Sacrifice a sketchbook and dedicate it to practicing your art. Try and find a sketchbook that is dedicated to mixed media. It works great whether you are an acrylic painter or watercolor painter or both. My favorite is the Strathmore Mixed Media Journal 500 series. Canson also has a mixed media journal, but if you are brutal like I am, the pages will not hold up as well. If you have acrylics, any sturdy $5 journal will do just fine. Promise.
Now, there are some people who gesso a sketchbook for oil painting. While that is a lovely thought, but the problem is, is that you have to wait until the oil sketch dries, and depending on which type you use, it could take days or weeks! Even 24 hours is too long for me to turn a page or close a journal! And it is not good for practice. You want to be able to jot down ideas and experiments on a whim.
With oils, there are three ways you can go about practicing, one, you can purchase little canvas boards affordably. I took that route, 100 8×6-inch canvas boards and painted them all. Doing a little painting a day will also help you find your voice.
There are no hard, fast rules to the sketchbook. It’s just you and your imagination.
But there is another option for oil practicing. There are canvas pads that work well, and you can thumb tack them to a large cork board while they dry. Canvas pads also work with acrylics.
Now, the mixed media journal, there are ones that you can tear the pages out, particularly the Canson XL journal and use it for oils. It may not hold up very well, but still, it is worth a shot. Tear out the pages and play.
True, once you tear a page out of the mixed media journal, it will no longer be part of the journal. But, you can punch holes for a 3-ring binder into the paper once the picture has dried. You can do that with the canvas pad sheets as well. In fact, that is a brilliant idea! You can make your own mixed media journal and include watercolor paper, drawing paper, canvas sheets, and store some materials in those little plastic holders! See, ingenuity!
Lay all of your paints not your palette. You are wise if you have watercolor pans, because this part is already ready for you! Squeeze about a nickel-sized dollop in diameter onto your palette. For acrylics, spritz water onto the palette first, then squeeze the paint, and then mist the top of the paint (this keeps the paint alive for about 15 minutes). For oils, have some linseed oil ready to thin out the drier pigments. I don’t use turpentine or other speed driers for oils. But if that is how you work, feel free.
Write down your observations while you paint. Trust me, 10 years down the road, you will forget what you had learned, and you will have to re-learn the same issue. Journals are your best reference materials, hands down. Write down your observations, for example “This yellow ochre is a bit too stiff, but is still transparent.” If you want to get very nerdy technical, do this for each pigment!
When you have learned the characteristics of each pigment in your paint box, it is time to mix them together. This can be very tedious if you have many colors in your box. If that is the case, start with your favorite colors, particularly of red, yellow, blue, black and white; and go on from there.
It is easier to remember the actual pigment name rather than the tube name. In other words, It is easier to remember PB29 rather than Ultramarine Blue, and it is much easier to write it down in your sketchbook too. You see, the PB29 label is the actual pigment itself, this is across the board and each manufacturer will use it for that pigment. However, one manufacturers Ultramarine Blue is another’s Royal Blue, Emperor Blue and the like.
There are no hard fast rules to the sketchbook. That is the beauty of a sketchbook, it is just you and your imagination. Remember, acrylics and watercolors work together. Oils can go on top of watercolors and acrylics. Colored pencils and watercolor pencils work as a fun tool for both watercolors and acrylics. Then there are a whole mess of things you can get into, which will be a post at a later date.