Monday, July 30, 2012

Kathleen Dunphy's palette

Every time I paint outside I feel a little panic. Not because of bugs or wind or even snakes. It's the changing light and color that always get to me.

I recently read a couple of blog posts by Kathleen Dunphy about her color palette. I decided to give it a try and I've used it 3 times now with great satisfaction! I thought maybe it was beginner's luck, so I used it again on a commission I was working on in the studio also. Great again. And yesterday I used it at the lake, painting red rocks which I love, but always have found to be a frustration. My previous post about painting at Alcova is about the process.

Color has definitely been my area of struggle since taking up oils. When I worked in pastel I had a limited palette because I had a limited number of pastels I was willing to haul around. They're heavy! Since moving to oils, I've had more trouble because I have so many choices of colors I can mix. People who see my work may not thinks so, but I know so. That's why I'm thrilled with this palette.

So, what is this palette? It's a limited palette, using only 6 tubes of paint. The brands are important so if you decide to try this, make sure you get the right brands. They are Rembrandt Cold Grey, Rembrandt Naples Yellow Deep, Rembrandt Permanent Red, Utrecht Cadmium Yellow Lemon and any brand of Ultramarine Blue and a White. 

If you're wondering about the piles of color on the right, those are leftovers from the last time I painted, all mixed together to make some nice greys.

I followed Kathleen's order of premixing my colors at the location before beginning to paint. 

I found the process of getting the color and value I wanted much easier than any other palette I've used in the past. I also found I got a wonderful variety of greens much closer to our muted landscape colors here in the west. For instance mixing some cold grey with lemon yellow makes a great green. Then you can warm it up with a little red or cool it off with a bit of ultramarine. Pretty simple. Red is warm, blue is cool. I like that.
Middle mixture is Cold Grey and Utrecht Lemon Yellow, cooled with Ultramarine Blue on the left, warmed with Permanent Red on the right.
Middle mixture is Cold Grey and Permanent Red, cooled with white and more grey on left and cooled with Ultramarine Blue on the right, warmed with a touch of Utrecht Lemon Yellow below.

You can see how easy it is to get some variety and harmony.
Grant's Sheds 9x12, oil              Ginny Butcher

Because of the limited palette I couldn't get myself into trouble with too many choices. I found it easy to get a strong sense of place through good color.
This is the Cold Grey mixed with the Naples Yellow Deep in the middle, a bit more yellow above and a bit of Permanent Red below.
And some purer color mixtures, Naples Yellow Deep with Ultramarine Blue and the same yellow with the Permanent Red.

I hope you'll try this palette yourself if color has been an issue for you as it has for me. And let me know how it's worked for you. I'd love to know.

Happy painting.


Spencer Meagher said...

Very nice, simple and informative. Thanks for sharing.

Ginny said...

Thank you, Spencer for commenting on this post. It made me read it again, which was a good thing for me to do! Happy painting!

Anonymous said...

Hi Ginny:

Just wanted to say hello. I'm a fan of kathleen dunphy and have not tried her palette.

i found your blog article quite interesting in its examples of the power of her limited palette...especially in the warming/cooling of greyed landscape tones.

I thank you for sharing this info! God bless and continued success to you!

Ginny said...

Thank, Robert! I'm glad you enjoyed it. If you try it, I think you'll be amazed.

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