Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Watercolor Palette for July 2017

An 8-color palette to explore (not the best lighting) for July 2017

This is my current watercolor palette for July 2017.

I actually work with an additional white gouache pan, so this would be a 9-color palette. I prefer single-pigment artist-grade, highly-pigmented and milled paints. All of these are Daniel Smith, from left to right:
  • Lemon Yellow (PY175)
  • Organic Vermillion (PR188)
  • Quinacridone Rose (PV19)
  • Quinacridone Purple (PV55)
  • Phthalo Blue Red Shade (PB15)
  • Phthalo Green Blue Shade (PG7)
  • Permanent Brown (PBr25)
  • Indanthrone Blue (PB60)

While other people I learned color theory from supported the idea of the split-primary palette—warm and cool pairs of red, yellow, and blue, for six paints—I ended up rejecting this in favor of the primary-secondary palette, featuring single-pigment primaries and secondaries, which I discovered via the Handprint site. You can see this in the palette above, where I have a yellow, orange, red, purple, blue, and green in that order (assuming that this is a color circle that wraps around so that green is "next to" yellow).

This palette set-up means that I already have the brightest secondaries possible alongside the brightest primaries, and can mix tertiary colors very easily. The more you mix colors, the less saturated and duller their mixes become; split primary somewhat accommodates for this, but a primary-secondary palette works much better to preserve brightness across the spectrum.

With this palette, mixing is rapid to achieve what I want, and this amount of spacing around the color wheel between my main palette players means that I can play with more viable limited palettes (either duo-tone, pairing any warm with any cool, or tri-tone, with sufficient spacing between the three colors to produce interesting mixes).

Of course, this means that I can't easily follow the video tutorials or lessons from other artists, but I always liked to explore on my own anyways.

I learned to add a good, rich brown in order to more easily work skin tones both dark and light—Permanent Brown fills in this role very well. You can think of it as a semi-staining, translucent, non-granulating version of a more reddish Burnt Sienna.

The Indanthrone Blue I added to see if either it or Quinacridone Purple should play the purple secondary in my palette. I really like the extra flexibility it gives me, but it's somewhat extraneous.

Thus far this set pleases me very much. I get a really good range of color:
  • Bright orange-red, middle orange, yellow orange (nearly gold), dull orange.
  • Bright pinks and reds. 
  • A really wonderful range of purples, mauves, and blues.
  • Realistic greens in a nice variety (I think the key to painting a scene full of foliage is to organize a nice set of distinct greens and use them to form patterns).
  • A great range of rich browns to light peaches and tans.
  • Multiple ways to get cool and warm blacks and greys. 

I suppose I can add three more colors for a nice 12-color set. But right now nothing really comes to mind apart from eventually adding Lunar Black, figuring out the right proportions of Quinacridone Magenta to PGBS to create a shadow purple I like very much and filling a pan, and figuring out what creates a grey of grey that I actually find useful. (It's likely to be a mix of Indanthrone Blue and Permanent Brown.)

Ava Jarvis is an ink and watercolor artist with a portfolio site at avajarvisart.com. If you found this post useful, consider a one-time tip or supporting Ava on Patreon.