My Old Masters Earth Palette

I use a basic Old Master’s Earth Palette. It consists of the three primary colors; red, yellow and blue. And, of course, black and white.

My palette includes both warm and cool colors in each color family. The temperature of a color is relative to the colors surrounding it. For example, yellows are generally thought to be warm – but in that “color family” the Lemon Yellow Hue is cooler than the Indian Yellow.

French Ultramarine is a cool blue color and Prussian Blue is a warm blue color. Except to glaze, I seldom use these blue paints.

With this particular earth palette, a mixture of Ivory Black and White will make a color that “reads” as blue. The “blues” in my paintings are made from this. If I need to deepen and enrich a "blue" in my painting, I tend to use these tubed blue colors to glaze only.

Indian Red warm. Mixed with Cadmium Orange it makes a deep rich Vermillion color.

I only use Permanent Alizarin Crimson because it archival and long lasting.

Red pigments have been historically among the most fugitive colors. This degeneration rarely occurs in synthetic or natural inorganic pigments. Although modern chemistry has made spectacular advances in filling in this part of the color space, I feel that within this group of colors you must read your labels and choose wisely.

Professional ethics (if not common decency) means informing your clients when a work contains a fugitive color (such as alizarin crimson), so that collectors can decide for themselves whether they want to accept the risk.

Although it paints wonderfully, I do not use flake white as it contains lead. Gamblin makes a Flake White Replacement that is non-toxic.

I mostly use Titanium White as it is opaque and dries rather quickly.

Zinc White** is translucent and does not cover well. However, it is a useful color to “cool” an area.

About Acrylic Paints:
If when I have occassion to use them, I prefer the earth colors of Liquitex Basic Matt Colors.

**NOTE: Since my original post about Zinc White I have discovered that there are problems with paintings that contain Zinc White. See this post and this article.

Ivory Black is a nice warm black and I mostly use it as a glaze, to turn an edge or mixed with white to make a color that appears “blue.” Ivory Black cannot be use thickly by itself or it will crack.

Ivory Black also takes longer to dry than most other colors.

To make the color “black” I often mix Prussian Blue and Burnt Umber and glaze it into an area. It is better to add several layers of glaze to get the dark color you wish than attempt to use one coat of thick paint.

Opaque colors are usually applied thickly. Transparent and translucent colors – when used alone - need to be kept very thin.

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