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September 2013



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palette tweaking

sienna & ochre, originally uploaded by Cathy (Kate) Johnson.

I like to experiment, try out new things, explore different brands or pigments, refine my palette...but need to stay flexible. And sometimes I need to replace things, or even go backwards if the experiment is not satisfactory.

I love raw sienna. I use it for a variety of things, usually replacing yellow ochre on my palette. Its warm golden color is usually a bit more transparent than YO. But...the latest batch I bought just doesn't do what I want. It's too dark, too brown, and too opaque.

I got out all my similar colors and tried them out...and dug the raw sienna out of my palette and replaced it, for now, with yellow ochre. MaimeriBlu's Raw Sienna is lovely too...so will be testing it more.

I guess we always need to be open to experimentation...I tried Indanthrone (or Indanthrene, spelling depending upon the manufacturer, it appears) Blue, and don't care for it...it's too cold for my taste.

I've tried out all kinds of different pigments other artists have recommended--and LOVE Permanent Rose, it's earned a place in my Hall of Fame! It makes gorgeous lavenders and purples, sweet skin tones in mixtures of yellow ochre, cad orange, or transparent yellow.

I tried out the new/old mineral colors, too, but don't find them satisfactory for my taste. Too hard to mix, too wuusy...but again, it's just personal taste. (Though my dear friend Laura Frankstone of the gorgeous blog at http://laurelines.typepad.com/ says she's had some problems with them fading!)

And it IS mostly just personal taste, what works for us. There's no right or wrong in picking colors. Even fugitive (non-lightfast) colors are fine, if they're going to be in a journal or someplace not exposed regularly to sunlight.

In my continuing journey as a watercolorist and teacher, I did without Cadmium Orange for some time, trying to move away from the problematical cadmiums for the sake of my students. However, DS says "Daniel Smith Cadmiums have been formulated to reduce health risks. Soluble Cadmium has been greatly minimized. Concern for artists' health and our environment are as important to Daniel Smith as the rich, concentrated color of our paints."

And I'm tired of muddy oranges, for those few but all-important times when I need that glow, so I restored Cad Orange to its former place of honor on my palette. I just won't spread it on my toast!

This is my little travel palette as it currently stands, with the new yellow ochre and cadmium orange--and something I squeezed in by mistake the other day, between the bright red and cad orange, siiiigh.  Here you see more reds than I need, but I was exploring!  Two greens taking up space on the lower right, too...Sap Green and Hooker's Green Dark, my once-upon-a-time standbys, now seldom used.

I particularly missed Cad Orange here-this was the painting that made me decide to replace it!  This really needed an underwash of orange at the horizon and under the tree areas to capture the late-afternoon glow--or a good clean raw sienna to mix with my blues to make green!  I rather like how the sketch turned out, but it was nothing like I wanted it to look, and that was largely because of the colors on my palette.

October 2 Evening

Payne's gray is back, too, after a long sabbatical. Maybe sometime the greens will return, too, but I still enjoy the wonderful variety of mixed greens...nothing needs to be set in stone. The journey is what makes the challenge interesting.



Glad to see you palette tweaking

Hi, Kate, just caught up with your blog - CONGRATULATIONS on a beautiful wedding!!! May everlasting happiness be yours! (It looked absolutely enchanting!)

I am so glad to know that you tweak too! I have sent a good deal of time this year educating myself on pigment properties, but in truth, I haven't been able to "settle" on just one palette with set colors. So many roads, all traveling to the same place, but each road/color has its own various reasons for traveling it that it is HARD TO CHOOSE! LOL!!

I also have a favorites list that some colors will probably never leave, but there are just too darn many to settle down to a finite palette!

Thanks for sharing!

Re: Glad to see you palette tweaking

Thank you, it was indeed an enchanting wedding!

I don't see any reason to feel set in stone with the colors, do you? Lots of new ones to test out...

I have one palette that is only the primaries, and then my various plein air and home studio ones, some of which are large enough to hold experimental colors.

I used to use brown madder alizarin a lot, but I understand it can be fugitive...now I've discovered quinacridone burnt scarlet, which is similar, transparent, and lovely! And according to DS's testing lightfastness is excellent, so I use it now...these things evolve!