Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Expanding the Palette

"Lazy Light"
12x24, oil

Those of you who've read my book, Backpacker Painting, know about my limited, split-primary palette. Well, I'm a firm believer in being able to mix just about any color from those six colors, plus white. However, I'm not so rigid that I don't add other colors when the situation arises. For example, I brought with me on this trip two secondaries, Cadmium Orange and Dioxazine Purple. It's impossible to mix these two colors from my palette and to get them as rich as the tubed ones. I brought them because I know from experience that there are lots of purple and oranges in the southwestern landscape.

But I've been here two weeks, and I haven't used them yet. I've been satisfied with my basic palette. Yesterday, though, I decided it was time to do larger paintings -- hence the 12x24 above -- and as I was looking at my paint inventory, I wondered if my handful of tubes would last until the end of March. Then I remembered I'd stashed away a gift box of Vasari oils , given to the participants in the last Sedona Plein Air Festival by the manufacturer. I poked through it, looking to see what I could supplement my inventory with. I found Yellow Ochre and Terra Rosa, two marvelous earth pigments.

The wheels began to spin. It was a hazy day, with a soft, grey light laying on the landscape. Yellow Ochre and Terra Rosa can be considered greys. How would they work for me? The painting above is the result. I couldn't believe how quickly the painting went with these two additions. Sure, I could have mixed approximations of them from my limited palette, but it would have taken longer, and I wouldn't have had the "flow." With this first, large painting, I was looking for "flow" -- a smooth, nearly automatic mixing of paint as I worked. I didn't want to struggle.

As for Dioxazine Purple and Cadmium Orange, they'll have to wait for a sunnier day!

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