but it is even worse to have thread flaws where I don't want them.  In comparing brands, I like Winsor & Newton for the thicker, stronger grade and it is always stretched straight and tight.  I might get one out of 12 with a thick thread here and there, but not often.  This allows me to order them instead of having to hand pick canvas at a supply store for Fredrix or other brands. Always hold the canvas up to the light and look for tiny pinholes where the gesso didn't seal.  these will show up if you paint dark colors over.  You can gesso again, but may loose the texture of the canvas.

One of the reasons I am discontinuing pastel is the difficulty in getting a paper I like and in good condition.  If I order, there will usually be a place where there is a crease.  I just went through all the papers in the color I wanted at a supply store and didn't find one page that wasn't creased somewhere.  The colors samples online are not what you get.  I ordered a lot of paper thinking I was getting tans to find yellow and gold colors instead.  At least look at the colors at stores and then order them online.  You can also order samples of the paper first. Tell them when you order that you will send back creased paper to hope they will give you the best ones.  I now use the Mi 'tientes boards unless I need a larger size.  But the textured side is up and I like the smoother side.