Thursday, March 10, 2011


Because we “know” each other a few months, I thought you might be interested in looking even more behind the curtains of my creative process. Today I am going to show you my palette, the painting equipment I use and the surroundings where all of my paintings and drawings are being created.
The palette - in terms of its physical form, I use disposable palette which I do not throw away at the end of the working day, but clean it in order to use it the next day. When the palette gets too dirty and the paint becomes too dry and stiff, I collect as much usable paint as possible and transfer it onto the clean palette sheet. I have heard people saying that disposable palette is for the amateurs and that a professional artist should use a proper wooden, plastic or a glass palette. Well, my disposable amateur-palette does good job for me and it has never prevented me from making professional quality art.

As for the colors I use, there comes the list of the basic colors:
Basic Palette:
-              Titanium white
-              Naples yellow light
-              Cadmium lemon
-              Cadmium yellow medium
-              Yellow ochre
-              Cadmium orange
-              Cadmium red light
-              Alizarin crimson
-              Burnt sienna
-              Burnt umber
-              Yellowish green
-              Permanent green light
-              Sap green
-              Terre-Verte
-              Viridian
-              King’s blue
-              Cerulean blue
-              Cobalt blue
-              French ultramarine
-              Permanent red violet
-              Payne’s grey

There are some additional colors which I use from time to time, whenever a particular problem requires it, but the basic colors are always on my pallet. It does not mean that I use all of the colors that are on my palette every day. There are some colors that I don’t touch for days, but still I like to have them  near me, just in case I need a tiny bit of it. When submerged in the creative “fight”, I find it very irritating when I have to stop painting and search for a particular color in my color box. It destructs my concentration, and therefore I try to avoid this kind of inconvenience by putting on the palette as many colors as I might use that particular day.
You might ask why I use so many different colors, when it is quite obvious that one can get away by using less color. After all, many masters from the previous times created their masterpieces by using often less than 10 colors, I have at least 21 on my palette all the time. Well, unfortunately nobody actually taught me how to use and mix the colors. Even during my studies at the art academy, spending too much time and energy in learning the technical side of painting, was considered to be regressive and useless, and even potentially dangerous for a young aspiring artist. Instead of focusing on learning the fundamentals of the painting métier, we were very much encouraged to work on the development of free expression and our own unique way of creative expression. The reason for such an approach was the prevailing modernistic dogma. Although very important, this was not enough  for me. I wanted to learn how to paint, mix colors and that sort of technical things, but at the end, and most of the time, I was left with the feeling of not being properly “fed”, always latently hungry for that type of knowledge.
Therefore, most of  my technical knowledge and skills I had to collect and develop on my own, studying the paintings of the artists I adored, reading books (although at the time of my studies there was not so much literature of that kind, as it is the case these days), experimenting and above all practicing and keep on working.
Back to the question of my overcrowded palette – I have to admit that I do suffer a little from the lack of the knowledge about color. If I only had just a few pages from one of the Gurney’s books on painting technique on my disposal, I am sure my path would be less rocky, and perhaps I might have accomplished even more in my career.
But, on the other hand, because I was forced to find my own ways, I developed my own approach and style. Although I was inspired by many artists, whose art left some traces in mine, one thing is certain – one cannot see my art as being a surrogate of somebody else’s art.  I still remember my mother’s comments  on my early drawings, that were often copies of the existing works of art. She would say to me: “ Why do you always copy other man’s drawings? Are you not able to make your own drawing without  imitating the art of somebody else…?” After such a remark I always felt bad, because, I guess, deep inside I knew that it’s not good to try to be somebody else. My mother’s words contained an important message as well as a warning.
I am happy to conclude that, now,  I do not have to worry about becoming an epigone of another artist any more. Somehow, along the way, I managed to avoid  that potential disaster. Though there was  a time, I must say, when I was suffering from realization that I would never be as good as Frank  Frazetta,  Arthur Rackham,  Paja Jovanovic , Ilja Repin or John Singer Sargent. Even if I would to spend all my life mastering the Sargent’s approach, I would never become better Sargent than Sargent himself. But then, a thought came to my rescue - I realized that perhaps the best thing I could do with my work and my life is to strive to become the best possible “edition” of Petar Meseldzija. I find this idea worth living for…

I use all sorts of brushes  of various shapes and sizes. Do you see the brownish-red brushes on the right side? These are my “magic” brushes –  the “Stradivarius” among my brushes.
As for the mediums, I use a usual Talens painting medium and I use a usual Turpentine that I buy in a local grocery shop. In the past I have been experimenting with different mediums and gradually came to the conclusion that a proper simple painting medium suites me the best. I use the turpentine to clean the brushes and, occasionally, to mix it with the painting medium.

These are the photos of my little studio. As you can see, it is a bit crowded and the ceiling is quite low, which gives me some troubles especially when working on the larger pieces. But I have plenty of light, which is the most important thing. I have to admit that I do dream of a bigger studio with even better light and enough space for my constantly growing collection of books, paintings, frames and about everything else a professional painter needs. But I am still happy and tremendously grateful for having this little studio, especially having in mind that 20 years ago, when I left my homeland because of the civil war, I left everything behind and had to start again from scratch. 
Let me finish this post with a conclusion - Perhaps is great art not to be found in the advanced, bright and shiny art tools and equipment, but rather in the heart of the artist.
Today’s  bonus:
The Knight and the Dwarfs, oil on masonite, 32 x 58 cm (12 1/2 x 23 inch), 2010


  1. Petar, I'm interested to know if you've experimented with water-soluble oil paints?

  2. Hi Jason – No, not yet, although I recently bought some water-soluble oil paint. I intend to try it out as soon as I find some time for the experiments. Did you? If yes, what is your opinion about it?

  3. Thanks Petar for sharing this. You're always an inspiration to me man keep it up.

  4. You've hit upon one of the most difficult things about teaching. When and how much specific information do you give students and when should they make discoveries on their own. I am often asked for some step by step miracle process. If there were such a process everyone would be the same. Many ateliers teach this way. Put a mark there, make it this long, this dark and this wide. Next. . .

    Your palette is brilliant because it is your own. It causes you to mix those colors which are Meseldzija colors not Sargent colors. That is one reason I enjoy your work so much. It is uniquely yours Petar.

  5. Hi Petar, it's been a very long time since I used oils, so it's difficult to compare. Most reviews seem favourable, especially for people who suffer from the smell of turpentine or who have environmental concerns. The water-based versions seem to work quite well, and I was pleased not to have to use spirits with a young child in the house. The usage and drying time seemed comparable.

  6. Great post Petar! I'm glad I saw that piece in person. Amazing! I wish I had that much light shining in my studio. I use a disposable palette as well. It's convenient for me. Jason, one day I'm going to experiment with some water soluble paints because the vapors sometimes get to me and I also have a growing child. As always, thank you for sharing Petar!

  7. That was a great post. That painting is sublime by the way. Thank you for sharing with us.

  8. Wonderful to see your studio and read about how you work and what tools you use. I just love this sort of information, it is unique to each person and helpful as well.

  9. Since your pictures contain a lot of heavy flowing brushwork, how much paint do you usually lay out for an average painting session? Do you use about the sme amount shown in the photo or more?

  10. I really thought by watching your pictures, that you used a limited palette with very few colours. I thought that because the final result always are really well coordinated colors (I cannot find the correct word in English to say this).
    So, what's the trick when you have so many colours at your disposal, to not end with a cacophony of colours on your canvas?

  11. Hi John – I find it inspiring when other people find my writings inspiring…I’ll keep them coming, at least for a little longer. Thanks, John!

    Hi Bill – It is a problem, indeed. Although I never lectured in front of more than a few people, and therefore have no experience op that kind, I am very much aware of that problem. I guess it is an individual thing, and a good teacher, which to a certain degree implies the qualities of a psychologist and perhaps a few drops of empathy as well (that’s the reason I will never become a good teacher) should know how much of the technical information to give to a particular student, and from which point on to let him/her make their own discoveries. But, it is tricky, indeed… I wonder whether students realize how difficult and how energy draining it is to be a good teacher, especially the art teacher, for as you nicely pointed out, there is no step by step miracle process. The reason for that is, as far as I know (you never know with this technological boom) it is still not possible to use a weighing machine in order to measure the amount of artistry in an art piece. Thanks God for that…

    Jason – Thanks for the reply. Your remarks about the water soluble oil paint are quite reassuring. The next week I am going to start with a new commission. I might do the underpainting with water soluble oil paint. I, too, have lots of problems because of the harmful medium and turpentine vapors, so this new sort of paint could help me reduce the level of these harmful elements in my body.

    Soutchay – Thanks very much. Oh, yeah, light is very important, it is all we need….By the way, why the most important things in life start with a letter “L”? You know – “Al we need is Love….”, and light…!Seriously, how can we make a good painting if we do not have enough light? It is a priority for an artist to have a properly lit working space. We get only one pair of eyes, and we must take good care of it…

    Lefteris – Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment. Much appreciated!

    Tammie Lee – I am glad you like this kind of information. Before posting this post I was a bit anxious for not being able to predict how people would react on the photos of a palette, the brushes and of a sunny little overcrowded studio. I even thought: who cares about such personal things. Give to people something they can identify with…? But, fortunately, I was wrong… Thanks, Tammie Lee!

    Stephen – my Sargent-brethren! The amount of paint you see on my palette is usually enough for a couple of working days. Except for a few colors that I use more than others, and that I regularly have to refill, I do not use much paint. The biggest part of my recent paintings is painted in thin layers. Naturally, some paintings require more paint,they might be larger, or have larger areas with light sections, which I usually paint with more impasto. By the way – your “Coal Bucket” watercolor painting is excellent! If it was signed by the name of Andrew Wyeth – I would believe it…

    Tayete – There is no trick. I just try to interconnect all the colors on the painting, in one or another way. And, also important, I keep on working on a painting until I am pleased with. Sometimes it takes days, and sometimes weeks or even months. That is why I will never become rich, as long as I am an illustrator…But, perhaps there is one thing that helped me to realize the importance of the interconnectedness of the colors – most of my “teachers” and artistc idols were the XIX century painters, who were often incredible good in this aspect of the painting métier. But, Tayete, I still have to learn much about this. In fact, I have just began focusing more on that problem, and I can tell you, it’s often a struggle…

  12. WONDERFUL work. Love what you are doing. Great drawing and painting. ~T

  13. Hi Thomas - Thank you very much for stopping by and leaving a comment! It’s very kind of you!