Contemplation on a Color Palette

I have already talked about how I prepare my canvas for painting, but there’s another process that’s part of my routine that’s more meditation than anything. It’s mixing my colors in preparation to paint.

For me (and it’s so funny because I was talking to someone about this recently) there’s a feeling you get when you look at paint. Van Gogh always said he wanted to eat his yellow paint — and for many of us there’s a visceral reaction to your color that you want to taste it. And the color I want to taste can change almost every day.

On this palette, the color I wanted to eat that day was the little bit of lime green you see. So somehow, I’m going to use that color.

To start, I like to get my palette out — nice and clean, of course—and start making colors that I know I’ll use based on the Inspiration Board. And then I like to also include some that I’m not sure I’ll use, but I want to have ready just in case. Having your paint mixed is like having money in the bank. You don’t have to hunt for it, it’s always right there.  

How do I pick colors? Well, I just start mixing and I’ll think about complementary colors. The complement of blue is orange, etc.  I usually start with a shade of yellow and meander from there. I’ll mix paint for a good hour.  So, if I find a blue that I like, I may make the next color that blue with a little red or yellow in it as a variation of the shade, and I keep going on from there.

It’s artist’s choice. The colors you use are completely up to you, even if you’re painting the sky. You don’t have to pick blue. Some of my skies will have this salmon pink color in them or even an pale green.  Have fun with it. There are a ton of rules of color, and yet there aren’t any rules. It’s about what makes you feel good.

Sometimes I set up a double primary palette — creating a cool and warm color of blue, red and yellow — and use that for a truly wonderful effect. You can see an example of that below.

I used to get tubes and tubes of paint of different colors, but I now think it’s better to limit the colors that you buy and learn to mix the colors that you want. It actually gives you more versatility because you’re not limited to paint in a tube.


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