For this installment of Art Tools and Gears, we have guest artist Carmen Beecher from the USA.
A highly talented and versatile artist, Carmen does both oil paintings and collage art.
Carmen paints daily and her works can be found on her website. She also has a blog, where she shares more about her artworks.
We have invited Carmen to share with us the art tools that she uses, as well as offer some tips for aspiring artists.
Qn: Will you be able to give us a short introduction of yourself?
I worked for the Air Force as an illustrator, and when I retired I began painting full-time. That was about the time that the internet became a place to market art. Oils and collage are my media, and I am part of the Daily Painting Movement online, posting at least three paintings a week on daily painting websites. I am now selling internationally and was featured in International Artist Magazine’s Feb/Mar issue in 2012. I wrote and illustrated a memoir of my childhood in small-town Florida, Crackers and Oranges that is for sale on Amazon.
Crackers and Oranges
Ever since Man (or Woman) picked up the first stick and made a mark, there has been Art. It weaves itself through time and reveals the past as only a visual image can. It can be history, social commentary, or just decoration for that awkward space at the top of the stairs, but if it evokes a response, it has done its job. I'm just an artist who enjoys doing her job.
Qn: In your previous email to us, you have shared a picture of your painting palette and brushes (as shown below). Could you tell us more about these brushes you use that are shown in the middle and on the background?
Since I am death to brushes, I try not to buy expensive ones. The brushes in the photo are mostly ProStroke by Creative Mark. I also use Black Silver brushes by Dynasty. The small brush is an Escoda Optimo Kolinsky.
Qn: What are the brushes that you have used previously? And which has been the best so far in your painting experience (past & present)?
For softer brushes, I like the Black Silver and Escoda Optimo. ProStroke white bristle brushes work for me for the largest part of my painting process. I use mostly flats and brights. I like a brush to keep a sharp edge.
Qn: Those two bottles of liquid above – one with a 'Mona Lisa' imprint & the cylindrical container beside it. Could you share with us, what are those liquids used for?
The Mona Lisa is Odorless Paint Thinner; the other bottle is Walnut Alkyd Medium, or walnut oil. The thinner is for initial layout of the painting, filling in darks if I am painting on a lightly toned canvas, or lights if I am using a black-gessoed canvas (painting on black is an enjoyable change now and then. Red is good, too, if the dominant colors of the painting work well with red peeking through here and there).
Qn: I see also a small little brush on the bottom left, just below your painting palette – What do you use that for?
Very observant! That brush is actually on a shelf near the floor, in my taboret, and it is a wide synthetic brush that I use to apply gesso to canvas. A tip: a hairdresser’s taboret is a very useful place to keep paints, brushes and assorted tools. Cheaper than artist’s equipment too.
Qn: I understand that most of the paintings on your blog are painted with oil paints - What are the colors and brands of oil paints you use?
Gamblin is my favorite, but I use Winsor Newton, Utrecht, and one of my favorites, “On Sale.” :) My basic palette is
- Titanium White
- Lemon Yellow
- Yellow Ochre
- Cadmium Orange
- Cadmium Red
- Alizarin Crimson
- Ultramarine Blue
- Cerulean Blue
- Burnt Sienna
It’s a pretty basic palette, but I occasionally add Violet Gray, Olive Green, or Permanent Rose.
Qn: What type of canvas and easel do you use?
I love Panelli Telati canvas panels. They are great for daily paintings, which are anywhere from 5x7 to 8x10 inches in size. The surface is just smooth enough to suit me.
Qn: I read from your blog that you paint full-time. How fast do you use up the oil paint tubes?
No one has ever asked that before! I really don’t know, because I use up some colors faster than others, due to pigment, transparency, my preferences, and recurrence throughout all my work. For example, Titanium White is used faster than Alizarin Crimson, which I use mostly to make darks or purples, and is a strong color that goes a long way. I buy white in big tubes and have to replace it frequently, because I paint lots of seascapes and clouds.
Qn: I understand that you create collage art too – You're the first collage artist we have ever interviewed. Would you be able to give our readers an introduction to this unique form of art and how it is done?
Well, I can tell you that collage is much harder than using paint. You have to give the observer enough information to make out what the subject is, and if it’s a portrait it is really a big challenge. I use good-quality magazines, and when I start I spend a very long time finding pieces to tear out that I may possibly use. I put them in piles according to color; if I am doing a black and white collage, which is easier than color, I put them in piles according to value. I always start with order and good intentions, but before it’s over I have paper everywhere and it all gets mixed up. I get too excited as I find various pieces and before I know it it’s a messy pile.
I draw my sketch on the canvas, then I draw over it with a Sharpie. I put down the biggest shapes first, usually the background, using Liquitex Matte Medium and my fingers. I don’t use a brush, I find it just gets in the way and my fingers are going to be a mess anyway. I put medium on both the canvas and the back of the piece of paper, put it in place, smooth it down, and then put more medium on top of it. If it looks wrinkly it adds character, so I don’t worry about that. After the whole thing is done and dry, I varnish with Golden Varnish with UV protection. At this point the collage is virtually indestructible.
I should add that if you are very obsessive, neat, and orderly, you probably won’t like this medium!
Qn: The picture below shows us some of the tools you use for your collage art – Could you kindly give us a run-through of what each item below is used for?
I use the Gojo Barrier Lotion on my hands before I begin. It helps a little for getting the medium off my hands later. Nothing really keeps it all off. I wash my hands with Dawn and a scrubber. The Liquitex Matte Medium is for gluing the paper down, and I pour it in a shallow container; the Golden UV Varnish is the final step, a protective varnish.
Qn: Is it important to choose the type of paper medium used for collage art?
It’s extremely important! Some papers are just too thin and transparent. Vogue and W are good magazines to use. Some people do a completely different kind of collage and use tissue paper or art papers with lots of fiber in them, but that wouldn’t do for my kind of collage.
Qn: Do you have any tips you could share with beginners who want to give a shot at collage art?
Be willing to get messy. Be patient, it can be a long process. Much more time is spent looking for the right piece of paper than applying it. Don’t forget to step way back and look at it to see if the colors and values are actually forming a picture. Start with a black and white collage. It’s easier.
And, as my teacher stressed: don’t use the thing for the thing. In other words, if you are making lips, don’t cut out real lips and use them. It can look quite creepy and ruin the whole thing.
Qn: Lastly, which other artist/s do you think should be featured next?
I love the work of Qiang Huang, and his personality is delightful. He’d be a great interview. Karin Jurick is a fantastic daily painter and I know she has a lot of information to share. Richard Robinson is a very successful New Zealand artist with a big online presence.
We thank Carmen Beecher for sharing with us her artworks, tools and experiences in this interview. See more of Carmen's work at