Saturday, August 3, 2013

A truncated sub-palette and a chromium mystery device

A demo painting done in front of a class on the Hudson River near Newburg, New York 16" by 20"
(disclaimer, only the sky was done with three colors)

Above is a shot of my palette.  I have mentioned in previous posts how although I have earth colors and a warm and a cool or each hue, I sometimes work in only three colors. Some landscape painters work in a red, yellow, blue, whiiich is a restricted (or chromatic) palette. They have no ochers, siennas, black or umber. I don't paint entire pictures this way very often, but you can, and it gives a lot of color harmony to a painting.It is possible to mix lots of different color notes from a palette like this.

 However you  trade the ability to strongly characterize nuances of the color before you, for color harmony.

 There are some advantages though.
  •  It is easy to make a "note" again for a second time, and rapidly, because there are only three possible ingredients in each mixture.That can save a lot of mixing time.
  • One of the "keys' to design is simplification. Simplifying your color means imposing a system or order on your color choices that will effect how the painting looks. There are lots of different ways to artistically choose your colors  and many far more sophisticated than this one. But a chromatic palette is sort of "set and forget", you use the palette, you get the "look".
  • It is relatively easy to learn your way around the combination of three pigments (plus white). I spent a year on a three color palette perhaps twenty years ago and I learned a lot about color doing it. 
  • I like to use a chromatic, three color palette for things that are high key, like snow, skies and surf. Varying amounts of all three colors in each note can gives a great deal of subtly.I will use the trhee color palette for a PART of my painting,.
  • If you are traveling real light, there are only a few tubes to put in your pack, not a dozen.
The most common three color palette today seems to be cadmium yellow, alizirin and ultramarine. My own three color palette is cadmium yellow light (not lemon), cobalt blue (clearer and bluer than ultramarine) and quinacridone red ( permanent rose, or permanent alizirn) Genuine rose madder is very pretty and gives a  lovely restrained tonality to mixtures but it is quite expensive. I don't set my palette with only the three pigments in practice, but I do remember that

 embedded within my full palette is a smaller chromatic one.

Below, I have mixed each pigment with white and made three piles of paint all about the same rather high key value. I would use these if I were painting a sky or snow perhaps.

Above, from mixing pool between my three pigments, or three pigments plus white  I can pull variations of all the possible colors.

Below I have a lower key version of the same thing.  I am still using some white but I am making darker, or lower key notes. Each of these notes derived from the original hues is composed of only two colors, like red and yellow or yellow and blue. These are the secondary colors, (at least those we can make on our restricted palette). I am making these samples with a palette knife, by the way.

 It is when the results of the notes we have made in the last photo are combined that we begin making that vast  array of more complex colors that are  frequently encountered in the landscape. Most of the colors outside come from this range, slightly to very stepped down colors with the occasional splash of something very colored (or high in chroma or saturation).

Olives, ochers, siennas and various russets, oranges and golds are created with these tertiary mixtures. They contain some amount of each of the three original pigments.

 Above is a sample of sky painted with the palette above. Except for a few touches of the white and ultramarine mixture in the undersides of the clouds it was painted with the three premixed colors

I can save premixed pigments easily and cheaply by wrapping them in cling wrap. They will last for months that way. If I am making a picture where I need a constant supply of a premixed note, I will make a pile of it and wrap all except for a small amount left on my palette. Notice a second pile of blue made with ultramarine on the left there. I sometimes add that to get the darks on the bottoms of clouds and the darkening of the sky as it nears the zenith. Ultramarine is heavier and redder than the cobalt, but I also mixed it to be a little lower value than the others..

Whats this?

I have two remaining spots in my fall workshop October 26 through the 28th. That is a Saturday through Monday.

This is the Sunset Hill House in Franconia, New Hampshire. I have been teaching workshops there for  years and it is the ideal location.  Because I have taught so many workshops there the inn keepers have learned what painters at a workshop need and they are now practiced at hosting my workshops and making sure we have what we need to operate without any distractions or responsibilities other than painting.There is a broad rear porch that overlooks the mountains so we can still paint outside no matter what the weather does. The lower level of the inn  is ours to store our paints and canvas so we don't have to haul it all to our rooms and it makes a good place to teach too. The view of the mountains is spectacular and in the fall it will be even better. The inn takes good care of us. We have our own private dining room too. They handle  our meals and even bring us lunch so  we can work all day uninterrupted. The inn is one of those big old historic affairs from the 19th century and is homey and informal. Most of the rooms have gas fireplaces, and it is cool in the evenings up in the mountains in the fall, so that is nice after a day outside. It is necessary to stay in the inn to take the workshop.

I love teaching workshops. Everyone is always excited to be there and hang out with the other artists. It is like a three day party. We go from breakfast until bedtime. This is a total immersion program and I run the class about 12 hours a  day. I do an evening lecture while we wait for dinner to be served.
. We don't need to leave the grounds of the inn  to find great subject matter so their is no problem with hauling easels around or caravanning cars to daily locations. We just walk out the back door and the whole Presidential range is spread out before us.

The schedule includes;
  • a demo every morning, on the first day I explain the palette and the various pigments.
  • In the afternoon the students paint and I run from easel to easel doing individual instruction and try to diagnose each students particular barriers to better painting.
  •  after the demo each day I run  a series of exercises  teaching root skills like creating vibrating color and the parts of the light (that is what you need to know to establish light in a painting) I will also teach how to most effectively "hit" the color of nature outside.
  • I do a presentation before dinner with images from my laptop. One is a history of White Mountain art so you can see what the greats of American painting did with the same landscape we will be painting during the day.  In the 19th century all of the great Hudson River painters made a point of being there too, just a few miles up the road from the inn. The other lecture is unpacking out  the design ideas in the works of great landscape painters, particularly Edward Seago and Aldro Hibbard, two favorite painters of mine.
  •  I will work you like a borrowed mule.

 The cost of the workshop is 300 dollars. Click here to sign up.  I charge a 150 deposit up front when you register. In return for that I will hold your place in the class. I wont give away your place to anyone else, so I don't return deposits.
 Lodging reservations must be made with the inn who will provide a discounted room package deal to my students, it is absolutely required that you stay at the inn to take this workshop. Well, actually, if you must stay off "campus" call them and they will arrange a day rate for you which will cover your meals etc. Here is the Sunset Hill House web site


Anonymous said...

Wonderful info on limited palettes. I may give that a try today. I've been reducing the number of colors I use on my palette to about 6 plus b&w.

How are you getting those "licks" of paint? Liquin?

I find it a challenge to get a "lick" or cat tongue of paint to come off the brush.

Thanks for the post!

When are you coming out with your book!


Stapleton Kearns said...

I used a palette knife to make those piles. But I put it on the canvas with a brush, well, mostly.

Susan Renee Lammers said...

Hi Stapleton, I am looking forward to attending your fall workshop. Very nice to see a blog post from you. I love working with those three colors plus Cadmium Red Light. Not sure why I need that extra red. See you in October.

Unknown said...

Nice discussion. Good info, thanks.

Durinda Cheek, Fine Artist said...

Glad to see you back on the blog!
Thanks for your explanation of a limited palette.

Rafferty said...

It's a medieval torture device to pry eyelids open, a bike rack or yet another gadget to hang on the side of an easel to hold something or other.
If none of the above it has to be a new sanitized health and safety hook for butchers to display a carcass in the widow that won't frighten the kids.

Robert J. Simone said...

Paper towel holder....I took two workshops with a guy out west a few years back. Used a palette of Ult Blue, Cad Lemon and Cad Red Lt for two years after that. I learned a lot about color and learned to see nuances of color. But I like the expanded possibilities of a wider palette. I like having earth tones. Occasionally for fun I will use just ivory black, yellow ochre and Indian Red plus white. You can do a lot with that.

Becky Whight said...

I'm going to practice with a three color palette. Signed up for the Oct. workshop--can't wait!

Judy P. said...

Ah, drinking my morning cuppa joe, with a new Stape post- just like the good old days. I must confess a terrible cheapskate resistance to using expensive colors to mix an earth tone, that even in good quality brands, is much cheaper by the tube. I did it a few times, and did learn quite a bit, but can't get past that practicality. But that's probably penny-wise, pound foolish.

Carol Reynolds said...

I am energized by color; love to experiment with color. Therefore, I have many tubes of oil paint. This excellent and informative post of yours got me excited about trying your limited palette. Sometime back I purchased for a first time trial some Holbein Duo Aqua Oil with the intention of painting plein air with them: alizarin crimson, cadmium yellow light, ultramarine and white. You have inspired me to give just those colors a try soon, although I do prefer cobalt blue as well.

Blondheim Art and Stories said...

I am fond of a five color palette:
Cad Red Light
Lemon Yellow
Yellow Ochre
Ultramarine Blue
Titanium White

Very versatile and easy to mix.

Linda Blondheim

Bowkie said...

Like you, I've been very frustrated at the awful stuff that passes for turpentine these days. Now I believe I have found the real hing, and it's made in the USA. I've just ordered some from - will let you know more when I sniff it.