Monday, 10 March 2008

Using a limited palette

There are multiple advantages to painting with a limited palette. You are going to know very well these colours: their texture, opacity or transparency and the way you can mix them together.

As Picasso said:
“We work with a few colours; what gives the illusion of their number is that they have been put in the right place.”
There are hundreds of hues commercially available, but buying a large selection will be costly and disperse your efforts. Don’t put me wrong, I have bought colours I rarely squeeze on my palette and it is tempting to buy new colours.

Having a limited selection of colours is like having a circle of close friends instead of being in the middle of a crowd of strangers. Which situation gives you a better chance to express yourself?

Painting with a limited palette is not limiting. Monochrome paintings can be staggering. Think of Matisse and his blue nudes. The idea is to explore and experiment with a colour like a musician gets acquainted with different tonalities.

You have to mix colours when you only have a few. It can look scary and daunting first but it is not that difficult. The palette is your laboratory and you will soon discover that possibilities are almost endless.

This watercolour of Pershore Abbey was completed with only three colours: blue, red and yellow (and the paper for the white).

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