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Best practices: maintaining a reserve of oil colors

Who does this? I do. I relied on memory (bad choice). And now I’m stuck with too much burnt sienna.

I occasionally buy the same color paint, but different brands. As artists we are in a constant search to find whatever it is to make our paintings the best they can be, so I have become intrigued to try brands that other artists have had success with. Needless to say, I have developed the habit of buying too much paint. I’ll buy paint I need for a class where I’ll only use a dab. That only increases my paint supply. That can be a waste — or at some point, a good thing to have on hand. Time will tell. I hope to live that long.

Sometimes I duplicate paint that I already have — without knowing it. When it happens to be duplication of the large (150 ml) tubes, it’s a major ouch!

These little guys stick very well to oily tubes.

When I first started oil painting I inventoried my paint and it was easy to keep track of.  Now that my paint tubes have amassed, I decided I to paint rather than do inventory. So I came up with a process to keep myself in check: reinforcement stickers. The stickers placed on the tube(s) — ones that I’m currently using or ones that are just sitting in my drawer — are my cue that I have back stock. Tubes without a sticker are the only tube I currently possess of that color. I squeeze or crimp to half way, then I jot down for future purchase. These days, I am flipping paint hand over fist, so several paints I use consistently end up on my shopping list. The half crimped tube gets a sticker after I purchased a ‘back stock’ tube. Now we have a system!

While I’m in the throes of a project I can jot down the paint that I actually need and not have to guess. “Wait, do I have an extra of this tube color in my bottomless pit of a paint drawer?” I speak for all artists out there or anyone who is so engrossed in the spiritual process of creating: We barely make time to pee — and you think we’re willing to take time to dig through a crusty drawer? I think not.

Various tubes of paint with my sticker indicators. They tell me in a nice way, “Stop buying paint you don’t need.”

And lo, the mighty Tube Wringer.

BTW, the paint tube crimper, or as the retail industry calls it, a wringer, is the best — or dare I say, theee best  tool a painter of anything that comes out of a tube, will ever own.

I’m curious what methods are out there that other artists use to keep you in check. Let me know your process. I’d love to know how you manage your paint supply.

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