Painting should, more realistically, be called ‘colour mixing’ – because eighty percent of my ‘painting’ time is spent mashing up colour combinations with my palette knife.
It’s a heck of a job: The potential for botching things is almost as high as the potential for wasting copious amounts of paint. (The two often go hand in hand.)
I prefer to over-estimate the quantity of paint I’ll need for each colour, to ensure I don’t run out half-way through a section. It can be tricky to re-mix an exact match of a colour, and I like to maintain an uninterrupted flow in the process of actually applying the paint.
Besides, whacking on a stroke of thick paint is easier than trying to spread a bitty-sized blob across a large surface area, and it looks better too.
Inevitably though, I over-over-estimate, or I mix a bad batch and have to start again on a colour and at the end of my paint session there’s more than the usual amount of left-over paint. What to do with it?
In the past, I have tried a number of solutions to this small-scale dilemma, the least successful of which involved cling-wrap, turning a blind-eye and the agony of scraping rock-hard paint from the surface of my palette.
However, after reading blogs by other painters, and having conducted some research of my own, I now freeze left-over paint between sessions.
As Marion Boddy-Evans writes in her article on thought.com: “The tip about freezing oil paints to preserve them between painting sessions… is based on the fact that oil freezes at a very low temperature. (It’s far lower than water.) Given the temperature a domestic freezer is usually set at, leftover oil paint put into it is unlikely to freeze because it doesn’t get cold enough.”
Boddy-Evans even asked an expert in the field of chemistry about this: “I put the question about freezing oil paint to Anne Marie Helmenstine PhD in Chemistry, who said: “The freezing point of linseed oil (the predominant oil in oil paints) is -20°C (-4°F). Most people set their freezers at 0°F, so oil paint will not freeze in most home freezers.” *
Now my clean-up is much more methodical and I don’t waste time procrastinating about cleaning my palette. Any decent-sized portions of paint are transferred to a sheet of disposable palette paper (I could probably just use wax paper or lunch-wrap really), and this is then placed into a suitably sized plastic container, which I slide into my freezer until my next painting session.
Before I start a painting, I pull my palette container out of the freezer, wait about ten minutes for any condensation to evaporate, and it’s ready to go.
The controversy surrounding this is whether the chemical structure of the paint is changed by the freezing process, and thus, whether the quality and longevity of the final painting is compromised. No-one has been able to say one way or the other though, and plenty of people continue to freeze their oil paint, with no adverse affects to their work.
I hope one day that I’ll be painting so frequently, and mixing colours so expertly and efficiently that I’ll be carrying my paint straight over from one painting to the next. For now however, I’ll continue using my freezer between sessions, and my frozen peas will just have to get used to sharing their space.
* The full article by Marion Boddy-Evans can be found at: https://www.thoughtco.com/freezing-oil-paint-2578597
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