Teacher ... What's on Your Palette and why isn't it on the materials list?

I kind of chuckled as I wrote the title to this post.

The previous post led me to the realization that I never give students a straight answer when they ask "What colors are on your palette". The truth is that it changes based on the goal of the painting. But, for the sake of sharing I'm going to write down what I'm thinking when I load up paints and see if it's useful to others.

First, when I'm starting a painting I ask myself if it needs to be hot and bright, subtle grey tones, old master, tight, loose etc.

Then, I decide if I'm going to finish it all in one sitting or work through many layers to get a particular look.

Those considerations determine what I lay out on the palette. I always set out my basic limited palette of 4-5 colors: Alizeron Chrimson, White, Ultramarine Blue, Indian Yellow and sometimes Cadmium Lemon Yellow. From these colors I can create a surprising range of temperatures in a painting with soft tones. I leave space between these colors for others that I might add for another simultaneous painting. Transparent Red Oxide and Thalo blue are often the first to be added because this combo gives me two of each primary. So, if you walk into my studio, you'll see the following.

- White
- Alizeron Crimson
- Transparent Red Oxide
- Indian Yellow
- Cadmium Lemon
- Ultramarine Blue.
- Thalo Blue

Then ... I have some favorites below that I add when the situation calls for them. Usually, the "situation" is something unusual like I want to get some screaming hot pinks, or maybe a little color vibration on a turquoise glass bottle. I might use a variety of reds next to each other if I want to create a shimmery glowing red. Finally, orange, cerulean, naples yellow, purple and kings blue are colors that are quick problem solvers for various situations like quick portrait oil sketches.

- Quinocridone Red or Quinocrdone Magenta (Don't always need Alizeron)
- Napthol Red or Parylene Red (transparent)
- Cadmium Bright Red
- Cadmium Orange
- Cadmium Yellow
- Thalo Green (sometimes Viridian)
- Thalo Turquoise
- Sap Green (I love juxtaposing this with Thalo)
- Cerulean Blue or Kings Blue (if I'm working on a 2 hour portrait sketch)
- Cobalt Blue
- Cobalt Violet (I only seem to use this for quick floral shadows)
- Manganese or Dioxazine Purple (depending on whether I want bluer vs redder)
- Naples Yellow (I've used just this and Trans Red Oxide for dramatic oil sketches)

So, take a look at my palette on any given day and a few pigments from the second list will be added to the first list. Look closely and you'll probably see that selected grouping of color has something to do with the subject of the painting.

The bottom line is that together this is a long list when you really consider that there are twice as many optional colors as there are baseline colors.

The reason I don't mention the great old faithful colors like ivory black, cadmium red deep/dark, cadmium red, yellow ochre, mars yellow, burnt sienna, prussian blue etc. is that with such a wide range of colors in the two lists above, these remaining colors are easy to make or replace. It just never crosses my mind to buy them. For example, transparent orange is a really useful color -> you can mix it almost exactly by using a transparent yellow with parylene red. When I put them on the palette it's usually because I want to use up an old tube that has been patiently waiting in the bottom of the paint box.

That's the most direct answer I can give. If you are a student you are welcome to sit down with this post and my paint box to get a feeling for which paints have been relegated to the crease behind the main compartment ... and why.

Wishing you a fun day of painting!

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