Thursday, February 11, 2010

Painting with Neutrals

"Snow Squall" 8x10, oil/paper - contact Michael

This week, we've had rain and snow showers drifting through. Any precipitation seems to fall mostly at night, so we've been able to enjoy some good walks and painting opportunities despite it. All day yesterday, snow squalls were blowing off the Mogollon Rim and down into the Verde Valley. I love watching the squalls as they slowly sweep over the mountains. It's a risky time to paint, though - and not just because of the danger of snow dropping down on your palette. The light can change very quickly. Fortunately in the scene above, whenever the sun vanished, it would come out again a few minutes later, allowing me enough time to paint the cliffs with the sun on them.

You'll note I use a lot of dull color in this piece. One of the dangers of my oil palette is that it has a lot of rich color, and rich color rarely appears in nature. When it does appear, it's to a purpose - either to make a flower attractive to a bee or an apple appealing to some foraging animal. Only cartoons have rich color everywhere. (Although I've seen some homes decorated that way, too.) Lately, I've been using more neutrals in my work to make my paintings more naturalistic. I think this is a reaction to the sometimes overwhelmingly-rich color of Sedona's red rocks.

In case you're wondering, my oil palette consists of: Cadmium Yellow Light, Cadmium Yellow Deep, Cadmium Red, Permanent Alizarin Crimson, Ultramarine Blue and Phthalo Blue. I supplement these colors with Chromatic Black and Titanium-Zinc White. (All of these are from Gamblin.) I also make good use of yesterday's leftovers - the palette scrapings. These make for some really wonderful neutrals. The task of creating neutrals in pastel is a little harder, and for that, I tend to use neutral greys. A little bit added to a pure color dulls it nicely.

8 comments:

Katherine Tyrrell said...

Useful post Michael

I find I can get the grey in pastel so long as I use the right complementary colour and open hatching.

Otherwise it's just a different shade of whichever is the dominant colour

Michael Chesley Johnson said...

Thanks, Katherine! I've found that with pastel using complementary colors can lead to not getting quite the color one had hoped for. Hence, my use of the grey pastels. I can, of course, work at getting the right color, but the greys are more expeditious (as is the use of Chromatic Black in oil.)

Marsha Hamby Savage said...

Thanks for this post Michael. Funny to me is that I have been so much toward bold color and now I seem to try backing off. I look forward to creating less colorful work with a "spicy" spot now. It is a little hard for me and my tendency to go colorful. Thanks for telling what oils you are using also out there in Sedona.

Gary Keimig said...

Nice painting, Michael. Your comment on color mixing hit home to me as I scrape off my watercolor pallete after painting [with white gouache mixings]and keep it in a little pile for the neatest neutral grays that work so well with so many things. In our part of the world it works especially for Sagebrush. Most folks have a terrible time with sage trying to mix it with blues when it is more greens and neutral grays.

Michael Chesley Johnson said...

Thanks, Gary and Marsha! You're right, Gary - that sagebrush can be baffling to people who haven't seen it before. Marsha - I also might add Cadmium Orange and Diox Violet to my palette. Two nice secondaries that are impossible to mix so pure.

Stephen Magsig said...

Beautiful color and brushwork. I like the muted color, I usually use the complement to grey off a color. Thanks for sharing your color palette

Michael Chesley Johnson said...

Thank you, Stephen!

JRonson said...

Great work, contrags !