How my left brain chooses Colors

Last year I painted two commissioned house portraits for the same client. Photographs of each painting can be seen in my earlier posts: November 24 and December 10, 2013; “Old Homeplace in Hawkinsville” and “Hawkinsville Summer Home”. The colors for both paintings were made from the same limited palette of carefully chosen primaries. This insured they would compliment each other if displayed side by side. I also chose a color scheme that would compliment the client’s home decor and would be appropriate for the subject matter. I must also give some thought to the painting’s mood. Will it be edgy or serene? After those decisions were made I had to decide which primaries I wanted to use. I always use a limited palette of primary colors. All of the colors in these paintings were mixed from reds, blues and yellows. I chose two reds; Permanent Rose and Scarlet Lake, two blues; Cerulean Blue and Prussian Blue, and two yellows; Winsor Yellow and New Gamboge. Six tubes of paint. By selecting a limited palette of primary colors, my mixes harmonize without much effort. Using a limited palette of primary colors sounds simple, but involves careful selection.The challenge is how to distill my many experimental mixes down to six tubes of paint and meet all the criteria I need for a particular painting. Pigments have characteristics particular to each one. For example, I must decide if I should use an opaque or transparent yellow, a granulating or smooth blue, a staining color or one that is easily lifted. I chose Cerulean Blue because it is blue, of course, but it also has a strong granular quality and I wanted that quality in my mixed colors for grass, trees, and the house shadows. I chose Prussian Blue for the sky because is has a smooth quality. These particular blues, when mixed with Scarlet Lake and New Gamboge, produced some wonderful grays and dark colors. Various combinations of these colors also produced pleasant and varied greens and browns. I start my selection process with a goal in mind and then I just have fun experimenting with color.


For example, Cerulean Blue is a granulating color while Prussian Blue is not.

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