What To Do with Your Paint when You Get Lost

Here's what to do when your palette goes wrong!

Here's what to do when your palette goes wrong!

Hello again! Thanks for coming over.

Now this is really useful.

And yes, it is something I mentioned in a post a while back.

But I won’t apologize for repeating it today, because every day I paint, I become more and more convinced of its importance.

And despite my fierce conviction that everyone reads every word I write, I know in my hear of hearts it just ain’t so!

Someone’s sure to have missed at least one of my words of wisdom!

This point I made before, this crucial point, it’s blindlingly obvious.

But I – even I! – only articulated it a few weeks ago.

Yes, it’s obvious – when you see it.

Until then … it’s often like you’re lost in the swirling sulphorous fumes of an angry volcano.

OK so I exaggerate, but you know what I’m like; I want your attention so I can spare you the pains I myself endured to fetch you these glittering pearls of wisdom.


And here’s my point …

When things go wrong, change something – but change what?

When your painting is going wrong, there’s no use just carrying on doing the same thing (which isn’t working) …

Hope is not a painting strategy!

(Great line that, yes? But trust me: that’s just the warm-up act. The main feature follows shortly!)

No, as I was saying hope is not a strategy.

Thing is, when something’s going wrong with your paint, you can’t continue – you must change something.

The question is, “Change what?”

Aerial view of dried up palette - believe me, it's a sticky mess!

Aerial view of dried up palette - believe me, it's a sticky mess!

And this is what I realized … Say I’m tracing, and the paint’s too watery, or too light, or all dried up – whatever problem you like …

Then the best and quickest way to set things right is to use my palette knife to scrape all the paint to one end of the palette (probably to the palette-end, provided it doesn’t threaten the integrity of my lump).

Then I’ll use my haik brush and spend however long it takes to make some undercoating paint.

Aerial view of a palette that's been restored to peace and justice

Aerial view of a palette that's been restored to peace and justice

And from there it’s a quick and east step to prepare a fresh batch of tracing paint – or strengthening paint, or flooding paint.

Again – whatever kind of paint you want. Here, some tracing paint:

Now it's quick and easy to make whatever consistency of paint you need

Now it's quick and easy to make whatever consistency of paint you need

In fact, whatever consistency and darkness of paint you want, the rule is:

Always tidy up your palette and make as if it’s undercoating paint you need.

Once you’ve done that, just add dark paint by degrees, and drops of water as needed, then twirl and swirl until you’ve made the perfect mix.

I repeat: always start from an undercoat.

And if you’re ever lost, always return to an undercoat.

This is easy. Simple. Quick.

And it never fails.

Yet I also know how this is such a simple rule, it lacks the excitement and romanticism to stir some people’s blood.

So to anyone who yawns at such simple homespun wisdom, I say this …

Please remember how glass painting is a craft (not an art).

So it is therefore from the simple “earth” of honest rules like this – “always start from an undercoat” – that your skills will grow and flourish.

Happy painting!


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4 thoughts on “What To Do with Your Paint when You Get Lost

  1. I have to say I love to read all the tips and advice but I believe that glass painting is also an art. I don’t know if that is because I’m an artist ( 3-d , oddly enough) and I’ve been glass painting for 4 years now. Funny, but I took painting classes in college but never considered myself a painter and that’s how I still feel, that I am more of a person that draws and shades than someone who paints. I know that sounds kind of odd.
    Thank you for all the tips,

  2. Hello Stephen,

    As always, your post came just in time. I was doing some painting last night, and no matter what I did, my tracing lines were very bad, and the paint wasn’t as I wanted it to be.

    So I just stopped and cleaned up my palette, and made an undercoat and started with a fresh batch of tracing paint. Things ended up great!

    Thanks for everything – keep it up!

    Regards to you and David,

  3. Hi Stephen
    I DO read (most) of your words. Worth it actually, often witty, always informative. Free too!
    You do struck a chord with me though, as I send out a (mostly) regular newsletter, and I am almost pathetically happy to have a reply. Someone have not only skipped the Delete button, they have not only read it, they have replied!
    Do not guarantee that I read your missives immediately though, sometimes let it sit and age a bit…

  4. Well you once more convinced me you have the gift of sharing. I needed to read that just now.
    I am 3 panels into 24 huge (21″ medallion) and I keep getting lost. So I will start finding myself, with my pallet.
    The glass I was given to work with, is white. I know. This is not ideal, but I am making the best of it.
    Do you have any tricks to transfer the pattern when the light table isn’t enough? I have done the transfer on a solid matt on name plaques . Do you think this is my best option? So far I have tried “pretending” to see , many different light sources and this experimenting is slowing me down.
    Thank you.