Tuesday, October 27, 2009

William Whitaker on classic palette

[I'm currently using a limited palette of Titanium white, Red Vermillion, Yellow Ocher, Ivory black...]

Your basic four colors comprise the so-called classic palette. To be 100% sure of the following information, I'd have to see your red-vermillion. However, if your paints are quality, I'm sure your red-vermillion is just fine too.

Mix some secondary colors.
Black plus yellow ochre = green.
Black plus white = blue.
Both those secondaries are good to modify and tone down your basic flesh of white, vermillion and yellow ochre. When mixing your basic flesh, start with white, add just enough yellow ochre to get the right pitch, then add a tiny bit of vermillion to get it just right. Add more vermillion and you get pink cheeks and even lips.

Now mix black and vermillion. You get a lovely dark brown. Use this unmodified for your darkest shadows in the nose, ears, and lip line. Apply it thin and transparent for your darkest flesh.

A useful color for turning your form from the light flesh to the shadow is raw umber. You can make a good raw umber by mixing black, yellow and a little red. Add white to it and it approaches grey.

Play around.

But remember, the best way to learn is to paint from life. Con a friend into sitting for you. I've done that for years, then given the sitter the results. If you are smarter than I am, you can sell the sitter the results!

Work in natural indirect light. Place your figure against a dark neutral background. (A piece of cloth will do.) This will give you Old Master light and shadows, which are the best for painting the figure.

I've posted a head I cropped from a fairly recent 10x8" painting on panel. (A lot of my current stuff is small.) I did this with a fairly limited palette. Remember, value is more important than color.

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