The palate is the foundation of your work. It is important to have familiarity of colors and to have a strong understanding of their characteristics. Frank Vincent DuMond was one of the fathers of using color value palate layout in his teachings. In my personal discussions with Everett Raymond Kinstler, he stated that while being trained by DuMond, you layout a color family in dark to light values for each color, orderly across the palate. He then showed how to premix colors to optimize color values for painting. This is used as a learning aid until you develop an implicit understanding of color value. The layout of my palate has evolved over time with the different teachers and influences that I have had. Having spent my entire textile career mixing colors, color value and mixing comes very natural to me. My palate has evolved to the point where I’m actually minimizing and limiting the basic colors that I use. I look for coherence in the color family that I select for a painting. This helps tremendously in the unity of a painting. It gives the color more structure to hold the painting and composition together. The more that I look at the influential masters, the more I see their thought process with this color unity.
Here is what my current palate looks like. At first, I start with a medium colored wood palate. I feel this gives a better sense of reference of color value. Starting from the upper left corner of my rectangular palate, I use titanium white, severs blue (common with the Boston school painters), cobalt blue, french ultramarine blue, cadmium red, alizaran red, burnt umber, ivory black, burnt sienna, yellow ochre, cadmium yellow medium, sap green, viridian green. Robert Douglas Hunter had me rediscover viridian green, which I had left off my palate for many years. Depending on the painting, I may add some specialty colors, such as grumbacker red when painting roses, or phalo blue when painting plein air. Obviously, the highest quality paints and brushes are a must, I’ve been focusing mostly on the Rembrant line of paints as of late. Safflower oil based paints offer nice slow drying qualities, also I have been using safflower oil as a mixing agent into other paints in order to help with the flow.
Plein air presents is own set of problems in developing your wet-into-wet mixing and order of color. Dark values and thin consistency first then moving toward lighter values and thick. Careful not to mix white into any dark tones or it could lead to a “chalky” look. Just another technique area that will take a life time to master, if ever. Plein air painting will be a subject of a later discussion. I always use the same layout format so I don’t have to think where I’m dipping my brush. So, go ahead and give it a try.
Galleries & Associations
- Rockport Art Association, Rockport, MA
- The Fells, Newbury, NH
- Gallery 31, Orleans, MA
- Jaffrey Civic Center, Jaffrey, NH
- Whistler House Museum, Lowell, MA
- Mary Minifie is an inspiration, and I’m currently studying with her.
- Jean Lightman is a skilled still life and flower rendering artist.
- Sam Vokey composes wonderful still life painting filled with beautiful flowers
- Caleb Stone is a great teacher and plein air artist that I have had the pleasure to learn and paint with on location.
- John C. Traynor’s work is wonderful in color and composition.
- Alberta Geyer is a friend who shares a passion for flowers and painting
- Chris Reid is a friend and fellow plein art painter
- Debbie Campbell is a friend and painter in the Lake Sunapee Region
These museums have wonderful collections and are in close proximity to my home. I am very interested in art history between 1850-1930.
- Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA
- Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston, MA
- Whistler House Museum, Lowell, MA
- Currier Museum, Manchester, NH
- Worcester Art Museum, Worcester, MA
- I always make my own linen board for plein air painting. Claessens Linen #12 single-primed is preferred.
- Canvaspanels.com is my source for the special adhesive miracle muck
- Rosemary and Co. Artists Brushes: thank you for the suggestion Kathy Anderson, these brushes are the best