Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Palette: Part 2

So to finish off what I started yesterday leading up to my palette, I'll list off the colors in the in which they appear. Here's the image again as a reference:

I'll list them and explain certain groupings as I go. Initially my palette was just all the colors on the outer edges starting with white + yellow ocher (a color that no longer appears on my palette). The reason for the ridiculous amount of pigments you see piled on here is because once at Dorian's house for life drawing, Chris Pugliese made a guest appearance and he brought along his palette. That guy has a lot of paint on his palette, probably double what I have. So I went ahead and busted out paint tubes I hadn't used in years, and in some cases that I never even opened. In my ignorance, I would buy tubes of colors that appeared pretty in my eyes. "Oh look! Egyptian Violet, what a lovely color. I'm sure I'll use it!" sucker cost a lot of money. Never used it. While using this mini-beast of a pigment confetti fiesta I learned, or rather I RE-learned, why it is using less colors is somewhat better. For me at least. With so many colors to choose from, the amount of mud I create is staggering. Mud is good, yes, but maintaining a proper color harmony gets tricky when there's more than four or five pigments in any given color mixture. So now it has pretty much served as a major experiment in determining which colors I use the most and which ones I can remove.

So that I don't repeat myself in every color, I strive for the highest lightfastness level in my colors. Lightfastness is a color's endurance to light exposure as well as its inherent fading properties. Certain pigments fade after several years with or without any exposure to light. Those colors do not appear on my palette if I can help it.

1 and 2: Blue Black and Mars Black. Yes, I added black to my palette because sometimes I need a really dark value and mixing it myself doesn't always cut it. As is the case with the majority of my colors, they are a cool and warm of the color. Blue Black as replaced Ivory Black because it is more permanent and won't crack as much with age. Mars Black is the warmer black, and a really lovely color to use actually. Winsor & Newton and Williamsburg brand, respectively.

3: Titanium White (right now experimenting with Permalba white), and sometimes mixed with genuine Old Holland Flake White and made brighter by grinding Titanium White pigment into the mix. I do the latter when I want a super opaque, blindingly bright white. White is probably the most important color on any realist palette.

4 and 5: Burnt Sienna and Transparent Red Oxide. I reintroduced burnt sienna because its just an awesome warm color. I don't use it as often as the red oxide, so I prepare a smaller pile of it. The red oxide is more transparent than the sienna, so it's great for making luminous glazes. I haven't quite settled on a brand for burnt sienna, but Rembrandt for the red oxide.

6: Cadmium Red or Vermillion, depending on what I need. Both are permanent, but cad red has much more covering power. Vermillion is slightly warmer and perfect when you want subtle temperature shifts. Holbein for vermillion, not settled on cad red but using Winsor & Newton at the moment.

7 and 8: Quinacridone Red and Permanent Rose. These two reds are very transparent and more importantly completely permanent. I started using these two after reading James Gurney's post on pure Alizarin Crimson's instability http://gurneyjourney.blogspot.com/2010/04/lightfastness-and-alizarin-crimson.html. I may give the color itself another try in its permanent or hue form, but for now these two make me happy. Quinacridone red, when mixed with certain greens, makes luscious browns and amazing flesh tones. Haven't settled on any brand.

9 and 10: Cad Yellow Light and Lemon Yellow. Slowly finding little use for the first color, but lemon yellow is wonderful! Holbein.

11 and 12: Cinnabar Green Light and Viridian. The first is a opaque, warm green that makes beautiful browns when mixed with transparent reds. Viridian is a gorgeous cool green that lends to some beautiful mixtures when used. It doesn't overpower the other pigments, but it has presence. Holbein and Rembrandt, respectively

13 and 14: Cobalt Blue and Manganese Pthalo Blue. I used to hate Cobalt, now I can't live without it. All purpose blue pretty much. Makes great flesh tones, blacks, browns, you name it! Manganese pthalo blue is a ridiculously transparent color. Since it is a pthalocyanine pigment it tends towards the greenish side. Low tinting strength, but easily shifts to warm or cool. Holbein and Rembrandt

15: Magenta. This is regular magenta, so it isn't permanent but it will soon be replaced by permanent magenta or perhaps quinacridone magenta. Its a beautiful warm color, great for flesh tones. Also a very transparent color so it makes great glazes. No brand preference.

So that's my original palette. Now all the add ons...

16: Brilliant Pink. I think I saw it on Chris Pugliese's palette, or at least some similar color. I hate it. Not gonna use it anymore. No tinting strength even though it is semi-opaque. Even though it is bright and festive, it muddies my mixtures.

17: Golden Ocher: Haven't really given this color a fair run yet.

18: Cadmium Yellow: Possible replacement for Cad Yellow Light. It's warmer and I've found myself dipping the brush in there a whole lot more. No brand yet.

19: Yellow Ochre Light: new permanent addition to my palette, replacing traditional yellow ochre. It is lighter in tone, which I personally like a lot more. Mixes easily, permanent, and great covering power. Rembrandt.

20: Naples Yellow or Jaune Brilliant, or occasionally a mix of both: I have a lot of naples yellow leftover from art school, so I thought I'd give it another chance. Still don't like it.

21: Greenish Yellow: This little gem... oh man how I love it. Beautiful transparent green, when mixed with quinacridone red makes a heavenly golden brown glaze. Nuff said! However, I don't know if it is permanent since Holbein colors are hard to read since they're in a different language and there's no visible markings for lightfastness. Cinnabar Green Pigment is it's permanent (in the color sense) replacement until I find out.

22: Turquoise: Gorgeous color, but not very useful in regular painting. Nice accent color though. Holbein

23: Pthalo Turquoise: Same as above. Rembrandt

24: Pthalo Blue: The mother of all tinting colors. This mofo will get into every other color even if you don't put any on your palette. But my Lord it is a beautiful color. Warmish blue, superior tinting strength, beautifully transparent, and photographs like a champ according to Donato. I don't use it often, but it does make occasional appearances when I need a blue that wants to be noticed. Williamsburg

25: Ultramarine: It was on my palette in place of cobalt for a while and has found its way back. I love this blue. Transparent, warm but can be cooled easily (temperature is really all relative anyway), makes beautiful darks and great glazes. Williamsburg and Rembrandt

26: Egyptian Violet: I have absolutely no use for this color as of now, but its a Williamsburg color.

A and B: MUD! At the end of every painting session, I scrape up and mix all the mixtures I used. It it is dark, I put it in the A area, if its lighter it goes in B. This mud gets used constantly to alter and knock down the chroma of a certain mixture. Or I can use as is in many cases. I don't like wasting paint.

C: Transparent Red Oxide + White. Its just a tint. I use it so often with white mixed that I figured why not save myself the time and just mix a pile of it to start with and run with it.

So that is my palette right now. I plan on downsizing it to a more manageable number of colors, but this'll do for the time being.

As far as brands are concerned I don't attach myself to one. Each brand has their own pros and cons. If I could afford Old Holland paints, I would buy them since they are ground in natural cold pressed linseed oil and not alkali refined oil, tothe best of my knowledge. But they are no where near my price range. Until then I PREFER transparent colors from Winsor & Newton and Rembrandt and opaques from Holbein. I also use Williamsburg which is a step down from Old Holland. They're not as expensive, and their colors don't always mix nicely, but they do have some gems like Ultramarine Blue and the Cadmiums.

Tomorrow I'll discuss the Old Master palettes that influenced me the most; Rembrandt and especially Bouguereau. Thursday will be devoted to the contemporary masters who really got me thinking about color in a different way. And Friday will be first friday self-portrait day :)

Monday, November 29, 2010

The Palette: Part 1

Hello all! It has been over two weeks since I last posted, but things have been pretty busy on my end. This week I'd like to delve into matters pertaining to the artist's palette. Every aspiring, and even professional artist is drawn to the color choices used by masters past and present. Our curiosity leads us to experiment with various pigments and over time this develops into a very personal, unique set of colors comprising that individual artist's palette. It becomes as personal as one's style. To start this whole shebang off, I'd like to give a little history of the evolution of my palette along with the trials and tribulations of my paintings that led to where I am today. If anything the examples I show of my old work will hopefully make you laugh, not because they are funny, but because they're quite horrendous :)

I've been painting in oils for about four years now, roughly since second semester of my junior year. For those who knew me then, you'll recall how miserably awful my work was. Maybe I was too slow in making the transition from strictly graphic design to traditional, or perhaps (and this is most likely the case) I really just had no freakin' clue how to use color. My fellow illustrator friends were already leaps and bounds ahead of me, completing projects with ease and creating magnificent pieces of art, all the while I struggled in every medium to catch up and at the very least have my assignments look presentable enough in their block-in stage to please my instructors. It was a pretty demoralizing affair, truth be told.

Fairy Tale in a different time period assignment. I did the Frog Prince influenced by Aztec civilization. You can tell right....

Final project for illustration painting class where we could do what we wanted, creating it for the market we wished to be a part of. In my case it was fantasy. This painting was a valuable lesson to not use Crystal Clear as an in between speed drying medium for oils. Ignorance is bliss, but that was just plain stupid!
A note on that grayish border: I currently use this painting to place smaller masonite boards on top of when I gray gesso them. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle everyone :)

Book cover assignment. "American Gods" by Neil Gaiman. I did absolutely no justice to his story whatsoever. Sorry Neil!

In all these you can see the state in which I brought my pieces for critique. In some cases I had more than a week to finish the paintings. Yup, not so much.

But for some inexplicable reason I persisted. Something about colors mixing, happy accidents occurring while I painted (none of which I could replicate at the time), warm and cool harmonies dancing on the surface tempting me ever so gently to carry on. "Go man! Go!" my paintings would egg me on in a very British, Eddie Izzard voice. Suffice it to say, I did not complete a single painting until my last semester in art school, right about when my brain said "Hey dickhead! You need to graduate so get your shit together pronto!"

So I took an oil painting technique class with the awesome Anthony Apesos, whose anatomy book I wrote a review of in a very early post here:
But anyway, I took his class and learned about the history of oil painting and all that jazz, as well as various techniques. I will go in depth with such information in a later post. For now I will only mention his introducing us to the palette of legendary Greek painter Apelles. You can google or wikipedia the artist, but long story short this was the beginning of my long and continuing research into artist palettes in the hopes of finding my own personal palette. Apelles, according to Tony and his sources, used a palette of four colors (very similar to the palette of Anders Zorn actually) consisting of, for our modern purposes: titanium white, lamp black, yellow ochre, and light red (pigment PR101 or 102 depending on manufacturer, also called Venetian Red). According to legend, Apelles was able to paint just about anything with those four pigments. So that was our first big assignment. And golly gee let me tell you, I learned more using just those four colors than being swamped with the full color palettes from previous classes. All the colors that you can mix are optical approximations of the intended color. Everything is relative. When you mix white and black, yes you get gray (Duh!). But when you place that gray next to a really warm mixture of yellow ochre, light red, and white it reads as a blueish tone.

Magic! Literally, in my eyes that was magic. I couldn't believe that such a simple arrangements of earthy pigments could lead to such brilliant results. And to think that a lot of the Old Masters used such limited palettes to create their masterpieces, that just flat out blew my mind! So here is my first big painting ever executed with the palette of Apelles. After the whole thing was pretty much worked out with that palette we were allowed to introduce accent colors (such as Sap Green and Cadmiums).

It's about 18" by 30" I believe. I show this here for the first and final time. It will be painted over with something better, I hope at least.

So I graduated art school, got my BFA in illustration, did a few jobs here and there, got a job, all that stuff. But my urge to know more about colors continued to boil within me. My very first palette was the one suggested to us by teachers. It included Cadmium Red Light, Alizarin Crimson, Cadmium Orange, Cad Yellow Light, Yellow OChre, Permanent Green Light, Sap Green, Ultramarine Blue, Cobalt Blue, Dioxyzine Purple, Burnt and Raw Umber, Burnt and Raw Sienna, Ivory Black,and Titanium White. A strong palette, but it didn't resonate with me. It was a helluva great starting point though. I began to pay closer attention to the artists I admired, namely Bouguereau and Donato Giancola. The French Academic maestro of sheer awesomeness and the fantastical, narrative driven contemporary master of pure amazingness! Just look them up and you'll see why they require their titles.

But as my tastes in art matured, I began looking further back. Rembrandt, Velasquez, and Rubens are my top three of all time. But there are others like Sargent and Sorolla, Repin and Fechin, Normal Rockwell and other great illustrators who I looked to. The modern masters of figurative arts like Richard Schmid, Dorian Vallejo, Jeremy Lipking, and Robert Liberace all came into my peripheral moreso than when I was a bumbling art student. Needless to say, I have spent a fortune on paints (five finger discount came in handy when I was a broke art student. Don't judge me, I'm not proud). After years of experimenting and dabbling with different colors I have recently come upon a palette that suits my needs as an artist. I present to you the most recent incarnation of my color palette:

Twenty-nine colors in all; 26 straight from the tube + 1 tint + 2 mud piles. In the second part of my palette posts I'll elaborate on why I use these colors, why there are so many, and who influenced me in my decisions. For now I leave you with these last two images done in gouache, when Tony DiTerlizzi was my idol (these two are epic failures as well)

Friday, November 12, 2010


Today's post will have a few images in lieu of my lack of posts throughout the week. First I'll show a drawing I did at Dorian's house a couple weeks ago. It was done with Pan Pastel and graphite on hot press watercolor paper, about 12" x 16."

Second, and most importantly, I finally finished a painting that I had started in August. You can see it in the early stages in a previous post http://painterification.blogspot.com/2010/09/some-works-in-progress.html along with a couple other pieces I'll be showing in this post. I'm really happy with how it came out and all thats left to do is frame that bad larry. I'm thinking of getting an oval matte for it too, it'll look nice.

Third is an experimental self-portrait I did a while back. I was playing a lot with thick applications of paint and how they mix on the surface. There's a lot of things I liked and learned that I apply to my work now. Conversely there are a lot of things I will never do again. The palette of colors is the actual palette I used. It has since grown significantly to about 30 some odd colors. Starting from the right: Titanium White, Yellow Ochre (has since replaced by Rembrandt yellow ochre light), Transparent Red Oxide, Cadmium Red, Quinacridone Red (http://gurneyjourney.blogspot.com/2010/04/lightfastness-and-alizarin-crimson.html I replaced alizarin crimson with quinacridone after reading this, and several other, posts by James Gurney), Cadmium Orange, Winsor Yellow (Cadmium Yellow Light is a good equivalent), Lemon Yellow, Greenish Yellow (a color I picked up after reading about Dan Dos Santos's favorite colors. Love/hate relationship with this one), Viridian, Cobalt Blue, Manganese Pthalo Blue, and Magenta.

Finally I have a self-portrait started over the summer. I had begun the painting using the CSO painting medium I discussed in a previous post (the skull 3 hour study) but at the time I didn't really know how to use it. Because I wanted to execute the painting entirely with the CSO mixed paints, I set it aside until I could grasp how to use it successfully. It was a trip to my friend Dorian Vallejo's house one evening to show him some of my paintings that got me excited to jump back into this one. He loved it, and I was more confident about the CSO. And thus, I put it on my easel again and began working. Anatomy was completely off from my initial work on it, so I began fixing it and I'm still working to make it look believable. This is what I have so far and I'm incredibly happy with it. Enjoy!

My plan (wishful thinking) is to finish the cigar self-portrait as well as a commissioned portrait that I'll show when completed, all by November 15. I can definitely put a major dent in my work this weekend since I took today off and have the whole weekend to just paint. After all the work is done, I'll have about 10 pieces for my portfolio for grad school and it will free up about 2 months to work on a couple more ambitious paintings that'll really raise the bar for me as a painter. I'll post sketches for one of them next week. Any and all feedback is welcome. Have a great weekend everyone

Friday, November 5, 2010

First Friday Self-Portraits

So I decided that every first friday of every month, I'm going to post a self-portrait. It may be in the form of a fully realized painting, a one day oil painting, a quick sketch, drawing, whatever. So to kick start this whole thing, I painted myself yesterday over a previous failed self-portrait. I blocked it in quickly the night before after finishing up the day's work on a portrait commission and then worked on it yesterday. All told, it took about 7 hours give or take. Its oil on canvas mounted on masonite. Looking at it now there's a few areas that could have been approached better, so I may go back into it once its dry later on in the day and touch up some areas. This was officially the first time I used my new palette of colors, inspired by Chris Pugliese's beast of a palette after watching him paint at Dorian's. I don't know which colors he uses exactly, I failed to ask. But Brilliant Pink, Turquoise Blue, and Cinnabar Green are my new best friends. Enjoy!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Pan Pastel experiment 2

Sorry for the delayed post. I'm behind two, hehe. This is my second stab at Pan Pastels. Love this stuff! Model is Marisa who I have used before and is probably the most recognizable face in my work. Good friend, great model! Enjoy!

Here I lightly mark in her gesture and proportions

Blocking in larger masses

Continuing to refine, did her face in pretty much one shot no looking back

Close up of her face

Almost done

Not the best picture, but this is the finished result. I left it in my studio for a few days without looking at it saying I'd come back to it. When I did go back to it, I realized there wasn't much I should do, so I'm calling it done. Very happy with the results.

For your viewing pleasure, a bonus image of Marisa. This is a small 5x7 inch study I did as part of a class I'm taking at work. THe instructor is Robert Kogge and he developed a fascinating technique using colored pencil on raw canvas. Here's my first attempt at it, only I went ahead and added oils. The softness of the colored pencil on canvas is completely lost when I applied the matte medium to seal the surface. But I tell you what... it makes for one helluva great underpainting. I was able to bring all the color back and some in no more than 45 minutes.