the Oil Pallette

May 20, 2009

I suspect that every artist has his or her favorite pigments and colors.  It is necessary to find your own.  It can be quite challenging at first to sort one’s way through the huge selection of colors available at any art supply store.  Experience is the best guide.  But that’s hard when you don’t have it.
Here’s what I use:

Color

  • Two yellows (a cool and a warm one, like citron yellow and cadmium yellow medium)
  • Two reds (a cool and a warm one, like  alizarin crimson and cadmium red medium)
  • Two blues (a cool and a warm one, like thalo blue and ultramarine blue)

The Earth Colors

  • Sienna (burnt and raw, though I most use burnt)
  • Umber (burnt and raw, though I mostly use raw)
  • Mars Red (a red iron oxide)
  • Yellow Ochre

Neutrals

  • Two whites (Lead white and Titanium)
  • Warm gray
  • Mars black

From these basic colors I can mix just about any thing I need while maintaining a clear idea of how I got there.  In addition, the spectral purity of a color can best be appreciated by employing it directly out of the tube, unmixed.  Therefore, one can try to achieve certain ‘mixed’ colors through translucent layers of paint, rather than mixing on the pallette.  Doing this means becoming familiar with the characteristics of the pigments themselves (opacity/translucency, saturation/tinting power and capacity to absorb oil).  It also means using the translucency effects of the oil medium to create rich vibrant colors, that resonate like a sunset.

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