Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Limited Palette

Most people know I use a limited palette in my work. While it gives me wonderful color harmony in a piece, and I can get relatively any mixed color I want, it does have some limitations. One of those limitations is that one can begin to rely on mixing the same colors painting to painting and not rely on what the painting needs or what nature is showing. For instance, it's easy to create a warm green by mixing yellow, ultramarine and red (or umber). So the next painting you want a warm green, you can find yourself habitually mixing the same green with the same percentages of mixture and not even realizing it, even though the variance of hue to saturation needed or seen may be different. While it's good to have a "voice" within our work, that voice should not come by way of reliance on habitual color mixing. So to break my own mold, I will sometimes switch a color out. Instead of Cad Red Medium, I'll use Alizarin Permanent. Instead of Ultramarine Blue, I'll add or substitute Prussian Blue.

Recently however, I did something I haven't done in a long time. I substituted all of the colors on my palette. Starting with what I learned as Rembrandt's palette (Yellow Ochre, Burnt Sienna, Black and White) Above are some quick studies I did using only Yellow Ochre, Red Umber, Ivory Black and White. I had to vary from Rembrandt's because I didn't have any Burnt Sienna in my drawer. Also, in the night scene I did add Prussian Blue to get the green of the sky the way I wanted it, since the black wasn't taking me there, but it was a small amount added to the mix, just to bump up the intensity.

On a side note: as I was painting the autumn study, my youngest daughter Zoe came into the studio to see what I was doing. She commented how nice the green grass was. When I showed her my palette, she asked where the green was? So I gave her a quick lesson on color theory and mixing. I thoroughly enjoyed the connection with my daughter I received through art.