Monday, 11 October 2010

Inviting a guest colour

This article was first published in my newsletter "Notes From My French Easel" – June 2010. 

I have been thinking about the idea of “guest colour” for a while. For oil painting, I like to use a limited palette: Titanium White (Griffin Alkyd), Cadmium Yellow Pale, Yellow Ochre, Cadmium Red, Alizarin Crimson, Burnt Umber, Cobalt Blue or Cerulean Blue, Ultramarine Blue and Viridian Green.

From time to time, I bring along another colour. This is what I call a “guest colour”. I have several reasons to do that.

  • The first reason is that the particular shade is hard or almost impossible to mix from my usual palette. A good example is Turquoise blue.

  • Another time I would bring a guest colour is when the colour in question is prevalent and, rather than mixing a large quantity of the shade, it is quicker and more productive to use it from the tube.
  • I like some colours so much that they were creeping in all my paintings and they began to look too uniform. For instance, Blue Rex is a great blue shade but also very potent. It works well mixed with background colours to push them further towards the horizon. Another colour I was using too much was Sap Green. It is a nice transparent green which is in the midrange and does not have the acidity of other greens. The risk was that I relied too much on it and forgot that I could mix a broad range of green colours with my basic selection of colours. By making Blue Rex and Sap Green guest colours, I treat them with more judgement.
  • Bringing in a guest colour helps me breaking the routine. Because I only bring one or two guest colours for a given painting, I can take time to know them better and get the best out of them.


Starrpoint said...

I like this idea of a guest color.

I picked up a tube of turqoise this summer thinking to do a beach painting, but still have not tried it.

I am rather afaid of it!

I am so comfortable with my pallet that using another color is outside my comfort zone!

I look forward to seeing how you treat this "guest!"

Benoit Philippe said...

One way to overcome your fear would be to start with your normal palette and introduce the new colour mid-way, when the painting is already well established.

The most recent painting where I used Turquoise blue was "Morning fog in San Francisco". The veining technique avoided it to be overpowering (see my earlier post Painting in veins).