Art Tools of Erin Dertner

For this installment of Art Tools and Gears, we have guest artist Erin Dertner from the USA.

Originally from Lake Tahoe, California, Erin is currently based in Mendocino, California. She started painting in 1980 when she was invited to a 2 person show in Marysville, CA.

Erin is the talented artist-author behind Mendocino Musings in Paint and Prose and she specializes in painting with Oils as her medium, and we have invited Erin to share with us the art tools that she uses, as well as offer some tips for fellow fine artists.

Qn: What do you use that big metal object in the middle of the picture above for? I see that you use 'Classic Artist Oils' - Are there any differences in painting experience when using 'Classic Artist Oils' in contrast with other type/brands of Oil paints that you use currently or previously?

I use Classic Artist Oils that come in 10 ounce caulking tubes and must be dispensed with the caulking gun pictured on my palette.

I love the viscosity of this brand of paint and find that it glides well with my knife on practically any surface. I also like Lukas brand paints from Germany which come in 200 ml tubes and they are similarly fluid and great with the knife or with brushes.

Qn: What do you use the items above for?

I use the RGM Italian palette knife #5 throughout my knife paintings and a Tombow water soluble double tipped felt pen for drawing on my canvases or panels. Mistakes or changes can easily be wiped away with a damp paper towel and it’s easy to create value studies on the canvas itself by using the brush tip.

Qn: Do you always use a disposable palette pad?

In my studio, I use a glass palette but when on location or out and about I use disposable palette paper tablets.

Qn: I see from the picture above that you store paints in freezer – why do you do that? And how long does it take for the frozen paint to thaw? Is the quality of the paint affected by the fact that the paint has been frozen previously?

I store my paints in this Tupperware covered ice cube tray and take paint directly from the tray while painting. The paint never gets truly frozen and only takes a few minutes to adequately soften up. I waste very little paint using this method and the paint stays fresh indefinitely when stored in the freezer between uses.

Qn: Could you run us through the art tools/materials you have here in your studio above?

I use a Hughes Easel model #3000 in my studio and love how it glides side to side and up and down due to a counter-weighted system. No cranks, dowels or latches to mess with and interrupt the creative flow. (since the easel is pictured, I included it in this photo’s description). I have a French mistress palette that stays permanently beside my easel and it has a glass panel for mixing paint, with one of the sides left intact to hold various tools. My taboret is on wheels so that I can access things behind my easel while storing my caulking tubes of paint and other art materials. I’ve got a nifty rolling lamp that has both an incandescent and fluorescent bulb for painting in the evening and you can also see an enamel bucket with dividers for my pens, palette knives and brushes on the taboret’s surface. I store my RayMar panels on the bench below the window for easy access and larger canvases behind the easel.

Qn: What type of canvas and easel do you use?

I use a Hughes easel, model #3000 in my studio and love how it glides side to side and up and down due to a counter-weighted system. No cranks, dowels or latches to mess with and interrupt the creative flow. I typically use RayMar canvas panels for works that measure 5x7-12x16 and various stretched canvases for larger pieces.

Qn: What type/s of frames do you use to frame up your paintings?

My husband is a professional picture framer, so we use any number of pre-finished moldings to create custom frames.

Qn: Do you also have images of your various paintings imprinted on puzzle pieces like the one above?

I have been working with licensing companies for over 20 years and currently work with Looking Good Licensing of Manchester, Vermont for seeing my work used within the gift manufacturing industry. This includes puzzles, calendars, posters, woven wall tapestries, needlework kits trivets and trays, etc. I also work with Wine Country Art Gifts for creating small runs of many great items including wine totes, aprons, mugs and magnets. The painting on the puzzle above depicts a country flower market painted in watercolor.

Qn: Share with us a little more about your book Mendocino musings in Paint and Prose?

I joined the daily painting movement in 2012 and began painting small paintings to sell online via Daily When posting to my blog, I write my impressions about the scene I’m sharing along with a tip or two for artists included within the paragraph. I don’t write poetry per se, but my ramblings are somewhat poetic and describe more than just the image at hand. After a couple of years of blogging and posting, I realized I had the material for a book right in front of me. I had Anita from Wine Country Art Gifts help me create the first book and hope to do others with varying themes; vineyards, European images, etc.

Qn: I imagine that you use the Swiss-bag above for your outdoor painting trips? So what goes into this Swiss-bag?

I have several travel bags, but the Swiss Gear rolling backpack has become my favorite. It stores a 12x16 RayMar wet panel carrier, my Sun-Eden clip on easel shelf and all my supplies. It has locking straps on the outside that carry my tripod easel and I’m easily set for traversing airports with its smooth gliding wheels, or rough terrain by donning it as a backpack.

Qn: Do you have any tips to share with fellow artists on oil painting and the choice of art-tools/material?

I paint in oil, acrylic and watercolor but what I love about oils is that they dry exactly as they were applied while acrylics dry darker and watercolors dry lighter. I love the texture that can be created with the palette knife along with the fluid quality of the Classic and Lukas paints because they blend and create softer edges than pigments that are more stiff in nature. I’m crazy about tripod easels and the easel shelf from because I travel internationally and appreciate their light weight. When I travel by car, I often use varying sizes of pizza boxes for safely storing and transporting wet paintings. I also use Rubbermaid shelf liner within the boxes to keep the paintings from sliding around, plus more of the liner material in between a stack of several boxes to keep them from shifting or falling. I’ve been painting and selling my work for over 35 years and have devised a great set of materials and tools that make my life easier and it’s fun to share any information that might help someone else in their journey.

Qn: Have you read any art-book/s or instructional medium related to art which you can share with us?

Since I am more visually driven, I tend to collect art books with more pictures than text! I have a fairly vast library of art books with my favorite being the 256 page large format volume on John Singer Sargent. I also really appreciate Carol Marine’s book called ‘Daily Painting’ and encourage anyone and everyone that is serious about painting to secure a copy. I also value Robert & Sara Genn Twice-Weekly Letters ‘The Painter’s Keys’ because they are chock full of practical and esoteric insight for those of us that create art on a regular basis.

Qn: Lastly, which other artist/s do you think we should interview next?

Marie Gabrielle, Jerianne van Dijk, Lynn Prentice, John Hewitt, Jeff Leedy, Susan Louise Moyer

We thank Erin Dertner for sharing her art tools and experiences in this insightful interview. For more of Erin's artworks, you may visit her website

Erin also has a face-book page and blog dedicated for art-lovers.

Check out other artist interviewees at


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