Monday, September 10, 2012

Make new friends – But keep the Old

There is an old song we used to sing as girl scouts when we were around a campfire (there is also a reason why I carry every tool know to man in my backpack – be prepared!). It went something like “Make new friends, but keep the old, One is silver and the other gold”. A truism to be sure, but it’s valid none the less. It’s good life philosophy, but a good thing in painting too.  I like to think my friends are for life, as I value them dearly, just as I value certain pigments in my palette. They provide a safe haven of known performance and give me a base of comfort from which I can charge forward with newer additions, experimenting and learning as I go.
Entrance to Wind Canyon Estates

Limiting color choices in a palette keeps a painting within a family of colors. But this past week I bought and read Lexi Sundell’s new book  “The Acrylic Artist’s Guide to Exceptional Color”.  I paint in oils so I had to translate to oil what the pigment names were, but I found her logic interesting. Her explanation of additive versus subtractive color systems is one of the simplest and easiest to grasp I have ever read. She has a gift for explaining why color acts as it does.

I had seen artists in the Southwest use a strident teal, stronger than cerulean in their palettes and had railed against it. I had thought that it would be impossible to tame that chroma. My recent foray into Ken Auster’s palette had me recoiling from alizarin crimson, finding it even on my underwear! I swear that stuff had legs. So I was very wary of the Quinacridone Magenta she suggested as a red. And the thought of using a brilliant hansa yellow, was, well, brilliant! I tried them today. I did add a deep cad orange and a deep, deep, purple and white to the litany of colors I laid out. But the results were not at all strident!
Wind Canyon Entrance - Étude 9
8x10 Oil study - Linen on wood

 In fact I was able to get that elusive color of sage tips that has haunted me for the last two months. So now I have found that I LIKE this palette. Moral: Go get Lexi’s book. It’s laid out in the most logical way for visual learners, with many clear well thought through and imaged examples. And there is fodder there for people who have painted for a long time. Sometimes we need that nudge to try something new. We are creatures of habit, putting colors where they have always been in our layout, each having its own unique spot. Mix it up! Add a new color. Try it out.
I found inspiration in her pages and I tried something I had not tried before, And I liked it. I probably would never have bought that tube of cobalt turquoise given how expensive it was. But I found an older tube and talked the store guy into a deal. And I also found out that in painting, as in life, it is easier to tame a wild horse than to resurrect a dead one.

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