Monthly Archives: August 2015

Experiments with a limited palette

Over the last few days I tried experimenting different limited palettes on the same painting. I did it as part of the course on Mastering Color by Richard Robinson, and grabbed the following image (part of one of his workshops) as reference:
New Zealand Landscape

I first made a black and white study to try to define lights and darks, then moved to a few limited palettes (and I admit the transition is more painful than it seems!).
All studies are about 6.5 cm wide. I wanted to push the middle mountain back in the distance so I also made it lighter and bluer.
Yellow Ochre + Burnt Sienna + Ultramarine Blue + White
Limited Palette NZ 1I felt too limited by the absence of a strong light color, so I switched my yellow to a Cadmium Yellow.

Limited Palette NZ 2

In the first one, I realized the middle distance mountain and tree line were way too gray, so I tuned up chroma. However, I tried getting it so green that I lowered value as well, making it look closer (#2) and odd. I then painted it all again and was quite pleased with the third one. Still, despite being the better of all tests (in my opinion), the middle distance mountain still has something wrong. Whilst the the light color is acceptable, the shade is too saturated and way too light (taking off color makes it vanish into the rest of the mountain. The scheme is nice as it’s an almost complementary orange/blue.
Gamut Test on Limited Palette

Being undecided on the warm/cool choices, I painted a study using only Alizarin Crimson and Ultramarine plus white:

WarmCool Exercise 1


Yes, it makes no sense. However, by taking away any possible green I noticed I got less scared on mixing decisions and placements. Not being distracted by trying to get the color I saw, I purely focused on value (kind of difficult in this case for me to get the hang of) and warm/cool hues.
I used the midpoint grayish pink between red and blue as my neutral, red/pink for the warm, blue for the cool. It really helped me getting the feeling of which zones I can paint cool, and which warm, in my final painting.

Lastly, I added Lemon Yellow (ugh, I don’t really like it) to Alizarin and Ultramarine:
Limited Palette NZ last

The first one is really fiddled, I even scraped some colors off with the palette knife and tried again. Apart from that, it seems fairly harmonious. I was unsure about the dark brown of the tree shadow.
Limited Palette in Oils NZ Really Last
The photo here washed out my colors a bit. In any case, I was unsatisfied of the muddy look of the top one, because the shadow is way too brown and lacks the green’s complementary, purple. Therefore, I went for an almost pure Alizarin in the last (bottom) one. I am happier with the result. I also tried making the tree darker and could use a duller green, closer to the reference, thanks to the dark purple.

All in all, I still prefer the Cadmium Yellow one to this. I also went too high in chroma for the green, as Lemon Yellow heads way towards the cold spectrum. I should really get a better Cadmium Yellow Light to use in this painting.

Next up: Gamut Masking!


Sketching at the Natural History Museum

My town has a tiny but interesting collection of stuffed animals (mainly birds), and a few archaeological artifacts, stack together and showcased in some old school rooms. I wanted to do some life drawings today, so I packed up some water soluble pencils, a water brush, and my loyal Lumograph 2b, and made my way to the museum.

Big Shell of the museum - water soluble pencils
The first sketch is a big, white shell I came across in one of the rooms. I cursed myself for not having brought some darker ink to paint the background and make the shell look as white as it was. It was kind of back lit because of an open window, and had some tiny led lights over it as well. It was sitting on a blue  carpet so there was a lot of that blue in the bottom part’s shade. Sadly, I failed to capture the right darkness of this bottom part.

Pencil Sketches at the museum
I then move to the archaeological area where I sketched out various things in pencil (it’s not the same sketchbook, this is one I made myself with Fabriano extra smooth paper). That Ursus thing is actually a Bear’s leg. Ursu Spelaeus should mean Cave Bear.

Sketch of a White Stork at the museumIn my last 50 minutes I headed over to the birds collection, and find this white stork pretty inspiring. The beak was of a flame red but I didn’t have any bright color of the red family. My only reddish hue was brown, so I tried using that. The yellowish areas were made by blending a light olive with brown/umber. I used the black pencil again to get the background and try having those white feathers stand out a bit.

Next time, I should really take the inks with me as well.


Dancing Woman

A couple of days ago I got my first toned paper sketchbook. Yeah, I actually never tried toned paper before.
I obviously fell in love for it already 😀 Getting both darks and lights was a lot easier than I expected, and am pretty satisfied with my first sketch:
Dancing Woman Sketch on toned paperIt’s nothing more than a couple of inches tall sketch I made out of an image of Wetcanvas’ Reference Image Library. A lot can be improved, especially because I used a 2b pencil for the darks and white colored pencil (Caran D’Ache Supracolor) for the lights. I’m pretty sure I can go better with some charcoal pencils.


Punching Ball Arcade

We’ve had a (really) small fair in my town the last few days. Today, I went out for a short sketching session, hoping to find some weirdo to capture, or any decent attraction. The streets were deserted as I went out just right after lunch. I came across this quite interesting punching ball arcade , which I thought deserved to be recorded in the sketchbook:
Punching Ball Arcade SketchToo bad I am not done with my lightweight pochade easel yet, colors were decent, it would have been nice to capture those too.

Meanwhile, a guy was yelling to someone at the phone. Someone I guess owed him 75 euros. Precise 😀
While I was about to set off, a man (from the local market, he said) approached me and asked me if I could draw him as well. I told him I didn’t have enough time, but after his insisting requests I agreed on taking a very quick (15 minutes) sketch of him.

Market Guy

He was evidently convinced I could render a hyper-realistic drawing in a few seconds, so he stood still for about 5 minutes before starting to ask “are you done”. This deserves a LOL. To all of you who never picked up a pencil: no, artists can’t print out your face in a few strokes, unless they are very skilled. I am not a real artist, nor skilled, so.
The above is what I came up with, just a couple of inches tall. Despite some curious behind me whispering “PRECISO!” (meaning precise, in Italian), I think it’s not exactly like the subject. Still, practice.


Gelato (Ice Cream) Truck

There are always plenty of folks in my town’s square on Sunday, as we have a pretty big local market. I went out sketching again today, and sat down right in front of an ice cream (gelato, in italian) truck, which I tried capturing on the sheet. I couldn’t finish it as I had to get back for lunch, but I’m quite happy with the result, nonetheless.

Ice Cream Tuck SketchThe guy at the very top left was kind of happily eating his sandwich, sitting at a cafe. I couldn’t get its funny expression sadly, I think he didn’t have more than 1-2 teethe left in his mouth, while the guy opposite (with the full mouth, second from the right) was assaulting his cake, totally ignoring his wife’s complaints.


Post Office Dudes

I had to go to the post office this morning. I took the chance to bring my sketchbook with me and try sketching out something. I spotted some interesting poses, although I always have trouble sketching people from life…when they move 🙂
I tried following James Gurney‘s advice on drawing subjects in motion, who actually suggests closing the eyes to freeze the last image you saw in your mind. It did work, to a certain extent, but I need to practice more.

Sketches: Post Office Dudes

Then, I spotted a very weird guy all of a sudden. He was kind of hunchback, wearing a reddish jacket and carrying a pink shoulder bag. He was totally odd. His grey-ish hair were long enough to reach the mid of his back, loosely tied in a messy ponytail. He was wearing some huge sunglasses and totally had the look of an old lady mixed with a rockstar of the 70s. I think he had lipsitck as well… or had just eaten some blueberries. I did a very quick sketch of him from the back (you can see it above), but he sadly left after a few minutes so I couldn’t really catch his face.
I don’t know whether his bag was heavy or what else, but he kept the right shoulder almost stuck to his cheek. A character.

After getting back home, I tried drawing him from memory. I’m pretty sure he didn’t exactly look like this, but the feeling is all there. That’s what would happen if my friend’s cousin’s grandma had some passion for rock. Still, he was a man…probably. The post office’s employee told him “We will have to bear you for another month.”. Odd! No idea what they were talking about, but it was worth writing that down.

Sketches: Post Office Weird Dude