What’s On Your Palette?

One of the perks of being a Resident Artist is that I get to use lots of paint! Like many artists, I have standard colors that I favor, but I’ve gotten questions about what color to use for portraits, landscapes, etc. So lately I’ve been exploring different color palettes when I’ve painted with Interactive and I thought I’d share some of my favorites.

Standard: What can I say – I’m old school! I tend to favor a classic warm/cool palette and generally use the following for my paintings: Titanium White, Cadmium Yellow Light, Cadmium Yellow Medium, Cadmium Red Medium, Quinacridone Magenta, French Ultramarine Blue, Pthalo Blue, Dioxazine Purple and Permanent Sap Green.

Landscapes: I’ll add Yellow Ochre, Burnt Umber, Burnt Sienna, Permanent Alizarine, Chromium Green Oxide and Paynes Grey as needed. I’ve found that Transparent Perinone Orange is a fantastic glaze color, and landscapes look very cool when underpainted with Transparent Red Oxide. That hint of red makes the greens pop!

Portraits: When I’m working figuratively, I find I incorporate Jaune Brilliant, Naples Yellow Reddish, Toning Grey Pink and Mars Violet along with my standard palette. Sometimes I do an underpainting with Terre Verte like the Old Masters did in the Renaissance.

The above palettes use a mix of opaque, semi-transparent and transparent colors. Using a combination allows me to develop my painting classically with an underpainting, opaque layers and glazes as desired. The painting will absorb the light through multiple paint layers and only bounce part of the light back. This is what makes paintings glow, and this is a characteristic of Old Masters paintings.

When I do formal workshops on Impressionism, I work with a contemporary Impressionist palette, based off Monet’s paintings. This includes:

Titanium White, Cadmium Yellow Light, Cadmium Yellow Medium, Cerulean Blue, Cobalt Blue, French Ultramarine Blue, Cobalt Green, Permanent Green Light, Permanent Alizarine, Vermillion, Yellow Ochre and Dioxazine Purple. I’ll use Cadmium Orange, Napthol Crimson and Brilliant Magenta when I want to make highlights or shadows pop even more. Most of these colors are opaque or semi-transparent, which is a hallmark of Impressionist paintings. When opaque colors are used with a high value and intensity, the overall painting will have a feeling of vibrancy and brightness. The Impressionist paintings reflect the light back from the surface because the light doesn’t get absorbed into the paint film.

If I had to give myself a label, I’d call myself a contemporary American Impressionist, since I aim to capture the light and the emotional resonance of a person, place or thing. That’s probably why I don’t usually use blacks, because I prefer to make my greys using the compliments. Everyone has a different color sensibility, and with 75 colors, everyone is bound to have their favorites. I’m curious: What colors do you use on your palette, and do you find you use different colors for different styles or subjects? Do you know why you choose the colors you do? Post you comments and artwork!