Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Door County Road: Step-By-Step with a Limited Palette

"Door County Road" 6x6 oil on linen

Today I'm using one of my favorite limited palettes. This one was made popular by Kevin Macpherson. The colors I'm using are titanium white, cadmium yellow light, cadmium red light, and ultramarine blue. Once in a while I will add phthalo green to this palette, but not today. 

The great thing about using such a limited palette is the color harmony you can achieve. There is also such an incredible range of both color and value. 

I'm referencing a plein air sketch for this piece. The sketch was an 8x10 and I'm shifting some things around a bit to make an interesting 6x6 composition. I've sketched it in with a 3B graphite pencil. 

First step is to start blocking in the shadow areas. Think of every shape as one of two options: light or shadow. I'm using a tiny bit of Gamsol to thin down my colors. 

Next step is to block in light shapes (except for the sky). Try to avoid using white in mixtures at this stage. It will help colors remain bright and avoid making them chalky. 

Next, some opaque darks are added. I usually like to work background to foreground. As I paint, I like to scrape down my glass palette. I will keep all the scrapings and mix them together on the side. This creates a nice grey color, which is useful for mixing. 

Some more variety is added in the background, as well as some subtle shifts in color. 

Opaque light areas are coming in now, especially the orange tree on the left. The tree has some stray branches, which I will avoid placing until later. I'm also going to avoid the brightest highlights until after I paint the sky.

I've added some highlights to the mid-ground bushes, working back and forth between shadow and light areas. I like to have a couple different brushes going at a time. My left hand usually has a few wet brushes in it, and I can swap them as I change between colors. 

More highlights are in the foreground. I've added some broken color accents in the closest highlights, which helps pull them forward. 

Accents and details are added in the last step, along with the sky. I save my highest-intensity colors for this stage. Most of the time I'll save the sky for last as well. If the sky is painted early, it can get contaminated with other colors more easily. I scumbled a little bit of yellow on the distant trees, especially on the right-hand pine. I wanted to make it recede a little bit more. 

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