Preliminary Color Swatch

Anyone who has become more serious about painting seems to learn that there is much more time spent in preparing for it than actually carrying out the painting process. I speak for those who really want their work to shine and come together. I am slowly learning this myself, and stopped myself before starting on a new painting by having conflicting ideas on which colors I want to use for the greens and which red I should use.

Naturally, it is best to have a painting made from as few colors as possible. In that way, it seems coherent and no part really seems out of place. In an effort to keep these sore thumbs out of my works, I am trying to use a simple color scheme to get the best effect. Some combination of the three primaries, and maybe something extra or two if I feel the need.

In this case, I am planning on a painting involving a small ladybug on some rosemary. It is  a close-up, so I want a nice dark background, something red for the ladybug, and something with a nice variety of greens for the foliage. This will also be a good practice for me retaining the white of my paper, because I sorely need to work on that. 🙂

An ounce of preparation beats pretty much anything else, so I got to work. I made my sketch and checked the proportions and they look fine. Honestly, my sketching has made leaps and bounds of improvement. I really believe that is ahead of my painting at this point. I was about to mix some sort of purple for the background when I stopped myself and decided to try several combinations of my favorites.

Watching so many of these Youtube videos, a favorite for any sort of mixing seems to be Ultramarine, so I tried that with Pyrrhol Red, a new favorite of mine. It looks ok. Nice and warm. I like it.

Then I will need some red and orange for the ladybug, some more Pyrrhol Red and Yellow Deep. I am completely happy with that.

The greens are next. I tried the Ultramarine with the Yellow Deep. It is nice, but it seems to lack the depth I am going after. Next I tried the Prussian Blue with the Yellow Deep. Oh yeah. I like that so much more.

Now that I switched the blues, let me see how the Prussian looks with the Pyrrhol. Mhmm. That is definitely more appealing to me.

While I am painting and have some space left, maybe a different red? Some Alizarin and Prussian Blue. Uninspired.

Use cheap paper and check all the combos you want. Then you can be sure to get the right one for the job. I label them so I remember which is which.

Maybe a different yellow, then. I always seem to use the Yellow Deep. Let’s try Naples Yellow and Prussian. Whoa! That is a chalky lime color. Glad that didn’t hit the paper!

I found that the main elements of this upcoming painting will be Prussian Blue, Pyrrhol Red and Yellow Deep. If I need a very dark hue, I will most likely add some burnt umber to the Prussian to deepen it, a very thick mix. And most of the planning stage is done!

Now, it is a good idea to do this on some cheap paper, because that will quite accurately show you the color without using up the good stuff. Or just use some bits and pieces  that were trimmed from the premium paper you reserve for the works of art. 🙂

However, it is interesting to see how your own color preferences really show through in your work. I, for one, have found that Prussian Blue seems to be my go-to blue hue, whereas it seems a majority of artists prefer the Ultramarine. I think I just get a greater depth of color from the Prussian, but I am also using different brands of paint. I have noticed greater saturation and brilliance of colors in the M. Graham paints I have when compared to the Winsor & Newton tubes. And no, I am not sponsored by any paint brand. So far, I am a solo flyer.

Bringing this novel to an end, I just wanted to leave you with the encouragement to find which colors beckon to your brush and produce the hues you so desire in your works. Often times, you aren’t even sure what exactly you are going for until you see it. Pay attention when it happens and you will notice that it will often follow a pattern resulting from select colors that just happen to appeal to you more than others. We all have to use up the colors that we buy when we see a sale or get into a frenzy, but I know that most of them I will not restock. Now I am starting to understand why seasoned artists really do use a limited palette for each painting. I think I am developing my own.


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