Saturday, August 17, 2019

Limited palette color study

limited palette study Aug 16 2019
"Early Summer Serenity", 8x10.5, oil on canvas panel

After a couple of weeks away from my easel, I was itching to get some painting in today. I've been doing more sketching and working on engaging my right brain during the process, which makes me enjoy it much more. My favorite way to sketch these days is gesture drawing because I approach them in a much more loose and carefree way.

Yesterday I pulled a photo of a local park out of my reference photo stack and did a quick sketch of it in two values. The foreground wasn't very interesting, so I experimented with adding a vanishing point on the horizon line at my focal point and made diagonal lines radiating from it. I added some interest along those lines to help guide the eye into the painting and activate the boring foreground. The sketch was the basis for this limited palette color study.

I used one of the 12x16 acrylic primed canvas panels from Jerry's Artarama, first dividing it in half and applying a ground of raw umber and titanium white acrylic paint in a medium-light value. For a square tetrad color palette of yellow-orange/blue-violet and red/green, I chose:

  • cadmium yellow (this Holbein color is close to a cad yellow medium on my palette)
  • alizarin permanent
  • winsor violet dioxazine
  • viridian hue
  • Utrecht White
To draw my shapes onto the canvas, I used a mix of red, green, yellow, and white to make a warmish grey. That didn't work very well though because the white got into the first colors I put down, which were in the shadow family. So those colors became too light and chalky. Next time I'd just use a thin version of a mix without white. 

After I got everything blocked in, I realized the canvas was split straight across. This is how my reference photo was, but it didn't look good. I added a small bush in the middle ground to break up the line between the grasses and the trees, but the shape of it isn't great. The grasses are longer than that area would indicate, and it feels like it's floating on top of them rather than growing up out of them. 

I had fun painting the foreground grasses, exploring contrasts of temperature and intensity. Although it was challenging to invent the mauve path of wildflowers because I wasn't using any reference images for that area. Not sure how well it reads to a viewer. 

I'm happy with the color harmony in this one. And it was so cool to be able to mix a good blue for the sky from viridian hue and dioxazine violet. I wasn't sure if I'd be able to get away with no blue on the palette for a landscape study, but it worked!

Friday, August 2, 2019

Limited palette color mixing study

limited palette color mixing study Aug 1 2019
Limited palette color study, 5 1/2 x 7, oil on canvas

A couple of months ago I purchased one of Barbara Jaenicke's excellent monthly lessons that was about color mixing for oils. It also included color palette selection for soft pastels which was great because I could see her thought process on both mediums as well as a demo from start to finish to see how her process differs between oils and pastels.

Purchasing the lesson includes an opportunity to submit a painting to her for personalized feedback. And I was really impressed with the thought and care she put into her comments about the painting I completed for the lesson! It was very thorough and covered things I did well, plus areas to improve. She obviously put a good amount of consideration into her remarks which I totally appreciated.

After getting this feedback, I did another version of the painting, both to incorporate her notes and to continue practicing my study of chroma. I've been learning a lot about how to control the saturation of colors better, and in my initial painting the colors were much heavier feeling than I wanted. Barbara helped me see that balancing the local colors of elements with the effect of sunlight on them, as well as adjusting chroma, would help bring more luminosity to the painting.

For this study, instead of a split primary style palette I used a limited palette of double complementary pairs (orange/blue, yellow-green/red-violet), along with cadmium yellow light for lightening the sap green and adding more of the sunlight effect:
  • transparent earth red
  • ultramarine blue
  • sap green
  • quinacridone violet
  • cadmium yellow light

I toned the canvas with mix of ultramarine blue and transparent earth red, and did a monochromatic underpainting with these same colors. I like that the neutral mixed from these colors allows me to have a value roadmap without overly influencing the color temperature. Lately I'm preferring something closer to a warm grey over cool violets or red-orange tones.

Left to right: mini color study from May, color mixing assignment from June, and limited palette study from today

I painted this same scene as a mini color study for day 24 of my 30 Days of Value Thumbnails project. So it's fun to see how my interpretation of it changes as I learn and explore. By doing multiple studies of the same subject, it's helping me see how the color temperature influences the quality of the light. For example, when I pulled back all the way on the warm reds and oranges (in the almost-finished stage below), it looked like a totally different time of day — more like mid-day instead of evening. Adding more warmth to the tree and adjusting the cast shadow made a huge difference.

Before adding the warm reds and oranges 

Another thing I tried this time was to stop looking at the reference photo for the final 15% or so. I looked instead to see what the painting needed to make it feel right to me instead of just trying to imitate the photo. Which isn't accurate color information anyway.

I enjoyed using this palette, and I do think it helped with color harmony. I especially like that I was able to gain some control over chroma with it!