Limited Palette


Bring The Color Scheme Game outdoors, even in the winter.

Fire Hydrant on Haywood Road, Asheville, NC

Fire Hydrant, Haywood Rd, Asheville, NC

When filming one of the videos, Twenty Steps to Better Drawing, for the upcoming series of online painting demos, I found myself beside this fire hydrant after my third round of twenty steps.  The fire hydrant wasn’t yellow.  It was a fabulous combination of bright blue, red and green.  For a quick application of color, I opted to use a limited palette with a basic color scheme of Near Complements, Yellow and Red/Violet. I wanted to make a strong statement using the extremes of color value. Reality doesn’t matter to me.

Sketchbook, en plein air sketch: Fire Hydrant on Haywood Road, Asheville, NC – drawn first in ink with a fountain pen, followed by washes of watercolor.  The sketchbook is a moleskin sketchbook with slippery paper surface.

The large leaves of the Nespera Tree and the small leaves of the Rosemary Plant are painted using the same palette.

Loquat Tree (Eriobotrya-japonica) Nespera

Loquat Tree (Eriobotrya-japonica) Nespera

Rosemary Plant

Rosemary Plant

The palette for the leaves is cadmium lemon, cadmium yellow, yellow ochre, cerulean blue and french ultramarine blue.

The background colors are drastically different.  The color scheme for the Nespera illustration is Analogous with Near Complement.  The color scheme for the Rosemary illustration is Extended Analogous.

Sketchbook drawings: drawn first in ink with fountain pen followed by watercolor.  3.5″ x 2.5″ standard size for Artist Trading Cards.

As a teen I flavored shortbread cookies with Rose Extract. I saw it in a store and couldn’t resist buying it.  I can’t imagine what inspired me to add it to the shortbread cookie dough.  The delicious taste of the cookies comes back in a flash when I rub the leaves of my rose geranium plant.

Rose Geranium - Artist Trading Card

Rose Geranium – Artist Trading Card

When I purchased the plant last spring I expected it to grow no more than 24″ high and be somewhat bushy like the ones in the fragrant herb garden at Lord Stirling Park.  Mine is now almost five fee high! The plant has never bloomed.  The fragrance comes from the leaves.

Color Scheme: Analogous with one complement – Yellow/Green, Green, Blue/Green and Rose (of course)

ACEO Sketchbook drawing: Rose Geranium –  illustration drawn first in ink with fountain pen, followed by watercolor.

By altering the green with each dip of the brush an illusion of space is created around each fragrant leaf of the French Tarragon.

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French Tarragon – Artist Trading Card

The color palette is cadmium lemon, cadmium yellow, cerulean blue and a touch of french ultramarine blue.  Some of the leaves are painted with one stroke of the brush, others are painted wet in wet, adding variations of green within a single leaf.

Sketchbook drawing: French Tarragon – illustration drawn first in ink with a fountain pen, followed by watercolor

Color Scheme: Analogous – Blue/Green, Green and Yellow/Green.  Dominant Color: Green

Red and Green are unavoidable this time of year.

Family Treasures No. 49

Family Treasures No. 49

This year’s Christmas tree is more traditional than usual.  It’s a fairly symmetrical branch from the locust tree that hit the house during Hurrican Sandy.  Wrapped in lights and adorned with Tom’s wax angel, the kid’s airplane guidance tree topper angel and the gold painted walnut ornaments I made for my family more than forty years ago, the tree is stunning.

I took advantage of the cells to add color to the painting, opting for the complementary color scheme of red and green, the colors of the Christmas season.  Having neither green needles on the tree nor red ornaments hanging from the branches, I used the background as my main source of color.

Family Treasusres No. 49 – Angels, Walnuts and a Wiseman.  Drawn first with fountain pen followed by watercolor.

Complementary Color Scheme of Red and Green – Limited Palette (cadmium yellow light, alizarin crimson, french ultramarine blue, a touch of cadmium red light, raw umber and burnt umber)

Color schemes have become another fine-tuned skill in my toolbox.  As with any tool, a lifetime can be spent learning new uses for tools.

Photo of Glass Inkwells and Travel Palette

Photo of Glass Inkwells and Travel Palette

Unexpected possibilities now present themselves during my morning practice of the Color Scheme Game.

Line Drawing

Line Drawing

Normally, I would continue the line drawing adding the pans of watercolor and the indications of the mixing wells.  At this point, I stopped.  There was something about the large, open shape of the palette without details that I liked.  It gave contrast to the smaller shapes that describe the inkwells.

Painting in the Inkwells

Painting in the Inkwells

I decided to throw the die and paint in only the inkwells leaving me the option of drawing the pans of pigment before painting the palette shape.  I came up with the Basic Triad Color Scheme with red as one of the colors.

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One more step

I went one step further to paint the inside lip of the travel palette.  I put the drawing aside until the next morning to see if I felt the same way about it.  In the middle of the night I awoke with the idea of indicating the paint in the palette as splats rather than pans of pigment.

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Glass Inkwells No.18 with pigment splats

I’m pleased with the results and glad that I allowed for something new to happen.

Sketchbook Drawing: Glass Inkwells No. 18, Ink and Watercolor. Drawn first with fountain pen filled with Noodler’s Black ink followed by watercolor.

Color Scheme: Basic Triad of yellow, red and blue.

Limite palette: Cadmium Yellow Pale, Cadmium Red Light, French Ultramarine Blue

When Tom is away, meals don’t happen. While I baked cookies, Deb came to the rescue and prepared dinner.

Lime, Apple and Fork

Lime, Apple and Fork

Sketchbook drawing: Lime, Apple and Fork – Drawn first with fountain pen filled with Noodler’s Black ink, followed by watercolor.

Color Scheme: Analogous with one complement (Yellow-Orange, Yellow, Yellow-Green and Red-Violet) The fork is a neutral gray.

Limited Palette: Cadmium Yellow Pale, Aureolin, Cadmium Red, Permanent Aliazrin Crimson, French Ultramarine Blue

Every year at this time I make a gigantic batch of Festive Cookie Dough.

Butter, Cream Cheese and Margarine

Butter, Cream Cheese and Margarine … and a Sony Charger

I’ve cut back considerable on the amount I make.  Instead of nine pounds of cream cheese and four and a half pounds each of butter and margarine ( nine double batches of the recipe), I only make three double batches.  Simplifying my tasks allows more time for drawing and painting.

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Festive Cookie Dough: Drawn first with fountain pen followed by watercolor.

Color Scheme: Complementary Color Scheme of Yellow and Violet

Another example of painting by both Color Value and Color Scheme …

Klutz Juggling CubesComparing Full-Color with Grayscale Mode

Klutz Juggling Cubes
Comparing Full-Color with Grayscale Mode

Color Scheme: Analogous with Split Complements (Yellow-Green, Yellow, Yellow-Orange plus Red-Violet and Blue-Violet)

Limited Palette: Aureolin, Cadmium Lemon, Cadmium Red Light, Permanent Alizarin, French Ultramarine Blue and Manganese Blue.

Sketchbook Drawing:  Family Treasures No. 47, Klutz Juggling Cubes – drawn first with fountain pen followed by watercolor.

Painting by color value does not always need to result in high contrast paintings.

Comparing Full Color to Grayscale Mode

Though there are extreme darks and a few strong lights, the overall feeling of the painting is more of a mid range contrast of values.  The leaves don’t contrast strongly against the background.  When violets are part of the adjacent colors, an extended analogous with one complement color scheme  provides an excellent selection of hues for any value range (High, mid or low contrast) even when painting with full saturation colors.

Spiderwort, Wandering Jew
Tradescantia Pallida

Sketchbook Drawing:  Spiderwort, Wandering Jew, Tradescantia Pallida – drawn first with fountain pen followed by watercolor.

Limited palette:  Aureolin, Permanent Alizarin, French Ultramarine Blue, Manganese Blue and a touch of Cerulean.

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