I’m sick and tired of seeing so much saturated colour in my paintings. There is only one way to react, which is to drastically change my approach. I’ve been painting with a very limited palette for the last couple of years, cad red, cad yellow and one or two blues. Sometimes I used alizarin and viridian to create black.
It’s time to go search for a more tonal approach again. With this small piece I call “Leveling out”, I’ve used Ultramarine, Burnt Sienna, Titanium White, Cad Yellow (just a tad, for the pencil), Alizarin and Cerulean Blue. Although some different colours than before, the palette is not restricted much more than previously. However, having only Alizarin as a red makes a huge difference already, especially if used only scarcely like in this painting. I’m letting the neutral grays and blues dominate the composition, which makes it easier for the eye.
My Ultramarine + Burnt Sienna “tool” was something I used to use a lot until I found I was becoming too depending on it. By mixing these pigments, you can get a very neutral black and equally neutral grays. Now that I feel I can’t get the mood I’m after in my paintings, I’m going back to these 2 colours without any doubts. After all, painters paint with paint, and the paint serves our goal.
If you are a painter facing similar problems, you’re not happy about the atmosphere your work has, here’s a little tip that might help you as well as it helped me. Looking at the palette can give you an idea of the colours you use and sometimes it tells you how important they seem in your painting. This is not always the case, but often, the biggest mixing blobs are usually the colours you’ve used the most in your painting. When looking at your palette instead of your painting, you pull the colours out of their context. If you don’t like what you see, now is the time to change! Cleaning the palette and starting all over is a good option in that case.