My Favorite Painting Things: What Brian uses in the studio and en plein air.
When it comes to your painting supplies and equipment, you should purchase the best quality that you can afford - and that doesn't always mean the most expensive products. Manufacturers' prices vary widely for similar quality and some manufacturers gouge you for absolute junk products.
I've been painting long enough to discern quality and have really found a bunch of products that I have stuck with for several years. I am a gear and paint junkie. I try out a lot of items each year to decide whether or not we will carry it in our stores.
I do use different setups when painting outdoors than I do in the studio, so I will detail the different setups I use. The only true reason that my paint supplies are different is the weight! In plein air painting I'm usually hiking, so I take only a few paints with me. In the studio, though, I like to keep a giant set of paints!
I have included the Brian Sutton Studio Collection and the Brian Sutton Plein Air Collection from our store so you have links and info for everything I use.
In the studio:
My studio setup is very large and far exceeds my abilities as an artist. That was by design, actually. Every time I paint I feel I have to do my best to justify the expense of my art habit. So I work hard to improve.
Where I never skimp is on the easel. The Sienna Counterweight Easel from Richeson I use is absolute gold and worth every penny. I got mine in January 2022 and it was heavenly to switch from lightweight, portable easels to the behemoth that the counterweight easel is. I previously used Karen's in the past couple of years for video shoots. I was fortunate enough to get some art sales that gave me some extra supply purchase money to order one for myself. It won't necessarily make you a better artist, but it sure is a wonderfully stable platform on which to work. For those of you familiar with my old metal easel, sometimes I could get that old workhorse shaking pretty hard! I'm not suggesting you lay down $2,500 for an easel, but it's what I use. When you paint nearly every day having the best gear is helpful. In most cases for most artists your small tabletop easel you got for $10 is sufficient. Upgrade to something better and better as your skill and desire to paint increases. There's usually someone behind you in their art journey who would love to buy your old easel at a discount as you upgrade.
I exclusively use Richeson brushes for my studio and plein air work. I use the synthetic Grey Matters series because I like the quality for the price. They are less expensive than other professional brushes I have paid for but the quality of the fibers is excellent.
I still use my #5 Bob Ross palette knife. It's just a good tool. I also use a Richeson diamond shaped knife and a Richeson Italian Knife (similar to Bob Ross's #10 knife).
In the studio I like to have a ton of available colors for no other reason than I like the pretty colors. It's true. I'm a color junkie. So if you are like me I have a really large list in my Studio Collection page of colors that I use. To start I would recommend getting one each of the primary colors plus white (and maybe a black), especially if you are on a budget. Just about any color can be mixed out of the three primaries (yellow, red and blue) + white so there's really not a need at first to buy a bunch of color. You'll learn a lot more about mixing when sticking with just four tubes of paint. I wish I had known when I started out that I only need the primaries!
My palette is homemade out of an 18 x 36 inch piece of glass I got at Home Depot. I taped it to a neutral gray hardboard with duct tape. It takes about 10 minutes to make. It's the best palette you will ever use. I think the glass costs about $18 and the board is about $30. You could pay a couple of hundred dollars for an equivalent palette, so DIY is the way to go here.\
I actually started out by using a piece of glass out of a picture frame. Be careful! Those pieces of glass are brittle!
I have also started to use a mahl stick to steady my hand for detail work. We can get them for you in our store at $55 each, but that seems like robbery to us. I recommend a DIY version that performs just as well for under $10, depending on how fancy you want to make it. See the photo below. This is a game changer for those who really want to get the details in but shaky hands cause some not-so-happy accidents. My mahl stick is pictured below.
My mahl stick was constructed in about 10 minutes by purchasing a 3-foot piece of 3/4 inch dowel at Home Depot. I fitted it with a 3/4 rubber chair foot and then took a few minutes to wrap the handle with 550 parachute cord to make holding it more comfortable. You might choose to give the handle a light sanding with super fine sandpaper and either leave it natural or coat it with a varnish or a rubbing with linseed oil. I opted for the handle because I like the look and comfort of the wrapped handle. To wrap the handle, follow these instructions.
Want to see how to use it? Here's a quick video to help you.
See everything I use in the studio by clicking the button below.
En Plein Air
Plein Air, or outdoor painting, is where I like to be these days. It's super challenging, super fun and I get to enjoy the outdoors and get in some hiking to find great subjects to paint!
Plein air painting presents another challenge - you can't really take your studio setup to the field very easily. This challenge requires a different set of gear.
I recommend reading my blog posts on what plein air is and what basics you need. Once you read those you'll be primed to take a look at my complete setup for plein air, which is markedly smaller than my studio setup. In fact it all fits into a backpack!
Now that you have read the blog posts, take a look at what I use by clicking the button below:
I hope this has been helpful to those of you who have asked for a supply list or for those starting out who may feel overwhelmed with the volume of available products out there. If you do decide to buy some supplies, we encourage you to buy directly from this website. After all, we gave you expert recommendations to help you and we could definitely use your business. Please support local artists and buy from us instead of Amazon or other impersonal corporations.