palette


After two days of struggling to break through a few plein air landscape barriers, it’s a relief to return to familiar territory, ink and watercolor botanical drawing.

Buddleia – Butterfly Bush

I love painting on the Rives BFK paper in my sketchbook.  I’ve ordered fifty 22″ x 30″ sheets to experiment painting large, en plein air, on a steep slant.  I don’t know how it will drip, but looking forward to finding out.

Color Palette: Analogous with near complement, Yellow/Green, Green, Blue/Green with Red/Violet.

Cutting or carrying armloads of gladioli from acres of newly bloomed, spiked flowers was part of my job as a young teen working on a local farm. Though I love flowers, gladioli were never among my favorites. I thought of them only as funeral flowers.

Gladiolus plant, ink and watercolor sketch

My attitude changed a couple of days ago when the gladioli were the only flowers not yet suffering from the drought. It was my first ever attempt to draw or paint a gladiolus plant. I had not realized it is a genus of the iris family, iridacae. It wasn’t until I had completed my first drawing (see today’s post on my other blog) that I made the connection. Drawing opens my eyes to the obvious I often miss even when I am standing in the middle of it.

Watercolor sketch:  drawn first with fountain pen filled with blue ink, followed by watercolor.

Color Palette:  I used a limited palette of phthalo blue (Joe’s Blue), alizarin crimson and gamboge.

The palettes arrived!

Step One: Primary Colors Yellow, Blue, Red

I was amazed by how difficult it was to find an inexpensive, round palette that provided the necessary quantity of wells to work for The Color Scheme Game workshops.  Most of the palettes had only ten wells.  This one has ten wells on the outer ring, but the six wells on the inner ring make it acceptable.

Step Two: Secondary Colors: Orange, Green and Purple

Colors can be kept separate and clean.

Step Three: Warm and cool variations of each primary and secondary color

This is where it gets a little dodgy because the wells are out of alignment and there are only ten.

Step Four: Adjustments and additions…. the fun begins!

Adjustments can be made and additional colors mixed to create more even transitions.  It’s perfect!  Two extra little wells in the center …. perhaps for ultra dark mixes?  Perhaps for ultra translucent mixes …. whatever your pleasure1

I am delighted with these little palettes.

I purchased them on ebay from a vendor called ‘shinykingdom’.  They were half the price that I saw listed on other sites …. though I saw them on very few sites.

One of the first things we do in the Color Scheme Game Workshop is create a quick (fifteen minute) color wheel using any yellow, any blue and any red.  Students are required to bring only three tubes of paint to the workshop.

Color Scheme Game Workshop Color Wheels

The first color wheel is divided into twelve segments.  Using only the three primaries, a twelve hue wheel is created without too much fussing.  A second wheel is created by mixing each of the twelve hues with one of its near complements to get an idea of the range of neutrals possible.  The wheel above was created using Winsor Yellow, Cobalt Blue and Rose Madder (I love the unique aroma of Rose Madder!)  It’s obvious that three tubes of paint can give you a wide range of colors.  It’s fun to compare the different color wheels that have been created using different yellows, reds and blues.    The neutrals, of course, are limitless.

I encourage students to create these simple color wheels at home using a variety of different primary hues.  They can be painted directly in a watercolor sketchbook to use as easy reference when deciding colors to bring with you when traveling with minimal equipment and paints.  Cut-out templates for various color schemes are used with these color wheels for playing the Color Scheme Game.

When I first arrived in Maryland I tinted about thirty canvases and boards to have them ready for a week of painting.  I painted more than half of them with a wash of Terra Rosa, my standard underpainting color.  As an experiment, I painted eight or nine with a wash of Permanent Mauve, a color that I have not been using on my palette lately.  It is not one of the colors on my Richard Schmid Color Charts.

View of the Wicomico River, Whitehaven, Maryland

After the first day of painting I found that the Terra Rosa underpainting was too warm and didn’t work as well with the colors of the landscape around me.  After the third day of painting I had used all of the canvases and boards that had been washed with the Permanent Mauve.  Those paintings were more satisfying.

the second wash on the remaining panels

As I became more tuned in to the marshes, I liked the Terra Rosa even less.  It’s great for the farmland surrounding me in New Jersey, but doesn’t make it for me in the Chesapeake Bay area.  After setting up my easel at Broad Creek, I brushed a wash of Permanent Mauve over the remaining Terra Rosa panels and let them dry in the sun on the trunk of my K-car.

En plein air easel setup at Broad Creek

Here is my Broad Creek setup.  This was the last of the canvases that had been originally washed with Permanent Mauve.  It felt as if the marshes painted themselves over this underpainting color.

Close up of painting and palette at Broad Creek

That big glob of cadmium red on my palette remained a big glob throughout the week.  I used this color the least, only a touch every now and then to tone down the greens.  Viridian took the prize for the most used color.  Thanks to the Richard Schmid Color Charts I was able to use it to mix all the various greens as well as some gorgeous purple/lavendars ! with it.  Viridian and Alizarin plus white surprised me.  I had forgotten that the mix can lean toward purple.

With all of these new color experiences in mind, I will experiment with other underpainting wash colors to create various moods and illusions of light.

Painting:  painted en plein air, 5″ x 5″ oil painting on gessoed birch panel washed with dilution of Terra Rosa oil paint. View of the Wicomico River, Whitehaven, Maryland.

Again I squeezed out the colors I used for my Richard Schmid Color Charts: Cadmium Lemon, Cadmium Yellow, Yellow Ochre, Cadmium Red Light, Terra Rosa, Alizarin Crimson, Burnt Sienna, Viridian, Manganese Blue and French Ultramarine Blue.

En Plain Air landscape, oil painting, 14" x 14" on board 'Backyard Hedgerow'

After the fact, I realized I never dipped into the Cadmium Yellow,Cadmium Red Light or the Burnt Sienna.  My greens are all variations of mixing Cadmium Lemon, Viridian and White.  The light, cool green is just Viridian with White.  Violets are mixes of Viridian and Alizarin Crimson.  The Grays are mixes of Terra Rosa with either Viridian, Manganese Blue or French Ultramarine Blue plus White.  All of my mixes consisted of no more than two colors, not counting white.

The color scheme turns out to be a modified triad, greens on the cool side, violets on the warm side and blues.  My focus was on mixing the values carefully.

By using a large palette I was able to judge my mixes against each other as I mixed them.  I found that I threw out all of the mixes in which I used Cadmium Yellow, Cadmium Red Light or Burnt Sienna.  Those are great colors, but they didn’t work with this painting.  Browns, reds and super warm greens stuck out like a sore thumb on the palette.  Fortunately I didn’t apply any to the painting.

My focus has been portability, lightweight easel, small canvas board, small palette and minimal tubes of paint. After watching Nikolay Mikushkin wheel his supplies to the far end of the vineyard and paint four large, gorgeous paintings this past weekend I decided to return to larger canvases, a much larger palette, more paint tubes and plenty of brushes.  Though I don’t have blossoming trees in my backyard, I do have the challenge of painting hedgerows and woods, neutral masses with manicures of emerging colors.

Blocking in the oil painting

I squeezed out the colors I used to make my Richard Schmid color charts: Cadmium Lemon, Cadmium Yellow, Yellow ochre, Cadmium Red Light, Terra Rosa, Permanent Alizarin Crimson, Burnt Sienna, Viridian, Manganese Blue and French Ultramarine Blue.  I used one of my drawing boards, a 16″ x 20″ piece of 1/4 ” plywood, unsealed, for my palette and a 12″ x 16″ previously painted on and sanded down board for my painting.  Though not as large as I plan on painting, it is much larger than the 5″ x  8″ paintings I’ve been working on for the past year.  What was I thinking?  For me, the stroke is just beginning when I am already off the edge!

I premixed about eight colors to unsure a strong beginning of color harmony and value range.  What a relief to have enough room o my palette to mix substantial quantities of multiple colors and to see how they worked together.  Several of my mixes were scraped from the palette and discarded before they ever had a chance to cause problems on the canvas.

The subtleties of the still-bare branches eluded me.  When I became more adventurous and inventive with my color, the joy of painting in oil outdoors returned to me.  That joy had been sleeping while I worked on tiny boards.  A bit of the harmony vanished as more energy entered the painting.

After first session of painting

I’ll post it again after this afternoon’s session.

…….. I referred to my Richard Schmid Color Charts often while mixing my pigments.  This helped to keep my colors clean as sell as forcing me to be decisive about my choices.

I scraped my palette at the end of the session, but I didn’t clean it with turpentine.  I will allow the colors to build up on the board.  This provides a color reference for the following session, a record of colors used in paintings, as well as various colors and values to gauge new mixes against.

Painting: oil on prepared board, en plein air landscape of spring trees, hedgerow and woods

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