Art Experiments – Limited Palette

As I began preparations for my next painting(s), I found myself looking back to the works I did prior to and at the very beginning of this residency and realizing that I liked them much better than my more recent paintings. One reason was because the landscapes brought me into the painting a way the sculpture paintings didn’t. Another is the color. Recently, with my sculpture paintings, I found myself putting more colors than needed on my palette. Three different reds, four different yellows, four blues, etc, etc.  Having this many colors, despite what one may think, had limited what I was doing and took away some of the magic within my works.

Do you ever have those moments when you work at something for a really long time (in my case, 2.5 months) only to realize what you were doing in the beginning was right all along?  I had this realization last weekend and decided I needed to go back to making landscapes and limiting my colors.


For my first painting back in the saddle, I decided to go with a warmer tone. The colors I settled on were Indian Yellow, Yellow Ochre, Cadmium Red Light, Virdian, Burnt Sienna, Ultramarine Purple and Paynes Gray.  I knew that if I wasn’t careful, the Indian Yellow and Cad Red would start to take over, so I really had to watch as I was mixing. Payne’s Gray has only been in my collection for a short time, but has quickly become a staple color for me and shadows; by adding purple I got a nice warmer shadow, and by adding viridian I got a nice cooler shadow.

Another thing that always helps me to decide what colors I put down are the colors I see in realty. I remembered liking the contrast between the orange and green lights on a previous painting, and decided it would be a good, and easy, way to get back into seeing color. Below you can see what I mean. The orange really brings out the front “fence” while the green helps add some nice contrast to the back.


Seeing the colors, I set to work to replicate them in paint form. I have been known to “cop out” and add more colors to my palette when I can’t get what I need, but I was bound and determined to avoid that this go around. It took a little extra time and patience, but I was able to do it successfully, all the while learning more about the colors I was using.


One thing I always love about oils in the ability to mix and manipulate. Stepping back, looking at this palette and thinking about what I used to achieve it really makes me happy. Sure, I probably could have gotten similar colors straight from the tube, but what fun is that? I got some really nice oranges without a single drop of orange paint, and the same goes for warm violets. I’m happy to say that I was able to achieve the color range I needed and only had to had a small bit of Cinnabar Green (it’s a yellow green color) and Italian Pink (for shadows – it’s a warm, transparent brown/orange).

IMG_4430This photo in no way does justice to the vibrancy of the yellows and oranges, or the depth of the greens and violets. But my camera and the lighting were not getting along. Just take my word for it.  I’m happy to report that I have started another with a limited palette and it is going just as successfully. I think I see these experiments more in my future!


PS – this painting is done on wood, something I haven’t used in years. But that’s another post for another day.


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