Color Exercise #7:  Painting Bananas and Beets by Color Value using a palette knife.

Bananas and Beets - Oil Painting using palette knife

Bananas and Beets converted to Grayscale

Using a five step value scale I selected my palette.  Because I knew I would be using a palette knife, I chose from my collection of old paints, those that are not my normal choices.  I am still terribly uncoordinated with a palette knife and need to feel free to scrap off and throw out a great deal of paint without fretting over the cost.  I wanted at least two colors for each step of the value scale.  The following colors made up my palette:

Value 1 – Zinc Yellow Hue, Cadmium Yellow Pale Hue

Value 2 – Juane Brilliant, I wanted to use Cinnabar but I couldn’t find it so I mixed Zinc Yellow Hue with Cadmium Green Pale to create my own Cinnabar)

Value 3 – Cadmium Green Pale, Yellow Ochre

Value 4 – Cadmium Scarlet, Oxide of Chromium

Value 5 – Permanent Alizarin Crimson, Terre Verte, Magenta, Cobalt Violet

Beneath my glass palette I have a grayscale  that I use to check the values of my colors.

Using yellow ochre diluted with a bit of turpenoid I painted a simple line drawing of the beets and bananas.  This was the only time I allowed myself to use a brush.

Next, I lay in the lightest values.  I chose bananas and beets so that I had a clear value range.  Yellow is the lightest of values, purples are the darkest of values when not diluted with other colors or white.  I wanted to complete the painting using all five value steps without using any white paint to lighten or black paint to darken.

Laying in the lightest value shapes

The mid value shapes were the next to be painted.  I am hoping that by the time I’ve painted about fifty small paintings with a palette knife, I will be able to control it a bit better.

Laying in mid value shapes

Finally, I lay in the dark value shapes.

Laying in the dark value shapes

From this point on, I attempted to build the form by applying the half tones using value 2 and value 4.

When the painting was completed I downloaded the photos and converted the finished painting to grayscale to evaluate my color value decisions.

Moving on to painting Number 2 …….

Hoping to be a bit more adventurous, I chose a few more colors.

Value 1 – Zinc Yellow Hue, Cadmium Yellow Pale Hue

Value 2 – Juane Brillant

Value 3 – Cadmium Green Pale, Cadmium Orange, Yellow Ochre, Cadmium Scarlet

Value 4 – Cobalt Turquoise

Value 5 – Magenta, Permanent Alizarin Crimson, Viridian, French Ultramarine Blue

I also mixed a few more Value 1 and Value 2 Colors by mixing white into Cadmium Orange, Cobalt Turquoise and Magenta.

Note:  I have place cadmium scarlet on Value 3.  It really falls between Value 3 and Value 4.

The image above shows the light value mixes.

As I lay in the value shapes I became totally disoriented as I started to enjoy playing with the colors and losing my focus on the plate of beets and bananas.  My abstract self wanted simply to play, juxtaposing colors and shapes, warms and cools.  The fact that I felt like I was all thumbs using the palette knife didn’t help me to focus on painting a still life.  Being stubborn and determined, I persisted.

When I reached the point of making mud from the thick layers of paint, I stopped.  Once again I converted the variations of the painting into grayscale to evaluate my color choices.

I had hoped to alter the colors a bit more, making the bananas something other than yellow.  Though I had them green at one stage, blue at another, they ended up yellow again.  I wanted pure, undiluted color and the only color that is naturally value 1 is yellow.

Photograph of the Bananas and Beets

I find it instructive to compare the grayscale version of the first painting and both stages of the  second painting.

Note the affect that the value of the beets has upon the rest of the painting and how it differs in each of the three paintings.

3 Responses to “Color Exercise 7: Bananas and Beets”


  1. Very helpful. Thank you for sharing this. Both paintings are wonderful. I always have trouble with turquoise. It always looks like a lighter value to me.

    1. Chris Carter Says:

      Cadmium Red Light often fools me. I am also surprised at how dark yellow ochre can be.

  2. Mary Gorman Says:

    Thank you for sharing this exercise, Chris. You have excellent teaching skills!!

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