Thinking about my palette

I seem to have just spent a couple hours reading the watercolor section of Handprint, Bruce MacEvoy’s website.  I find the information about color and color theory rather overwhelming.  I’ve looked it over before.   However, this time I came across a section I did not notice before.

In discussing his pein air paint kit, he writes:
“I indulge in a large (21 pan) selection of colors because this allows me a wider range of paint handling attributes (texture, transparency, staining). I also discovered that working with a more limited number of paints tends to consume time in paint mixing and water in brush rinsing in situations where both are precious resources. ”

This from a painter who, from his extensive writings, knows more about the chemistry and properties of paint than anyone I’ve yet encountered!  The point about time and water as resources is good and one I had not considered.   I’ve been laboring under the presumption that I should function with a limited palette.

Also reading Liz Steel’s most recent post about developing her palette.


About redharparts

Born in Michigan. Attended undergrad and graduate universities there. I've lived in England, Germany, Southern California and now Washington (state). I'm a retired Medical Social Worker with a past specialty in Oncology. I've enjoyed exploring historical re-creation through the SCA. I costume in several fandoms. Lately I've returned to Art and have taken up Urban Sketching, a version of en plein air painting.
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2 Responses to Thinking about my palette

  1. Paul Bauck says:

    Thanks for the tip on this great web site. He has a whole lot of information there.

    A limited palette was one of the things I learned a great deal about in the oil painting workshop I took with Liz Wiltzen last summer. We looked at color, value, and relative temperature. When mixing color and temperature were the most important. Our palette consisted of two reds, two yellows, and two blues. Within each color one was relatively warmer than the other. When it came to mixing a color we not only asked ourselves what color, but was it warmer or cooler than the subject color. Yes, this can take lots of paint to get it right. However, by the end of the week I found I had gained skill through practice and less paint was required.

    Since the workshop I’ve applied this to watercolor and acrylics with similar results. Transparency of the chosen paints can have an additional effect, but I don’t think it’s as important as temperature. Also I’ve decided that mixing a good deep brown like burnt sienna is not worth the effort. I also sometimes include a rich violet and a quinacridone green because they aren’t as easy to mix.

    In my studio I use a broad palette, but when traveling or out in the field I stick to this set of 8-9 colors. If it’s oil or acrylic I add a tube of white, of course.

  2. miatagrrl says:

    Interesting point about using a wider palette. But if I have too many colors to choose from, I get more confused and waste time and the freshness of the moment. Not to mention the heavier palette. So I guess one has to find the right balance. I’ve been reading Liz’s color studies, too! Fascinating when she lets us see her mind at work.

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