Oil Palette and Potential

Returning to mucking in  oils after 10 years of sloshing around in watercolor, it has been a joy –and an eye opener– discovering how different pigments react in different binders. Alizarin Crimson and Viridian do not sing the same properties in these two mediums!  Of course they both make nice darks, being dark pigments, but the tones and overtones they contribute to a mixture differ as much as the oil and the gum arabic do.

So what does this mean? It means when ever beginning or revisiting a medium after a haitus it is crucial to play with mixtures making no assumptions. My sketch book is filled right now with goooey splotches of oil colors as I try combinations and ratios of pigments so I know them inside out upside down so that when painting an inherent sense takes over my value, hue and warm and cool choices.

Begin with a limited palette. Choose 3 colors ( primary is best) learn them well. Then when you paint and there is a color, value or temperature you can not achieve add another. Read combinations other artists use and try them out.

I began painting oils again with the following colors:

Cobalt, Ultramarine, Indigo,  Winsor Yellow, Indian Yellow, Indian Red, Al Crim. , Light Red, viridian ( which I used mostly for greys. I really di dnot like the greens it makes for Maine forests)

Indigo was seldom on Artists’ lists but I have added it because of where I live. Mixed judiciously with a touch of red it creates a deep rich base for evergreens in winter that Cobalt ( far too light) and Ultramarine (too cool a  red) can not achieve.

Indian Yellow is a powerful hue and better used as a tint. I read one artist, Stapleton Kearns, suggest its use be governed by homeopathic principles. He his it sqare on— less is far, far better. But it unlike   aureolin yellow its influencing power is profound. If you add  these yellows which both have a transparent quality- play with them for they can teach you the difference between a warm and cool yellow!

Reds are so funny in all the medium There seems- to my eye- to be no true red. The Cad colors are of course all orangy and AC is bluish. Sennelier used to make a true red pastel but no longer. It was probably toxic or something but we lost a beautiful true red pastel the day they turned it into a brown.




Mixing Spring Greens

Whether one mixes greens from blues and yellows or uses greens from the tube, greens need to be warmed. Mixing greens for Eastern spring is fun. But I just figured out, not so much a formula but a Guiding Principal. I am a bit embarrassed it has taken me this long to articulate it. To determine which warm color to use to warm a green consider the color of the blossom of the plant. This is crystal clear in irises. The green beneath the very pale yellow under the blossom is a purplish color the hue of which looks to have dripped down from the blossom. I have 5 different irises in my garden and each of them a different variation of purple. Each color is part of the green make especially under the blossom.

While I am sure this is not Gospel truth that there will be times to change the warming hue, but it can be a start to create subtle shifts of spring greens.

garden oil painting
Into The Sun