Color Overload

Simplifying My Palette!

Over the years I have amassed a collection of paints with a dizzying array of color choices. Increasingly I find this to be a distraction. Most artists have been told, or heard, that painting with a limited palette, especially when you start, brings great benefits as it forces you to observe closely and learn color mixing. Many experienced artists stick to a limited palette, sometimes as limited as one each of the three primaries (Red, Yellow, Blue) and white and black. A greater number choose to use a warm and a cool hue of each of the primaries.

I find I have come to rely too much on handy color choices that allow me to be lazy. One of the downfalls of having too many color choices is a loss of harmony. Not all color hues mix well or work well together. Relying on a new color can actually disrupt the rest of the painting. Not to mention the difficulty of keeping all those different colors stocked and on your palette.

So I am choosing to pare back the number of colors I rely on in different situations. I still don’t plan to go minimalist, and I have a few colors I have come to rely on and know their properties well, but I intend to use a fixed base palette of just a six colors, plus white and a deep grey, and a few earth tones. I will augment this with some reserve colors for when the situation calls for something not easily mixed from the base palette.

Choosing which two reds to use on my base palette was the hardest choice. I have tried so many reds I can’t keep track of them all. So limiting reds to two, a warm and a cool, was a difficult challenge. In order to tackle it I created a color chart using several reds and some of the possible yellows I planned to choose from. The image below shows some of this process.

Mixing Reds with various yellows (and two tints)

I have chosen Quinachridone Red Rose for my cool red. It mixes nicely with many yellows to give a strong orange, and nice purply-pink when lightened with white. For my warm red I have chosen Napthol Red, which is a strong tinting red. Both are semi-transparent. The choice of Napthol Red is in place of Cadmium Red, which is more opaque, but I hope to, over time, move away from the Cadmiums due to their health properties.

Base Palette
So here is my “Basic” palette.

Quinachridone Red Rose (cool red)
Napthol Red (warm red)

Cadmium Lemon (cool yellow)
Cadmium Yellow Deep (warm red)

Ultramarine Blue (warm blue)
Cerulean Blue (cool blue, situationally replaced with Cobalt Blue)

Base Palette

Added to the based palette of a warm and a cool primary color I have chosen an ‘earth tone’ color for each color group.

Burnt Sienna – this gives me a nice red-leaning shade that will mix well to create some good earthy browns and tone down some of the other reds.

Yellow Ochre – is a versatile yellow that I use a lot when mixing greens. When mixed with reds it also creates the nice rusty oranges that dominate the autumn landscape here in Vermont.

Paynes Grey – which is the closest color I have to black, has a dark blue undertone and is almost always my starting color for mixing my greens.

Olive Green – for a long time I did not have a green on my palette as I choose to mix my own from my other colors. However I have found this Olive Green from Winsor and Newton to be a versatile dark green that is very close to the greens in the landscape right out of the tube and that I can push in different directions. I can also mix it with red for a rich, warm dark color.

Raw Umber – I don’t know of anyone, unless they limit themselves to just three colors, that does not have Raw Umber on their palette. A versatile deep, opaque brown it is great for sketching on the canvas, bringing the tone down in ultramarine blue, and mixing neutral colors and grey. Raw Umber and Ultramarine Blue is my go-to mix for a deep black color.

Earth Tones

Those 11 colors above, and white, are the ones I plan to rely on for the bulk of my painting, and will be the only ones I take with me when painting en-plein-air. However there are some colors which I have come to love in certain situations. These are my “Extended” or “Supplemental Palette”. These are not so much necessary colors as ones that are really nice to have in certain situations.

Continue reading “Color Overload”

Growth Over Production

In my last post I listed a number of intentions for 2022. So I thought I would dig in a little and explain what I mean and what my thoughts are for each of these intentions. As a reminder, here is my top intention for 2022.

Growth Over Production: As an artist it is easy to get caught up in trying to always produce ‘finished’ paintings. Paintings intended to show and to sell. This year I want the overriding focus to be on learning, exploring and skill building, instead of trying to make every painting a salable masterpiece.”

I think it’s natural to want every painting to be your best, or at least good enough to put out there for others to see and possibly sell. We do get better by producing more work, painting more paintings, practicing our craft as we go. However it’s not the most effective or efficient method of improvement. Constantly striving to produce finished works leaves us without the benefit of learning and practicing from what we’ve done, focusing on technique or gaining knowledge. If we only learn as we go, from making mistakes, it’s going to take an awful long time to get to where we want to be.

Of course one hallmark of being an artist is that we never really get to where we want to be, because there is always room for improvement, new things to learn, and we keep moving those goalposts. That is part of the allure. Always moving forward to do better, to try and master something new and different. Only by setting aside time to learn, practice, and improve can we make significant progress.

Setting an intention to focus more on learning and less on producing finished work is only the first step. I need a plan, and the discipline to follow that plan in order to make that intention stick. So here is my plan for growth in 2022.

  1. Limit the number of venues and submission opportunities I pursue. Having galleries and showing in group shows creates pressure to create finished pieces. I currently show my work in three galleries: The Arthound Gallery in Essex Vermont, The Gruppe Gallery in Jericho Vermont, and the Village Frame Shop and Gallery in Saint Albans Vermont. I also belong to, and sometimes show at, the Bryan Memorial Gallery where I work as a gallery manager, The Lyme Art Association in Old Lyme Connecticut, and the Southern Vermont Art Center in Manchester Vermont. I intend to be selective about which shows I submit to, and currently only plan to add one organization to this list, the Rockport Art Association which I hope to apply to in the Autumn of 2022 to become a regular member. Focusing on fewer venues will give me more time to play and explore and more time to learn from other artists.
  2. In-person learning. No matter what level and artist achieves they can always learn from others they admire or who provide a different skill set or approach. In-person learning is a goal that in the past has been set aside to make another deadline or for other reasons. A workshop with a skilled artist provides a level of knowledge, input and feedback that can’t easily be obtained any other way. So this is back on the priority list.
  3. On-line learning. One thing Covid has taught us is that on-line learning can be effective. We thought out online classes or programs can provide access not otherwise affordable or early obtained. I currently have three artists that I am learning from online either through their online program or schools, or their DVD/Streaming options. These three artists are: Andrew Tischler, Michael James Smith and his online school, and Scott Christensen’s Adventure Of Painting. Each offers something different and all offer something accessible and that can help me move my craft forward.
  4. Paint More Outdoors. One of my other “Intentions”, this part of my art practice and education has fallen by the wayside the past few years. Being on-site, in person and painting the landscape that is in front of your eyes offers the richest experience and greatest knowledge of the subject. I’ll talk about this more in my next post on my intention to “Bring the Outdoors In”.
  5. More time painting, and drawing. Another “Intention”, to commit more time to painting, will also be covered in a future post, but suffice it to say the more time spent applying paint to surface, through study, play, experimentation, or prescribed practice is necessary to make gains. The old maxim that you learn by painting “miles of canvas” is applicable. Improving your drawing skills is also a clear way to improve your painting. Easily put aside, a regular practice of drawing and sketching help you not only to render light and objects better when you paint, but hones your skills in composition, teaches you to really ‘see’ the subject, and gives you practice observing the landscape in all kinds of conditions.

Adding these steps together we have an approach that should yield substantial gains in the quality of my work, but only by putting in the time and being deliberate about how to get there. Blogging and posting about these intentions is a level of accountability that helps keep me on track.

I plan share my progress, and what I learn, so that you might gain some insight into what it takes to actually be an artist. Or if you are an artist, perhaps you’ll find some useful advice or information along the way. I welcome any input you may wish to share. Artists as a community are far stronger than an artist trying to go it alone. Thanks for following, and please recommend me, my blog, and my social media channels to anyone you think may be interested.


New Year Intentions (not Resolutions)

Intentions for 2022, planning, learning, sharing of my art practice this year.

Goodbye 2021. Welcome 2022! Leaving 2021 behind feels like a good thing. Even though it felt like turning a page back in January 2021, this year there are a number of things I will be doing different that will, regardless of what happens in the wider world, lead to a richer, more engaged art practice.

Let me state that I don’t do “Resolutions”. That word, to me, implies hard and fast measures in which you either succeed, or fail. Where-as “Goals”, or “Intentions” suggest the possibility of a continuum on which you can make any level of progress leading to success, while being flexible to allow for change.

So to kick of 2022 I want to start with my “Intentions” for my art practice for the coming year. In this post I will introduce those intentions that will guide my choices this year and I will expound with more details on many of these individually in future posts.

2021 Intentions:

  1. Growth Over Production: As an artist it is easy to get caught up in trying to always produce “finished” paintings. Paintings intended to show and to sell. This year I want the overriding focus to be on learning, exploring and skill building, instead of trying to make every painting a salable masterpiece.
  2. Bring The Outdoors In: Over the years I have ignored the practice of painting en-plein air (painting outdoors) despite knowing the benefits it can bring, even to my studio practice. Re-engaging with outdoor painting will provide me a number of benefits to my work. Plus, I just like being outside.
  3. Work On The Fundamentals: Deadlines are great, but they focus you on completing paintings for sale. Quality comes from practicing what you know, working on the fundamentals such as drawing, color mixing, brushwork, and only by spending time on these fundamental skills can real improvement take hold.
  4. Stretch The Boundaries: This one is perhaps counter-intuitive. Instead of focusing and perfecting what you know, it focuses on getting outside your comfort zone and allowing yourself to learn from alternative methods, approaches, tools or perhaps mediums, that will lead to new insight and growth. For me this might mean painting in a different style than typical of my work, or a different medium, or perhaps tackling different subjects.
  5. Color Exploration: I have always struggled with my color palette. Some colors I love and will likely continue to feature on my palette, but others, such as red, I am constantly struggling with which hue to use and when. I will likely simplify my palette somewhat this year, and will definitely explore different color choices with the intention to both learn what they can do and to hopefully arrive at a base palette that anchors my work.
  6. Manage Opportunities: I’m creating a submissions/opportunities calendar this year to focus me on a few venues and group shows that I want to showcase my finished work. I don’t want to chase every opportunity available. Without a solo show scheduled for this year, look for me to focus on a few venues and shows. It will still be a commitment to a lot of finished work, but I will have more time to consider and plan for each opportunity.
  7. Engage More: In addition to a submissions/opportunities calendar, I also intend to create a social media calendar. I’m still putting the finishing touches on this one, but I want to start sharing more on a regular basis with my fans. This will include three primary venues: this blog, facebook and instagram. If you are reading this and not following me on Facebook or Instagram you might consider doing so now 🙂
  8. Commitment: I am committing more time than at any prior point in my art career to the development of my practice. This means I will be doing more education, painting more studies, experimenting more, and spending more hours on my craft. I will likely produce fewer ‘finished’ works than in past years, but hopefully all the intentions I have set above will lead to a higher quality result.

Look for more details on these intentions, along with other topics, in future posts. You can follow my progress and see both works in progress and finished works along with other aspects of being an artist I hope to share on Facebook and Instagram. I am forever grateful for your interest, and happy to answer questions or engage in conversation.

May your 2022 be productive, rewarding, and filled with health and happy times. Thanks for accompanying me on my artistic journey.

Finally Here!

After a year of planning, and painting, the show I have been preparing for is finally here! It opened on the 12th, and the opening reception is October 15th from 1-4. 27 works, the majority of which were completed in the last 12 months. One huge benefit of getting ready for a gallery show is how it focuses you on painting whenever you can find a chance. No slacking. The hardest part may have been deciding which paintings get painted and which I had to move down the list to tackle another day. I have countless ideas for paintings yet to be done. We’ll see if I can keep the momentum. Although I will confess I do plan to take a short breather and enjoy what I’ve completed.

Seeing it all in one room is really quite exhilarating. Instead of seeing them one at a time, on an easel, having a room full of your work, framed and hung, gives you a different perspective on the body of work, but also each piece in it.

So for now, a sigh of relief. Thank you all for the support. I have many new things in mind, but right now I am going to enjoy the results. Come by the Gruppe Gallery on Barber Farm Road in Jericho Vermont between now and November 12th (check hours online) and see for yourself. Then shoot me a message and let me know what you think!


Getting Ready for a Gallery Show

It’s coming down to the wire as I get ready for my gallery show in October. I thought I would post some of the details and activities that need to be done in these last 4 weeks.

Me with my nice new frames

The most recent challenge was to narrow down the list of paintings I would be showing, along with pieces I am still working on and plan to finish, and deciding what I needed for frames.

Always order frames with enough spare time to account for any hiccups. I ordered 16 frames, and two of them were damaged. But because I have time I will get replacements next week. I will still need to check that my choices are good, and if need be, order new frames.

Have to re-order due to damage

Finishing work. While I would not recommend having to finish paintings just prior to a show, I imagine this is a pretty normal occurrence. There is always one more piece you hoped to get done and that is where I am now. I don’t “need” these final pieces, but I sure would like to get them done.

Postcards! If you are sending out postcards, better plan to have them at the printer about 4 weeks before the show. It will take a week to get them, and you want time to send them out ahead of the show.

Still working on finishing pieces for the show

Talk to your gallery, make sure everyone is on the same page with dates, reception details, food, announcements and the like. A good relationship with the gallery is essential. Knowing they will help you put on the best show possible is comforting, but don’t rely on them. Double check. Plan. Communicate and follow up.

Social Media planning and PR. Do you know who you want to reach just prior to the show? Do you have planned posts to your social media channels? Are you advertising (probably too late for that now). Have you contacted the usual outlets for listing your event? Have you enlisted friends and colleagues to help spread the word and generate some buzz?

Review your plan. Finally, on almost a daily basis, review your plan. What isn’t done that needs to get done. Where does your time and attention need to be over these next few weeks.

When this is over I will post my experience and some lessons learned. This is my first solo gallery show so I am sure there will be some surprises, positive and negative, that I can learn from the next time around. And if you live nearby (in the northern Vermont area) and want more details about this show, it will be at the Emile A. Gruppe Gallery on Barber Farm Road in Jericho. It opens on October 12th with an opening reception from 1-4 on Sunday October 15th. Come by and say “Hi”. I will be the tired looking guy probably putting finishing touches on the paintings on the wall 🙂