Several years ago I was introduced to the concept of using a “Mother Color” when mixing pigments for a unified palette by Stephen Quiller’s book, Painter’s Guide to Color.

Roberto tuning his guitar, Blues Jam at Larry Holmes Ringside Restaurant

Though I like the concept, I was never able to apply it successfully while painting.  I simply don’t plan ahead that well.  Whether I am painting in oil, watercolor, acrylic or gouache, I can’t help but dip into a bit of pure color here and there, getting lost in the moments of inspiration.

Chas Cochran playing harp at the Todd Wolfe Blues Jam, Larry Holmes Ringside Restaurant, December 21, 2010

What I have found most useful to my way of painting is choosing color based solely on its local color value, the lightness or darkness of the color when used in its pure form without any other color mixed with it.  When the value works, the painting works.  An added benefit is that the painting, especially the quick watercolor and ink sketches I do while listening to the live music at Todd Wolfe’s Blues Jam on Tuesday evenings at the Larry Holmes Ringside Restaurant in Easton, PA, is that the spontaneous use of unrealistic colors often adds visual movement and energy to the paintings.

The pure colors mix on the paper with the other pigments or the black ink, unifying the palette beautifully.

Todd Wolfe playing guitar at the Blues Jam, Larry Holmes Ringside

I usually start with either a gesture drawing in pencil or ink.  I then brush on washes of watercolor.