Saturday, January 19, 2008

Extreme Limited Pastel Palette

"Walk Through Fire"
5x7 pastel, en plein air - SOLD

As I work on my new book, Backpacker Painting: Outdoors with Pastel & Oil, I find myself revisiting assumptions I've made over the years. One of those assumptions is that the absolute minimum number of pastel sticks one needs is 60. I arrived at that number by considering my traditional split-primary oil palette. For the pastel version, I use a warm and a cool version, in five value steps, of each of the three primaries and three secondaries. Sixty isn't bad, but I wondered if I could do with fewer.

I took a closer look at my oil palette. I don't have 60 colors there. I have only six: a warm and cool version of each of the primaries, plus white. Could I actually use so few sticks of pastel? I decided not, because if you need a secondary, it's hard to mix it from the primaries and get intense chroma. I do sometimes put the secondaries on my oil palette, so I decided to do the same for my "extreme" limited pastel palette.

I began to pick out pastels. I wanted to make sure I had good darks, so from among my NuPastels, I picked out blues, greens and violets that were as dark as I could find. I also wanted good lights, so I picked out reds, oranges and yellows that were as light as I could find. Finally, I wanted to be able to adjust the value easily, so I included black and white. Pastel manufacturers use black and white to create shades and tints, so why couldn't I?

All told, I ended up with 14 sticks. Here's a picture of my palette:

These are, in temperature progression:
  • 285 - Indigo Blue
  • 405 - Blue Haze
  • 298 - Bottle Green
  • 308 - Palm Green
  • 217 - Lemon Yellow
  • 257 - Deep Cadmium Yellow
  • 222 - Burnt Orange
  • 226 - Scarlet
  • 256 - Crimson Red
  • 206 - Carmine Madder
  • 234 - Red Violet
  • 224 - Violet
and Black (229) and White (211).

The painting at the top is one of several 5x7 plein air pastel I did with this "extreme" limited palette. It thrilled me to think that I could do this with just 14 sticks!

I'm going to play more with this and see what tradeoffs are necessary for this "extreme" limited palette. Stay tuned!

1 comment:

Metal Wall Art said...

Watersoluble oil pastels with plain water create a variety of transparent and opaque wet effects. A heavy application can be smoothed with a wash or blended.