My Limited Palette

In response to Roberts comment in the previous post.

Here is a list of colors, by season, that you have painted. I mentioned this topic in a YT comment. Do you agree that these colors work for you by season are do you keep a different list? I am getting back into painting with oils again and am deciding what colors to use.

Fall:
Late Harvest: Yellow Ochre, Burnt Umber, Cobalt Blue
Golden Pond: Cadmium Yellow, Burnt Sienna, Prussian Blue
Shortcut: Yellow Ochre, Burnt Sienna, Ultramarine Blue

Winter:
Winter Blue: Yellow Ochre, Burnt Sienna, Ultramarine Blue
Winter Marsh: Indian Yellow, Alizarin Crimson, Ultramarine Blue
Winter Woodland: Raw Sienna, Raw Umber, Burnt Sienna, Prussian Blue (4 colors)

Spring:
Sprint Light: Winsor Lemon, Burnt Sienna, Prussian Blue
Spring Sunshine: Cadmium Yellow, Alizarin Crimson, Ultramarine Blue
Spring Grazing: Indian Yellow, Permanent Rose, Cobalt Blue

Summer:
Summer in April: Cadmium Yellow, Indian Red, Cobalt Blue
Early Summer: Cadmium Yellow, Alizarin Crimson, Cobalt Blue
Summer Afternoon: Indian Yellow, Alizarin Crimson, Cobalt Blue

IMG_0725The above is one of a series of experiments I conducted to see the effects produced by different primary colours with regard to an overall colour flavour. Three primaries (red, yellow, blue) were placed in a circle and spread and mixed. After many such tests the differences were not telling me much. The secondary and tertiary colours are where the differences are most significant especially when mixed with white. Even with as few as three colours the variations are enormous.

One of the advantages of a limited palette is it allows me to remember the colours produced by a particular set of primaries. Another significant factor is how pigments interact. For example, two similar blues each mixed with a yellow will produce very different greens. Also you get results which are not expected such as mixing a yellow, such as Yellow Ochre, with Ivory Black will produce a series of subtle greens. In this case black is behaving like a blue but not all blacks produce this effect. In Photoshop (a digital image computer programme) adding black to a colour similar to Yellow Ochre will produce a darkened version of this yellow – not a green colour. Remember you are mixing ground earth (Yellow Ochre) with ground charred bones (Ivory Black) when dealing with paint.

Occasionally I will add another colour to the basic three primaries. This is when a particular secondary, such as a green, is not produced by the primary yellow and blue. A similar case can be seen in the painting below. Here the primaries Indian Yellow, Burnt Sienna (red) and Cobalt Blue are used. The muted greens are an essential part of this scene but I also wanted a particular shade of purple which Burnt Sienna and Cobalt Blue would not produce. I remember this from previous paintings. So Dioxazine Purple was added as a fourth colour. Here is the painting:

In the painting below the colours are: Cadmium Yellow, Alizarin Crimson, Prussian Blue. Vibrant greens and purples – no need for an additional secondary – green or purple.

So to answer Robert, I don’t have a particular set of colours based on seasonal colours. The selected colours are based on what I am trying to achieve in a particular painting. I am aware of paintings which are very different and from different seasons, painted with the same colours. I cannot recollect them at the moment but they are there somewhere (try searching my  YouTube Channel if you are interested).

Any further questions I will be happy to answer.

To view the above videos in realtime change speed setting in YouTube to .25. Quality can also be set up to 1080HD.

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2 thoughts on “My Limited Palette

  1. Excellent post, Liam! This has given me much to think about. I guess one of the takeaways from this discussion is there really is no correct answer but varying shades of complexity. It is interesting to me how we need to think of the ingredients the paints are made from and how they interact with each other. The paints themselves are not always using a color wheel to blend into different shades of colors, they actually interact with each other at the “chemical level” to produce different colors.

    This is from the W & N website in regards to primary colors:

    The list below outlines primary colors for 3 and 6 color mixing systems in the Winsor & Newton oil color ranges. As a guide, we recommend that you choose transparent colors for color mixing to ensure clean mixes.

    Griffin Alkyd Fast Drying Oil Colour 3 color system:
    • Winsor Lemon
    • Phthalo Blue
    • Permanent Rose

    I guess this gets back to “Painters paint” and the only way we can get the results we want is by trying many different combinations of primaries to see what we like? Based upon a tone of what we want to reflect in a particular painting.

    I did a search of those three W & N primaries suggested of your blog, and I do not get any hits for those three words (Winsor Lemon Phthalo Blue Permanent Rose). I find that interesting too. I bet those three colors used together may create colors that are too saturated compared with your combinations using just three colors plus black and white?

    You have many years of painting under your belt and your wisdom is reflected well in your blog posts and the comments you have made on your videos. Thank you for enlighting “us”. This does help!

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