View Full Version : The benefit of organizing - shudda done it years ago

11-16-2014, 11:04 PM

I was one to open up three long Mount Vision boxed sets, two Sennie half set boxes of compilations, various TL boxes, etc. each time I tried to paint. No wonder it would feel like a chore. And require tables outdoors.

Last week, I got a Heilman medium/original box and it is full. I have about 90% of my colors, but many of the ones loaded are only 1/3, so I have more pastel left.

I can leave the thing open on my table, put the covers back on in the off times, and not worry about my cats making a mess. I will easily open up this single box and have access to everything at once. I can take it on the road and have all I need. It is amazing! I have not yet worked plein air with it and I realize it is on the larger side, but I could bunjie it to a folding table, if I am not comfortable with it on an easel. Indoors, it seemed fine on the Mabef tripod field easel.

I never thought that a box would be life changing. I wanted the thing for years, but would have gotten a smaller one, the backpacker, if I had gotten one before. A friend urged me to aim bigger and I am so glad I did. It really is a studio in a single box. I have not ruled out the backpacker and I am sure I could easily stock it from this one.

I got the 18" easel with it and wouldn't want to carry around larger, but it really doesn't accommodate my backing boards and I have to take the clip off the top. That would be problematic in the wind, so I will need to make sure I am working smaller outside.

Anyway, I wanted to convey some observations that have been significant and I would not have realized before.

11-16-2014, 11:40 PM
That is so beautiful. You've also solved one problem I have with my compilation box. All your pastels lean toward the softer end of the range. You haven't mixed up Rembrandt, Art Spectrum and Sennelier in it. TL and Sennelier are very close and MV is fairly soft too, they'd all work together on the same layer with similar pressure.

That is so beautiful. There's something gorgeous about a full pastel box organized hue and value. It's like staring in at the bakery shop window. All those colors. All those possibilities.

Now if I were using it, even with wipes or a wet towel handy, as soon as I did one small painting it might start to be hard to tell which end was the light values or which color that band was. Keeping them that clean is going to take a little work, either a good habit of wiping them as you put them back or keeping hands clean or just regularly cleaning the lot at intervals.

You also solved my problem with leaving the box open to tempt. Duh. Put the covers back on, it keeps the cat out. Right now I'm regretting the small Traveller because the larger one would have given me 10 rows and I could split, super soft on one side and medium soft on the other. I'm not getting rid of it but I might rearrange what's in it. If I can find a good place for the vintage Rembrandts and Art Spectrums and the occasional Girault etc. from the Greens Sampler, I might rework it with only soft-soft in it and put medium-soft combination in another box.

But of course that tempts me to get the other box to do so. lol

I have a big collection and organizing it is tricky. I went back to rotating set boxes because that worked in my small space but I can see the benefits of what you just did yet again - and what's in the Traveller is so tempting when I do get it out and open it.

11-17-2014, 01:17 AM
I kept my Carb Othellos and Cretacolors separate. The latter I have divided in two of Dakota's long jewel boxes. I can generally use them and put them away, proceeding with the rest of the painting in softies. I also kept a box of 40 Sennies separate. This way, I have a couple small boxes to grab and go very lightly and still be pretty complete.

I plan to trim some of the fat - too many similar lights, especially, for example - many are from the Mount Vision sets. However, I think the image from my phone is a little light.

I used McKinley's method and have a section of grays on the right side and lights in the distance. I am have been very good about cleaning as I put them back. When I get dust on them from the painting above, I find it's easy to sort of sop it up with a cloth, pressing down gently.

The foam is staying amazingly clean.

Oh, they are so pretty. I had many of the workshop participants come by during our Flattmann workshop last weekend, admiring the beauty of it. I was so proud to combine all these sets and have a great set of colors and values. I have been collecting much more intelligentlly than I ever would have anticipated. I think I'm low on reds, but hey! I paint landscapes!

Thanks for writing, Robert. You rock.

11-17-2014, 01:41 AM
I did the same thing about 2 years ago. I wondered what took me so long! Yours look great, the organization will definitely encourage you to paint more often. I see a small box in your future..... I did that also, makes plein air and workshops much easier. Mount Visions are great for making up multiple sets, break into thirds and you are good to go! Now I want to clean my pastels, they need some TLC!

Barbara WC
11-17-2014, 01:47 AM

Very beautiful organization! Thanks for sharing your picture!

I did this myself just a few weeks ago- broke down and bought a large Dakota box, which has 10 "sections", and organized by value- so section 1 has all my darkest darks, section 10 has my lightest lights.

I also added a small Dakota traveler, and in that, have half with grays, half with earth tones.

Before that I had out several boxes of Terry Ludwig, Unisons, Senneliers and few others... Ran out of room near my easel...

I have a small Heilman double sketchbox with the Girault and Creatacolors. Had considered getting Heilman for the larger boxes, the worksmanship is higher quality than the Dakota boxes, but decided on the Dakota boxes because they are narrower in size and fit better where I keep them, one on each size of my easel.

Isn't it great to just look into one box and find the right color? I can't believe how much easier this is, I used to think it would be so hard to have all my sticks combined, it's quite the opposite....

I also am really liking my boxes sorted by value- the sticks stay really clean that way...

11-17-2014, 01:50 AM
Chris, I remember when you got yours and how much you like it. Mount Visions are da bomb and my workhorses.

11-17-2014, 10:31 AM
Chris, I remember when you got yours and how much you like it. Mount Visions are da bomb and my workhorses.

:lol: :lol: :lol:

They are "da bomb", aren't they?? I recommend them to all my students, a great pastel. I'm so glad you did this, you are going to be sooooooo happy, I know I was, and still am. I never regretted doing this, it was the best thing I ever did to my studio....... I am embarrassed to say I have 5 boxes, all of them being used...... so I guess I shouldn't be embarrassed because I am using them...... I have one Heilman original which I love, two large Dakotas, and two small Dakotas, also very nice. Barbara is right, the Heilman is of higher workmanship quality, but for me the Dakotas work fine also. I leave my Heilman in the studio because it is heavy, and I use the small Dakotas for plein air and workshops. The large Dakotas stay in my studio with the Heilman, they are huge... and heavy.... but are wonderful for storage. Great studio boxes...

Your Heilman is beautiful....... use it well..... I know you will :heart:

11-17-2014, 11:20 AM
Barbara, you just did this recently, so you know the pure, spanking new joy of it! Down the road, we'll be like Chris and grooving on having finally made such a good decision.

I had a workshop with Maggie Price two years ago and she commented on all my boxes, as I thought to myself that I'd never be able to live out of the backpacker she brought. Maybe color is inspiring to me. Maybe I feel more secure with more pastels. Definitely, I wasn't up to par with her and I didn't really understand.

When I laid out my box, I had Richard McKinley's book open to the pages with his studio and plein air set ups; I also had an image I took when I had a workshop with him five years ago. All three were different boxes and none were like mine, but they were great for reference. Here's the one from his workshop:
I prefer using shorter sticks, so mine looks more jumbled than his. In this version, he has two sections devoted to grays.

In the past month, I ordered several dozen Girault and I am waiting on some AS today, which will round out my reds and I'm always a sucker for a cluster of olivey greens.

Unlike my closet, when I get something new, something else will have to go.

Barbara WC
11-17-2014, 12:41 PM
Bonnie- Yes, I understand the more sticks versus limited sticks situation all too well! At home I have ALL my sticks laid out- I think between the various brands I have over 600 half sticks in my 2 new Dakota boxes (with room for more), and those will stay out. (I have a couple of Half Stick sets that will stay in their boxes- Rembrandt, 120 Paris Sennelier).

I attend weekly figure/portrait painting sessions, and there is no way I was going to drag all those sticks! So I limit that number I take- just over 200 half sticks. I originally had been using Terry Ludwig foam boxes, the place I had been going had tv tray tables available, so that worked for me for a few years. But then I changed groups- no tables! I had to figure out something. Originally got the Heilman double sketchbox- which is a great little box! But I felt a little limited for 3 hour portrait sessions- I think it held around 120 of my half stick colors- now I use it for my Girualts and Cretacolor sticks.

I bought a second small Dakota Traveler for actual travel, so one is in the studio, one goes with me, which is a great solution (although now wondering if I should have gotten the Heilman Backpacker- it has a couple of nicer features than Daktoa's box). With the Heilman sketchbox, I was using a camera tripod and the Heilman Easel, but after using a few times, decided I didn't like the setup. Now I use an Easel Butler to hold my pastel box on my easel...

I bet all the fabulous pastel artists, like Richard McKinley, have bigger selections in their studio :)

11-17-2014, 02:20 PM
Very nice pastels and box Bonnie! Thanks for showing us.

Last summer I bought a Heilman Backpack and its filled now, the MV are nice and they take up space. I use the 3 trays which came with the Rembrandt full set, on my table. Its very nice I didnt have to buy Another box....but now I am waiting for my new pastels and I need more boxes haha.

I did something stupid. I put my heilmanbox on my Mabef easel, the one with arms. I loosened a Little on the screws to adjust the easel, while having the box on it. I thought that I will remember....I got distracted and leaned to the side to get something, when the easel tilted on me and the
new sticks came on the floor, but only a few, thank God.

Chris has 5 boxes hahaha wow, that sounds nice:) Where do you put them
all and how many are in use while painting in the studio?

Hmm maybee I can take the 2 trays that came with the half set of Sennelier, and instead of using them for storage in drawer I can use them while painting instead.
Now I start to see the problem with space and trays, boxes:)
I was thinking to have the TLs in their boxes, but now I dont know. Its easier to have Everything together, accept for some other small sets.

You guys dont break your TLs right?

11-17-2014, 03:19 PM
AnnaLisa, finding how to use it in the field will be interesting. Congrats on not losing your whole set up! I am definitely going to begin bringing tarps for under the easel.

I have a heavy duty photographer's tripod, but I think it tips too much at the juncture if I put any pressure on it painting. I have thought of the Easel Butler and have seen it in action, but that doesn't help the top stay firm. I had the same problem whe using it with my EasyL Pro pochade.

Just sitting in the living room, I put my Heilman on my Mabef with the arms and marked the wood of the easel for a seated position. Will do the same for standing, but the variation in how the ground compresses for each leg might make my marks obsolete, I expect. I did it using the Heilman easel plugged in and not the Mabef one and I think I could get it balanced correctly. However, a large part of my purpose is easy set up and nothing about that Mabef easel is quick!

For some reason, I got the Heilman "working pastel holder" or whatever it's called in my shipment. I didn't order it, but I have enjoyed using it. Seemed crazy to spend $20 on something like that, but I like it.

The sale price on the Dakota small box is really tempting, but having investing in the Heilman easel, seems like it'd be best to stay with that.

As for cutting the TLs: I have scored the sides of TL to where they broke easily and even cut them in 3s, but I haven't done that lately. I did it with the Maggie Price grays...hmmm, I wonder what happened to that box?

I am really enjoying the new sense of motivation I've had the last few months. Doing the 30 paintings in 30 days challenge was a great jumping off point. I recommend that highly. I did the one online with Leslie Saeta and was so proud to have finished it. (See here for the badge I made of the 30 paintings.http://bfbutler.blogspot.com/2014/10/30-in-30-finale.html.) I look forward to doing it again, but with this assortment of pastels!

11-17-2014, 03:50 PM
Chris has 5 boxes hahaha wow, that sounds nice:) Where do you put them
all and how many are in use while painting in the studio?

You guys dont break your TLs right?

:lol: :lol: :lol:

I keep my two large Dakota boxes open on a table in my studio, along with my large Heilman box. I use one small Dakota for plein air and workshops, and the other small Dakota is used to hold my portrait colors. That gets pulled out when I'm doing a portrait....... along with the other sticks already out in my studio. I know it sounds like a lot (it is....) but my justification is that I truly do use them..... I honestly have more than can even fit into my boxes, I have Ludwig sets that stay in their original boxes because I don't have any more room in the wood boxes...... thinking about getting another small Dakota...... but, I do use all my sticks, somehow. It does sound crazy, but it is my passion, and I have no guilt....:evil: .

Here is a link to a thread I started last year. (http://www.wetcanvas.com/forums/showthread.php?t=1329332) I finally organized my studio, and this is what I ended up with. I now have 5 boxes, so one isn't showing in any of the photos. I've added to my collection of Ludwigs as well, so I have some that are still in their original boxes, and they're not in the photos either, but you get the idea.... and yes, my studio is a mess right now.......:lol:

And no, I don't break my Ludwigs. They're the only full sticks that I won't break. For me they're the perfect size already, no need to break them.

11-17-2014, 04:02 PM
Yes I have been thinking about how to use it outside. I first had my fullbox easel and those legs just loosened up suddenly.
I Think I will have to really tighten the screws on the mabef when going outside...we have to wait until spring here, its Cold outside now. I saw a Picture in McKinleys book of the box on a mabef easel so it has to work.

The easel that is for holding the painting on the heilman box is nice but you have to put the box somewhere anyhow. I have never tested the tripod.
I put the shoulder strap? around the easel Before. Now I have put the box on a small table beside me and I use an ordinary easel. I put foam under the box so it is not going to glide.

Yeah its good to have something under the easel if you are in the living room. The best thing is if you have an area where you can have your easel all the time and not having to arrange it every time.
I should also stayed with the heilman because of the easel.

I will maybee try to break a TL in half to see how it will work. Wow you have them in 3 pieces.

30 paintings in 30 Days must have been a good practice!!! With a lot of discipline. Nice paintings you did:) Well done

Barbara WC
11-17-2014, 04:19 PM
Anna Lisa- I break my TL;s in half. I mainly paint portraits, and the full stick size is too big for me working 12"x16". I use the sticks like I would a paint brush, and the large sticks are just too awkward in my small hands to do that with. I don't score them, I just "snap" right in half, holding each half firmly in each hand- they break pretty evenly, sometimes a few crumbs break off, but I stopped crying about that after the first few sticks :lol:

PS- plus, another reason I break in half- I've dropped a few sticks at portrait sessions, where the floor is concrete- and TL's don't survive the drop- nothing sadder than seeing a favorite color smashed to smithereens- at least when broken in half, there is another half safely tucked away at home :)

SAS Designs
11-17-2014, 04:21 PM
Wondering - do you mix your harder/medium pastels ( Rembrandts?) with the other softer pastels by tone?
I still keep my separate, in an original Heilman, and getting ready to FINALLY arrange all by tone, color. Big Step.
Just wondering what you all do with Faber Castell Polychromos, or harder pastels? Mix with the softies?

11-17-2014, 04:23 PM
I have the same box but I use a hybrid MvKinley\Handell method to sort them. They are seperaetd by hue, but chroma and value are all over the map.

11-17-2014, 05:13 PM
Barbara, you are brave! I will try to break one and see how it works.
Thats why I like the BE, the size is good. But TL are nicer textrue.

Ooh you dropped some...we need to have foam under the easel when we paint!

Chris, I remember now your studio, it was the one I liked a lot!!! I didnt remember all the boxes. Your Close up Pictures are really an inspiration!!
The sticks are so Clean. I was wondering how the sticks would be if putting the TLs together since they are so powdery.

What clever to have a portrait box:clap: I really have to start to Think and plan. I paint from the computer and have bought a Little larger screen than my ordinary laptop. And there is the light. I see that you have 2 windows so you have good light. I have one window so I have to consider that. I Think that I have to rearrange the room when I get all my new TLs haha.
Those large Dakotas looks very nice....hmm I am thinking about the freightcost.

Your box seems fitted exactly for your TLs it must be an original because my
backpack can not take 6 TLs in a row I guess. You dont break your TLs, well I have to practice to learn how to handle them, maybee I will break some and keep some in original size.

No it doesnt sounds crazy, I understand you well, its my passion too:)

11-17-2014, 06:13 PM
About the drop cloth, I meant outside, so that the pieces don't get lost in the grass. I've not experienced a turned over box, but I've seen it and it's heartbreaking. (Before, just having a box with foam liners didn't matter a lot if they got tipped, so I didn't put down a drop cloth.)

I have so many orange-family pastels b/c I got the MV portrait collection. I was doing a class and thought I might use them, but it wasn't the case. Now I just consider them my oranges and neutrals.

Within my colors, I have little dedicated areas for specific sub-families, like that weird phalo green light, medium, dark. And the electric orange light, medium, dark. Same with a set of royal blues from Ludwig. I don't mind them being together. It's a work in progress.

Now I am doing the typical thing - taking over the dining room. I have a studio/office, but the bedroom faces north and just doesn't get enough natural light. The dining room faces south and has a huge sliding glass door. Although I hate the thought of the heat loss, I have been keeping the curtain open and it's great for mood, too!

SAS, I have Polychromos in their own box (2 sets), Cretacolors divided in warm and cool in two long Dakota jewel boxes, and I reserved a set of 40 Sennie half sticks. I included Girault, AS, and WN, and probably other mediums in with the softies. I hope they coexist alright

Also, to clarify, it's not a painting a day for 30 days, it's 30 paintings total over the course of 30 days. Some days I would crank out a few miniatures, so I didn't paint every day. Also, you had until 48 hours after any specific day to get yours uploaded to the website, so there was some wiggle room in participating.

SAS Designs
11-17-2014, 06:18 PM
Thanks - gotta go see what those Dakota "jewel boxes" are. I tried to make one out of foam core, oh, my....not successful,
I have the 120 FC polys from DB, years ago, love it, but the metal box, as well as the pastels, are heavy. Learning to use for blending, so like to have them with me.
I live in a very (vurry) small space, so difficult to keep too many boxes open.
Just looked at Dakota site, but don't see anything called a jewel box. May check out Fina Arts Store, they seem to have good storage...

11-17-2014, 06:23 PM
I am not sure the long jewel boxes are available anymore. I got one when I received my sampler in one hue. Then I bought more to go in my Soltek, a mistake of a gift! I heard after that that Dakota had discontinued selling them individually, but that's been at least 3 years ago.