Thursday, October 4, 2012

What Am I Missing?

© Hannah Phelps
Maybe I Should Move My Easel
oil on canvas, 8" x 10"

For over a year now, I have been painting with a limited pallet of the three primary colors - red, yellow and blue. I also use white.

This is partially because carrying four tubes of paint makes for a lighter plein air pack to lug around. I also find it much easier to worry about mixing from just three choices. 

A four tube painting life is not new to me - I have switched back to it often over the past ten years. Then I try a new color my friend is using, find an old tube I remember liking and add it back in, take a workshop with a painter who swears by pigment x,  ... and pretty soon my pack has grown from modest to "I think I need a donkey to carry this for me". So its back to the Big Three again. 

Here's the astonishing thing - when I look at old paintings, I can't tell the difference between those done with 15 colors and those created with just red, yellow and blue. There are a couple of exceptions, I guess, but the exceptions aren't necessarily better. 

So I am down to three colors and I am sticking to it. Almost.

There is a color that I have found myself longing for consistently. I really tried to leave it off my pallet, but I think it is time to get real and admit I need it. It is a "shortcut" color. I can create the same mixes without it. I can even mix it with the colors I am using now. But I don't want to anymore. 

Welcome back Yellow Ochre. I have missed you.

**Note: The painting above will be on display at the Keepsake exhibit at the Derryfield School Lyceum Gallery in Manchester, NH from October 27 - November 17. It is also Mr. April in the 2013 Landscape Calendar.**

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