Thursday, March 20, 2014

Palette Journey

Choosing a color palette is a funny business.  I've been on this journey recently and finding it exciting and frustrating at the same time.  I LOVE COLOR but that can sometimes get in the way to picking a new palette.  I'm a little unsure about where my palette has settled, so I'm still tweaking away.  I thought I'd share some questions to ask yourself if you are looking to change up your palette.



  • What are your reasons for changing your palette?  For me it was a move to the west coast.  As I discussed in last week's post, I felt the need for a new language to describe my new home and surroundings.  For you, maybe you're bored with your palette, lack of harmony in your work, you have no set palette (just randomly placing color each time your paint) or constantly making mud (making mud means you don't have a solid understanding of how your colors interact).
  • Do I want a limited or expanded palette? - I'm a big fan of a limited palette but see advantages to a more expanded palette.  I highly suggest a limited palette if you are struggling with color or you lack color harmony in your work.  Understanding color is simpler if you limit your choices. Limiting your choices does not mean limiting your color.  When I went to a limited palette my understanding of color mixing jumped exponentially.  I found I could mix any color I needed because I understood how my colors worked together.  If your palette contains 10 to 20 tubes, it is more unlikely that you understand how each of those colors interact with each other.  An expanded palette works if you are someone who doesn't like to constantly mix color, time is issue and cost doesn't factor into the equation.  But keep in mind that if you are struggling with understanding color, an expanded palette will be more challenging. 
  • One palette does not suit all - I have my "basic" palette but when I switch to figurative work, I will add a few additional colors.  I know many artists that have slightly different palettes when they paint florals versus landscapes or a different palette for plein air.  It all about understanding the different needs for given situations.  
  • How to decide hues for your palette - My previous palette included a "warm" & "cool" version of the primary colors plus white.  My new palette has been scaled down to the 3 primary colors with an additional "specialty color. I quite enjoy mixing color and making my own black because I can adjust them as needed for each painting.  Some people just want to dip into Cad. Orange and not have to mix it.  Do you mix your colors on your palette or let them mix on the canvas?  It comes down to what works best for you. Just don't get complacent and stick to a routine just because it's what you've always done.
In the end, a color palette must suit the artist.  If you can't express yourself with your color choices than it's time for a change.  I do believe that students should have a good understanding of a limited palette before adding additional hues.  Regardless of the number of colors on your palette, doing color charts (Yuck, I know) really is a great way to understand your particular palette.  I did similar color charts like Richard Schmid's. Invaluable. 




As promised, I will share my palette once the kinks are worked out.  No need for you to see the sausage being made.