A Limited Palette

I often tell my painting students that if they want to learn how to mix colors, they need a limited palette. In my opinion, this is the best way to learn the process of combining pigments to achieve a variety of hues.

Winter Landscape in the Southwest

In the Southwest during the winter season, the landscape looks rather barren: brown, tan, with interspersed shades of dark green. Many oak trees have turned ochre red or burnt orange, while others have lost their leaves completely.

On my property there are also several dead oaks that remain standing, their gray-white branches outstretched towards the sky. It looks rather bleak, especially if it’s raining or foggy.

My Limited Palette

I decided to paint the view from the top of a hill as an experiment using the pigments I had collected from the side of the driveway—mostly ochres: rich browns, tan, and brick-colored ochres.

So, I used paint from a very limited palette, cheating just a little bit by adding zinc white and ultramarine blue to my color scheme. I also used spirulina, a blue-green algae, which is a wonderful veridian green.

Limited Palette Dec 2023

My Landscape Painting

The landscape in front of me extended about seven miles north and included many of the rolling hills between my ranch and Llano, Texas. It was a fine view of the Texas hill country, famous for the topography in and around Fredericksburg and Marble Falls.

I used my favorite painting medium, Maroger, an oil-based varnish in the form of a soft jelly which has great versatility. I use this medium quite extensively, and with this recent landscape it helped my still somewhat crude pigments “spread” with more ease. I also achieved a nice luster on the finished work with the Maroger medium.

Landscape painting Dec 2023

So, in this manner I have painted my environment with the earth I found from the same environment. It’s a heady kind of feeling to use local elements in the creation of something else, in this case a landscape painting. It’s an emotional surge of sorts, possibly the same kind of experience as drinking a good cup of coffee, or maybe a beer. But don’t take my word for it—try painting for yourself sometime.

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