Paul Baldassini studio easel & work table


Where do you paint?
My home studio is a built out dry basement with about 2/3 of the space taken up by my painting work area, digital image editing work area, bookcases and some studio storage. The ceiling height is only 8 feet so all the large paintings are 24 inches or so in height. Its warm, comfortable, well lit, and  provides all the space I need to do my work.

What do you paint on and how to you prepare the surface?
I prefer to paint on mounted linen panels, which I make myself using 1/2-inch Trupan Ultralight MDF (Medium Density Fiberboard). These panels are 1/3 the weight of commercial MDF, never warp and require no cradling. I purchase them in 4 x 8 sheets and cut them to size on a table saw. To these I attach high quality portrait grade Belgian linen using Lineco Neutral pH Adhesive. After drying overnight I apply two coats of Gamblin Oil Painting Ground (alkyd resin, titanium dioxide, and calcium carbonate) with an inexpensive 3-inch disposable brush thinned with a bit of solvent to make it easier to apply, sanding with 150-grit sandpaper in between coats. Then I go over the whole thing with a 6-inch high density foam roller, leveling out the ridges from the brush marks until the surface is consistently smooth. The panels are baked in full sun which makes them dry to the touch in a couple of days instead of a week or more indoors, and lightly sand again. On panels only (no mounted linen) I apply two coats of Premium Ultra Pure white 100% Acrylic Latex house paint, sanding in-between coats. After drying overnight I apply two coats of Gamblin Oil Painting Ground finshing off as described above.

What do you use for an easel and palette?
My easel is an antique French-made upright floor design of unknown manufacture. It is large and heavy and features a machined steel hand-crank mechanism for effortlessly raising and lowering the transom that holds the panel. Under the transom is a built-in paint box on top of which I have added a larger modified transom that measures 12 x 36 inches. On top of that is a piece of 1/4-inch beveled edge plate glass which serves as my palette. In between the transom and glass is a piece of neutral gray matte board whose value is similar to an underpainting grisaille. To the right of the easel is large glass covered work table for paint, brushes and other tools with storage space underneath for replacement tubes of oil paint. Click on the inset image above to see a large image of the easel and work table set up.

What colors comprise your working oil palette?
Arranged along top edge of my palette from left to right are: Cadmium Yellow Lemon (Rembrandt); Cadmium Yellow Medium (Rembrandt); Cadmium Yellow Deep (Holbien); Raw Sienna (Williamsburg); Chinese Orange (Sennelier); Quinacridone Magenta (Sennelier); Opera (Holbien); Dianthus Pink (Williamsburg); Fanchon (Napthol) Red (Williamsburg); Perylene Crimson (Williamsburg); Viridian (Williamsburg); Ultramarine Blue Deep (Holbien); Violet Gray (Old Holland); Indigo (Williamsburg); Warm Grey (Sennelier); Cool Grey (Sennelier); My white is Brilliant Yellow Extra Pale. When necessary I also might use Manganese Blue (Old Holland); Turkey Umber (Williamsburg); Transparent Dutch Brown (Williamsburg); Burnt Sienna Deep (Blockx) and Titanium Zinc White (Gamblin) sparingly for the purest specular highlights.

What colors comprise your working watercolor palette?
Arranged around a ceramic Quiller Palette. from the top clockwise are: Gamboge (Rowney); Olive Green (W&N); Perylene Green (W&N); Viridian (Rowney); Cerulean Blue (Sennelier); Winsor Blue Green Shade (W&N); Ultramarine Blue (M. Graham); Perylene Maroon (Daniel Smith); Brown Madder (Holbein); Permanent Rose (W&N); Scarlet Lake (W&N); Burnt Sienna (Holbein); Raw Sienna Deep (Da Vinci).

What medium and varnish do you use in your oil painting?
Maroger Painting Medium from Old Masters, Flemish formulation. This magical medium and its handling properties and set up time on my mounted linen panels is a joy to use. The only downside is that it’s very smelly. I have adequate ventilation so I can deal with it. Three large pickle jars of Odorless Mineral Spirits (OMS) for constant dipping into — especially for the underpainting, for cleaning, and one used only for pouring off OMS too contaminated to reuse anymore. When the completed painting is fully dry I varnish it with one coat of Old Masters Mastic Varnish.

What oil brushes do you use?
Winsor & Newton Monarch and/or Princeton Art & Brush Co. filberts and some flats, sizes 0 through 12. Most paintings are completed with only Nos. 0, 2 and 4 Filbert. I blend with old discontinued Langnickel Series 408 LT Regis brushes, sizes 2 and 4, which are getting old and losing bristles. I’ve begun replacing those brushes with Winsor & Newton Extra Long Filberts Nos. 2, 3 and 5. Extra Long Filberts are most useful brushes and they are becoming increasingly difficult to obtain.

What lighting is in your studio?
Primary painting lighting is provided by two 48-inch overhead industrial light fixtures each fitted with two True Lite F40-T12 Full Spectrum industrial light tubes. These lights provide balanced 5700K, 2200 lumen light with a very high 92 CRI (Color Rendering Index). 65-watt daylight floods provide additional overhead lighting. Opposite my easel and drafting table is a large glass sliding patio-style door that provides east/south-east light most of the day.

What to you use to photograph and edit your reference images?
My camera is an older model Nikon D90.  Its a great DSLR with a 12.3 MP sensor and excellent built-in flash. Primary lens is an AF-S Micro Nikkor, 40mm — a high-quality close-up lens for a very affordable price. I shoot in Program mode, usually in bright overcast ambient light, and adjust exposure compensation manually as necessary. Lately I have been experimenting with a K&F Concepts KF-150 Ring Flash, which produces most interesting light and shadow. All images are shot in Nikon Camera Raw (NEF) format for post-processing in Adobe Camera Raw. During outings I shoot hundreds of reference images for later review and editing using Adobe Photoshop. Only a handful make the cut, that’s just how it is. None of my working reference images are single shot keepers — all have been edited and composited as necessary from multiple source images to create a unique composition. Reference prints are output to a calibrated Epson 9-color professional inkjet printer.