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Monday, September 28, 2015

When Less is More....Choosing a Limited palette

'High Tide'              12x18               pastel                ©Karen Margulis
purchase $165
Do you ever feel like you don't have enough pastels? Does there always seem to be a color missing? Do you worry about keeping track of your favorites and running out? Is the answer is yes then know you are not alone! Surely there is some kind of chemical in pastels that cause us to crave more.

I have hundreds and hundreds....(maybe thousands :0 ) of pastels and yet I just ordered a few more. It seems we can never have enough.  But we really don't NEED as many as we WANT. Sure, it is nice to have every color available to us but we can paint a good painting with a very limited palette.

The key is Value. As long as we have a range of values from dark to light we can paint anything. It might not be the exact color palette we would have liked but the painting will still 'read'.

Here is an exercise to help prove this idea. I allowed myself just 17 pastels for a painting.

17 pastels comprise my limited palette 
  • I limited the value range for a simple marsh landscape to just four values: dark, light, middle dark and middle light.
  • I choose just four pastels for each of the four values. I selected the pastels primarily by value. I did select some warms and cool colors in each section but this was actually not planned. I was trying to choose random colors.
  • While the colors I chose were somewhat random I did try to choose colors that might work for a green marsh. Being limited to 16 pastels made it challenging.
  • I selected one extra pastel for my spice. (the bright yellow-green)

Painting with a plan = a more painterly painting 
Before I began the painting I did a small black and white thumbnail sketch. I wanted to simplify my subject into a few masses and assign each shape a value. This made it easier to decide where to place my 16 colors....darks went in the dark shape, lights into the light shape, etc. It was as simple as following a map.

An interesting thing came of this exercise. I did two paintings with the same 17 pastels and even with this limited palette I was able to create two different looks to this same marsh.

'High Tide II'           12 x 18         pastel             ©Karen Margulis   $165
 Sometimes Less is More. This  exercise will prove it. It is a good lesson to know we don't need as many pastels as we want.....but don't let that stop you from placing your next order!


robertsloan2art said...

Wow! That first one gives me the shivers, such a mucky cold wet day I can feel my joints ache just looking at it. You perfectly captured that leaden atmosphere of overcast and up too early in the morning, which may have happy memories for duck hunters and folks who like weather. The second one, color's there and light - all with the same limited palette!

Great lesson on limited palette. Very effective. Whenever I bought a Terry Ludwig "Mystery Box" I would look at it and paint something just with the contents - he always included at least three and usually four values, plus warms and cools. So I could do that.

Alejandra Gos said...

I like using a limited palette because it eliminates complexity and keeps color harmony.
Its something so simple to do once we realize that the value is more important than the color.

Personally I like the second one better :) I love dark purples.