Near the end of the year it is always good to reanalyze some of the methods one has been using to see if one wishes to continue in the same direction. Over the past 18 months, I have been using Henri’s 50% Intensity Palette and it has worked fairly well. This is the palette where half the colors along the spectrum are at full intensity and half are at 50% intensity. I found this palette pretty easy to use with some good effects. It worked very well if the composition contained a large portion of colors in the middle to dark value range with the blues rather subdued.
But recently, I am trying a method where the middle tones are full of color with the highs neutralized with white and the extreme darks composed of a juxtaposition of 2-3 colors that optically appear as a near-neutral but contain full color. Think dark green and purple laid side by side and appearing at a distance as a subdued dark blue (Chevreul’s, Simultaneous Contrast of Colors). The 50% Intensity palette left the darks too neutralized to get this effect. Plus, I wanted a cool blue added to my more neutralized lights without appearing dull. These effects I witnessed last year at the Delacroix show at the Met and they are still haunting me.
I also wanted a yellow I could use as a glaze. Presently, I had been using an azo yellow with a touch of raw sienna and viridian added to it. This works very well in the lights, but I am unsatisfied with it in the darks. I also found that Delacroix would often lay a yellow glaze over an entire painting and then proceed to paint into the glaze while wet. This technique unifies the image and sets the new tones comfortably within the composition tying it to the lower layer. He would also work his light strokes into such a glaze, keeping these lighter strokes very thin and semi-transparent. Only later adding a thick highlight.
So here is my new palette:
R– PR264 Permanent Madder (Rembrandt)
RO, O, OY– Mix of the Red + varying amounts of Yellow
Y– Cobalt Aureolin Yellow (Old Holland)
YG,G,GB– Mix of Yellow + varying amounts of Blue.
B– Ultramarine Blue French (W&N)
BV– Blue + Red
V– Blue + Red
VR– Red + Mars Violet (Old Holland) + Blue; the Mars gives body to the VR making it less transparent and more purple.
So far I have painted one major image with this palette and 6 smaller images and am quite satisfied with the results. It will also help me to get a greater range of color intensity with a chord or an analogy since one mixes the secondaries and tertiaries from the root notes of the chord. It works well with a lighter composition as well as a darker composition. The transparent quality of the yellows adds variety of effect. And the addition of Mars Violet to the purple range also creates transparent (PR264) and semi-transparent tones within the deepest darks. The only negative is that the cobalt yellow is expensive. But I seem to always have one expensive color in the primaries to add permanency. Last time it was cobalt blue. Before that it was cadmium red vermilion. All the other colors are inexpensive.
Hope you can try it out and let me know what you think.