I had a revelation this morning about the colors on my oil painting palette. I always spend a lot of time thinking about which colors to use and which colors I actually need. It's really hard some times because it's easy to get influenced by your artistic heroes and think that if you use the same colors, then you'll paint like them. The truth is that you should use colors that you like.
Of course, the only way to figure out which colors you like is to test out a bunch and then figure out which ones work for you and which ones don't. I'm attaching a picture of my current palette below, which is combination of colors that work for me.
Always remember that you can tailor your palette for specific subjects. For instance, if I'm painting a landscape with a lot of greens and blues, then I'm not going to put out all my reds because I don't need them. You could argue that you could mix reds into your greens to neutralize them, but I don't mix color that way so I know I don't need them. And, if suddenly, a red bird lands in the scene, then I can just put a little bit of red on my palette.
What I've realized is that it's good to learn about what colors artists of the past have used and to test out those colors as a guide. But to progress as an artist, you'll need to think for yourself and see the world with your own eyes. You'll eventually realize that the colors you use don't actually matter that much. And if you've practiced enough, then you can make a great painting just using the most basic palette!
*Many of my readers may know this, but I'm colorblind so I've spent a lot of time studying color for this very reason. Also because of this, I set up my color palette in a unique way that works for me. I always encourage everyone to work in your own style and always experiment with color!
My materials list has evolved and I feel like now is a good time to document it. This post is more for my own documentation, but I also always love sharing knowledge. I'll go through my materials, color palette and medium one by one.
As a side note: my own color palette is based on Bouguereau's palette, but with my own additions which I feel are necessary. Also, never blindly follow someone else's technique or materials without thinking deeply about it yourself.
-White boar's hair bristle brushes (rounds and flats)
-Small synthetic watercolor brushes (for detail work and signature)
-Brush cleaner jar filled with Gamsol OMS (for brush cleaning)
-Wooden paint box
-Refined linseed oil (for oiling out)
1 oz. Dammar Varnish
1 oz. Stand Oil
5 oz. Gamsol
15-20 drops cobalt drier
-Winsor & Newton High Gloss Varnish (for final varnish, 1 layer)
-Gamsol + Masters brush cleaner for cleaning brushes
-Chrome Yellow Bright
-Chrome Yellow Deep
-Brown Red (or Venetian Red)
-Van Dyke Brown
*My palette is in this order mainly because I'm colorblind so I arrange it in order of color value.
Painting progress is never a linear movement forwards and I've recently decided to go back to an old technique, which I feel is a more sincere technique. Being colorblind, I structure my palette order in value, from light to dark, but my early technique also followed my 'disability'. I used to begin a painting in a tonal brunaille (tones of brown on white; as opposed to a grisaille which is black and white) which I did naturally. I know this is a technique known more commonly as dead coloring, but the point is that it's more conducive to natural state of being.
If you're interested in this technique, remember that the white tone is simply the canvas and you modulate the shade with only a burnt umber or other such brown. I'm going to go back to this and a modified palette which I used to use. I've changed other aspects of my technique, but they're so minor I need not write about them here.
My advice is to do some soul searching and find out what works for you.
I've been having some great realizations recently in regards to my path as an artist. I'm going to share them because it may be of interest to other artists who feel this internal struggle.
I'll start with a point of interest with many artists, color selection. Selecting a palette is no easy feat and takes many days to find what works for you. I'm back to my old palette, which is as follows:
-Chrome Yellow Light
-Chrome Yellow Deep
-Cad. Yellow Deep Hue
-Cad. Red Light
-Brun Rouge (Older color, Basically an earth red, similar to Pompeii Red)
-Van Dyke Brown
I've taken away all colors which I believe are not useful for me. Keep in mind that my palette is laid out in order of value because of my colorblindness. This is an ever evolving process which I'm sure will change in time. The only reason that I know that I like these colors, is that I've used them and tried out tons of colors.
I'm at the point where I want to make my own mark. The best work I've done, which I consider to be "The Butterfly" (2015), encapsulates much of what I am looking to accomplish. It's narrative and began with an idea. The idea followed a process which I have laid out in this post.
The point to all this is to explore what makes you happy in painting and drawing. Don't fall into a trap where you over analyze and never produce, which is what happens on many discussion forums. Too much information can sometimes be worse than too little. Find your own way to paint, but always continue learning.