When art critics get together, they talk about content, style, trend and meaning, but when painters get together, they talk about where you can get the best turpentine.

— Picasso

Painter Liz Floyd told me during a recent interview that she uses empty cat food tins as palette cups to hold her medium.

When I share Liz’s practice with other cat-owning painters, they beam and say, what a fabulous idea!

Picasso was right when he said painters, unlike critics, are a pragmatic bunch.

Like artists in every field, painters know that painting is performative and that an artist’s materials can make or break a performance.

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Hence their fascination with pigments, mediums, varnishes, brushes, knives, easels, palettes, boards, canvases and a hundred other gizmos—including palette cups.

Most viewers—like most listeners to, say, a guitarist—concern themselves with the final product, not the process that led to it.

Most listeners don’t know or notice that the guitarist fingerpicks, plays a Martin, and uses a capo.

They just hear the song.

Likewise, most viewers don’t grasp the “materiality” of a painting, even when the painter’s materials take center stage (as they do in the paintings of Dubuffet and Masson, for example).

And even painters themselves don’t fully grasp the materiality of a painting.

That’s why they so often see their relationship with their materials as a form of alchemy.

Why does a Filbert brush-load of pigment mixed with Gamsol and linseed oil and smooshed against a canvas suddenly acquire the power to move viewers?

It’s inexplicable.