Tonight I am going to talk about what you need on your palette and how one might expand a small palette. Many painters today work with three color palettes. It has become very popular over the last ten years or so to work with a small palette comprised of ultramarine, permanent alizirin and cadmium yellow.This palette is an excellent way to learn to make color notes and it gives a unity to your color. Almost every note has a smidge of one or both of the other two colors. But there are some drawbacks too. There are a lot of colors in nature than you cannot hit with this palette, and it is hard to vary your color temperature without a hot and a cool version of each hue. If you wanted to enlarge your palette from the three listed before, how might you do it?
Well, there are a couple of answers to this. It depends on which way you want your paintings to go, bright and "modern" looking , somewhat restrained and historic, or the "full old master". The first palette expansion would push your color to greater brightness...it is basically a Gruppe palette. To our three color palette we make a few exchanges, We lose the ultramarine and add pthalo or Prussian blue. Then you add a couple of cadmiums, maybe three or four if you like, your cadmium section of the palette could contain cadmium yellow lemon, cadmium yellow medium, cadmium red light, and cadmium red medium. To the three color palette you have added a string of the entire range of cadmium hues. The pthalo is fed into the various cadmiums to produce a lot of varying notes in nature. The pthalo and the cadmiums together have lots of punch and the light passages can be very colored, the pthalo can also serves as the root for some rich violets. This palette usually gives a more contemporary and clear colored look. You can mix the earth tones off this palette and they have rich variations in them, as their mixtures are varied.
The second suggestion, and where I usually hang out, is the more traditional palette. That would take the original three color palette and add a few earth colors, burnt sienna and yellow ocher. These are grayer and "dirtier" than the cadmiums but they are very useful in getting the colors of nature which tend to be a little grayed out anyway. A second blue, perhaps cobalt, and viridian green would expand your ability to make nature's colors. The burnt sienna fed into shadows gives a nice complement to the lights and the warm shadows give a more traditional look than the strong violet shadows of a rawer impressionist look.The cobalt and the viridian are nice to have when painting skies. Of course the viridian is a good precursor of many common greens in sunlight.
The third option that comes to mind is the "full old master". To our three color palette, we add black, yellow ocher and an earth red like Indian red and maybe the viridian. This gives a more serious and restrained color. Seago painted with such a palette. I like to trot out this palette for moody things and gray days. It enlivens a grouping of paintings or a show to have a few pictures painted with a graver palette. This palette too installs a color unity almost automatically. You will find your paintings are more formal and many pleasing color schemes can be had that use grays, russets, dull ochers etc. You can make paintings the color of 500 dollar suits. A great many people like to select paintings in this kind of color for their homes. And Wyeth painted in tones that this palette produces well. Like the limited palette, though, there are a lot of colors that you cannot hit with this palette. That is good in that your painting will have color unity, but bad if you want to get the true observed color of things.
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