At first glance, a limited palette may seem like a crutch to your creativity. Why use less when there’s an entire world of color out there at your fingertips?
Below, Kathleen McDonnell shares with Artists Magazine just how we can take one landscape and make it new with a different, limited palette. With this experiment, you can utilize an inspiring environment year-round!Enjoy!
Two Palettes, Two Moods: A Limited Palette Experiment
Most of my pastel landscapes are based on scenes from a park near my home. This allows me to go back to the same area to see what I may have missed. Repeated plein air work in this locale has taught me how landscape shapes, color and value work together to communicate the message I want to express.
The nearness of the park also allows me to create a drawing of the same scene during different seasons. Comparing two works, Morning Walk and Winter Walk, shows how a palette of black, white and grays alters the mood of a scene initially done in full color.
Morning Walk (below) is a pastel I completed last year using a full-color palette. The light is just beginning to fall across the treetops in this summer morning scene.
I decided to create a pastel of the same view as that seen in Morning Walk, but based on photo references taken during one of my snowshoe outings last winter.
The trails in the park were snow covered, and the foggy, misty atmosphere made me feel as though I was floating along the path.
All my pastels begin with a value study in black, white and gray. For the winter scene I was working on, I developed several compositions and chose a horizontal view similar to that of Morning Walk.
Hard Pastel Application
Referring to my value study, I began my pastel drawing on a sanded pastel board dry mounted to conservation board. I then applied a black hard pastel in the areas with the darkest values.
Using Turpenoid on a stiff bristle brush, I liquefied the hard pastel to lighten some of the dark values. I then completed the lighter values by dabbing with the Turpenoid-loaded brush and also using a gray hard pastel.
Because I’d completed a pastel in color of this same area, I was familiar with the shapes beneath the snow-covered road and of the foliage. I felt comfortable working with those forms, as well as with moving elements, like the scrubby grasses, to more eye-pleasing positions.
With fewer than 15 warm and cool grays and a limited use of a cool, muted green, I completed A Winter Walk. Warm neutrals in the foreground provide a further touch of color. Even though the image and the shapes are much the same as those in Early Morning Walk, the mood I conveyed is totally different.
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Is there a location you love to use as your art subject over and over again? Tell us in the comments below!