Why Too Much is Better than Too Little

"Waste isn't always where we think it is!"

"Waste isn't always where we think it is ..."

OK … so you already know to use a good-sized palette (not a postage stamp) and a good-sized lump of paint (not a teaspoonful).

And the thing I want to remind you of today is how you also need a good-sized batch of working paint – a reservoir in fact (not a paddling pool).

The “working paint” is what you dilute from the lump to make whatever consistency of paint you need for the particular stage in hand – in other words for (e.g.) tracing, or strengthening, or flooding (or whatever).

And today I’m just reminding you how, before you start to trace or strengthen or whatever – you must prepare more than enough.

More than enough: that’s the essential point.

See, it’s just about impossible to make exactly the right amount. So chances are you’ll either prepare too much or too little. And you know which is worse – yes, too little is worse, because if you prepare too little, you’ll have to stop what you’re doing (e.g. tracing or whatever) and prepare some more.

Not just that, but you’ll need to make a new batch that matches the batch that’s just run out.

Not just that but once you’ve done testing and comparing, you’ll need to get into your stride again, and re-find your rhythm.

All of which is a mighty big distraction.

A good-sized reservoir for - undercoating

A good-sized reservoir for undercoating - the entire right-half of the palette

Which means it’s far better to make too much than too little. And I’m reminding you about this because if you’re anything like me you don’t like waste so it takes a conscious effort to resist a misguided sense of frugality.

Yes, waste isn’t always where we think it is.

Here, real waste is when someone mucks up a piece of painting – they get half-way through it and it’s looking great but then they run out of paint and have to stop and make some more. And the new batch comes out lighter / darker / runnier / thicker (or whatever) that the earlier paint. So it’s easy for something to go wrong because the new paint doesn’t behave like the old paint … And then the piece is trashed. Yes, it happens very easily.

A good-sized reservoir for - tracing

A good-sized reservoir for - tracing

And that’s the other big advantage of preparing a good-sized reservoir of working paint: you get to know how it’s behaving.

The point is, you’ve absolutely got to make more than enough paint to last you through whatever you’re doing.


All the best,

P.S. Of course there will be paint left over – that’s the whole point. But it won’t be wasted paint because there are always many ways to use it up. Say you’re moving from strengthening to flooding: well, you just cut a few slices from your lump and thicken up the leftovers. Or say you’ve finished for the day, then you use the leftover paint to lubricate your lump before sealing it beneath its nightly cover. Little or no waste – even though you “made too much”. And at least your tracing or flooding was consistent. And at least you maintained your concentration.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

6 thoughts on “Why Too Much is Better than Too Little

  1. Hello again Stephen,

    You must have been very busy to resist sending out these helpful ideas for weeks!

    Your message is clear and well taken.

    Can you post an image showing a reservoir for strengthening and also flooding (so we can “contrast and compare)?

    All the best,

    • Hi Herman,

      I’m away from the studio for a few days now so I will get some new photos for the end of next week.


      P.S. “Resist”? Yes indeed – I miss writing to you! All the same, I have been making a mass of notes and points which is a wonderful supply for forthcoming newsletters.

  2. Wow. What timing. I just ran into this last night. I was painting a flower design on a 12 inch circle and….ran out of properly mixed paint. Thank you for the timely reminder!

  3. Hello every one, I am on the process of a new glass painting session this evening and your post came just at the right momment and this is what make you and David are the best ever.

  4. Life is very exciting just now. Our group has just fired our very first batch of painted glass. One or two of the pieces in this firing showed evidence (to my eye) of having not enough paint and needing to mix more on the fly – I’ll be interested to see how they come out compared with the others. So your timely post made me think – yes, running out of paint is the thing that kills off the pleasure of a painting session quicker than anything.

    The kiln was still at 350C and cooling at its own pace when I closed up the shed for the day – I’ll have to go back in the morning and open it up . . .

  5. Hello Stephen,
    Thank you so much for all the information you give. I agree with you, there is nothing more annoying than running out of paint. I stopped making those little blots of paint long ago.
    Thanks for all the insights,