Newsletter, February 2021

A Winter Landscape in the Chord of O-GB-P

The winter landscape is the perfect environment to experiment outdoors with Maratta’s Chord palettes. The best reason is there is no green, per se, that limits which Chords you can use. The winter landscape is full of beautiful and subtle neutrals. They are especially beautiful set against a blanket of snow. This white foil presents the Chords in all their variation of intensity.

This past week, I painted a maple tree just outside my kitchen window. I have painted this maple about 30 times over the past 15 years that I have lived here. This past summer, unfortunately, part of the tree fell down in a wind storm. So this winter it looks very different. With all the snow and arctic air that we have had, I set up to paint it in its new state. I have used this maple to do a lot of experimentation into various color palette designs. This winter, I chose the Chord palette O-GB-P. Let’s examine this Chord:

Here are the Root Notes set at the proper intervals 5-3-4:


G hue= O + GB BBP bi= GB + P R hue= P + O

Third Line: G hue + BBP bi BBP bi + R hue R hue + G hue

You can see how the third line forms almost perfect neutrals ranging from grey to grey violet to brown. This presents all the combination of mixes for this specific Chord. It leaves the root notes at the highest intensity with a base of semi-reduced tones and a series of neutrals on which to set against the root notes.

Judith Reeve, Maple with Snow, 18″ x 18″, Oil on linen, 2021.

This may seem like a rather limited palette and it is. But you will be shocked how much color is latent in this palette. The R hue I used on the far hills adding the O + (a touch of P +white) to the light areas and the GB + P to the shadows. The far snow contains the same mixes, both a cool and a warm, but of a much lighter value.

The maple tree: I blocked in the darks with the GB + P + touch of O. This gave me a deep dark BBP that I slightly neutralized with the O without using white. I then used the neutrals to lay in the lights, being conscious of the color temperature I was after. On top of this, while the paint was still wet, I added the the second line of colors and in some cases, raising the value by adding a cool lightener of P + white or a warm lightener of O + white.

After this, the painting was still calling for some added transition tone. This was the most difficult to locate. I ended up using the the G hue with a touch of O or a touch of P + GB depending on what temperature of G I needed. The dead center branch (with peeling bark), I was able to use the O almost as a pure color (just a little white added). This creates a point of focus and an area of high intensity to off-set the more neutral tones of the tree.

The sky was simple: BBP bi- loosely mixing these colors so that they stood alone in certain passages while simultaneously keeping some of BBP bi mixed. I then added a warm tone of O + P + white using the same technique. Receding branches were laid in neutral tones.

The snow near the viewer was laid in O + white in the intense lights and GB + white in the shadows. NOTE: I did add a touch of OY + white in 3 spots of snow to create a greater brilliance and higher contrast to add projection. Henri was apt to do the same thing. Remember, one uses the Chord to its max before adding any substitutes of color. The reason for this is that the interaction within the Chord gives it its unique qualities and it is easy to break the harmony by adding an outside color. But alternatively, one must adapt to each situation and do what is necessary to create the image as you see it.

I hope you can try out this Chord in the winter landscape or another Chord such as R-OY-B as seen in this small study. Good luck painting!

Judith Reeve, Beech Sapling Winter, 6″ x 8″, Oil on board, 2021.