Picking a Color Palette Made Easy

Top: Plien Air Magazine image of Mary Byrom painting. Bottom, an index card with my pastel color combinations from the Byrom oil painting.

Collecting Colors

Often I look at thumbnail drawing and find myself puzzled at what color combinations to use. Or, worse yet, those I chose aren’t working. In a workshop with Kathy Newman and Elizabeth Wall of Chicago, I learned to collect colors in nature when I am out drawing. Both artists said that nature’s colors are in harmony already. If you can record those harmonies in places where you might not plan to paint, the note cards of color become natural ways to combine colors.

Colors from a favorite Wolf Kahn oil painting that I collected in pastel on an index card

Collect What You Like

As you can see, I also started collecting colors from artists that I admire. While printed  pages are not as good as being in nature and collecting from nature first hand, color collecting from other artists gives me a good idea of how others put together what I like to see. I enjoy color, I enjoy bold, I enjoy energy in my artwork. I like the color of Matisse, Wolf Kahn, and Lorianne Signori, and to many more to list.

While I do use local or realistic colors in some of my landscapes, I have the most fun when using colors that go together but are not necessarily the true color of the grass or sky.

Water color collection from nature in June 2018 by the State Street Bridge over the Chicago River

What I learned

  • Color collecting can come from sources other than nature
  • Color collecting can be done in different mediums, it doesn’t have to be as I was taught with watercolor
  • Color collecting might seem too artificial for some who want to observe nature as they paint, but it works for me and has solved a problem.
  • I found a crutch to help me shape my palette until I can become one of those who can skip this step — maybe I never will skip this, I am too new to know.

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