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Thursday, January 07, 2016

Studio Hack: A Must Have Tool for Better Color

'Way Down South'           18x24        pastel        ©Karen Margulis
available $450
It's so simple but it is truly the secret to good color harmony in a painting. Once I embraced this habit my paintings changed for the better. Pastels make it tricky to have good color in a painting. It seems like it would be easy since we have so many colors available to use. That precisely is the problem! Too many colors used in one painting can easily lead to muddy and dull color.

The answer is to limit the number of pastels used for a painting. Many pastel artists leave out each stick of pastel used. Or they stand them up so they can see how many are in use. I prefer to choose my pastel palette in advance. I am still too tempted by that big box of yummy color so I have to avoid it and keep my working palette seperate.

I like to pull out the colors I think I will need for a painting  during the planning stage. I found the perfect way to keep them available and protected. Metal Butcher Trays! They are sold for mixing paint (purchase here) but they make excellent trays for a working pastel palette.

'Way Down South 2'      5x7    oil on panel    $75
I bought several of these trays. I line them with an old washcloth so the pastels don't roll around or shift. Having several trays allows me to keep a working palette for a painting while starting a new painting with a different palette.  This week I have three trays in use. I have three different projects all with different palettes. I don't have to clean up and start over until I am finished with my projects.

Sure you can use box lids or even place the sticks you are using on a table or paper towel....but these butcher trays are durable,  easy to clean and stack for storage. They truly have been one of the most important tools I use in the studio!

butcher trays with working palettes in action

 Note: My 30 paintings in 30 days challenge continues. Today I did the large pastel first then the smaller oil. I am happy to report that I am still having success with my very limited palette. This painting was done with Cad yellow medium, red, ultramarine blue and white. I was happy to discover many wonderful and harmonious oranges and violets and beautiful grays that I was able to mix. I will add more colors to the palette but I am challenging myself to keep it simple....more with less!


Sandi G said...

Karen, one of the first things I did after seeing the butchers tray attached to your easel years ago was to start using one. I found is hard at first to chose my palette prior to painting and sometimes I had to add "spice" or a fe other pastels I did not take in consideration before choosing but what a huge difference as the painting was so cohesive when finished. Thank you

Wendy said...

Hauling my butcher's tray out right now!
Thanks, I always end up with too many pastels in front of me.

vyigfu said...

Thanks for your daily emails with useful tips, Karen - I always look forward to them. Although I like using a butcher tray for mixing watercolors, for pastels, I prefer using the black plastic trays that are used to package sliced cheeses and lunch meats. They're free, can be tossed in the dishwasher and are not as heavy as butcher trays. They have a textured bottom that keeps the pastels from rolling around. After a few uses, I toss them in the recyle. So, for those who can't afford to buy several butcher trays, this is a great option that has worked very well for me.

Anonymous said...

Karen, Just like you use a push pin to create 'grass,' you can use the end of a paint brush to scrape 'grass' onto an oil painting. Also, it amazes me how much you have improved in 7 days! Your confidence shows through.

Karen Rodgers

Dotty Seiter said...

LOVE Way Down South, especially the thin sharpness and vibrancy of the marsh grass in the foreground. Exquisite!


carol russell said...

Finally!!!! since you've started doing oils i've been saddened because your oils were more vibrant, which is what i've always loved about your pastels. Finally in this one your pastels blew me away (again); as they usually do!!!!!!

robertsloan2art said...

Also love seeing the little oil painting with your pastel version. This is very cool. I might get into some oils later on, still need to work out wet painting drying area.