Mini Paintings: A Great Way To Test Ideas

Working small has its benefits when experimenting with new color combinations or layering techniques. These mini studies can always become guides for larger pieces if I find I like it well enough. Here's the creation story for this Mini.

This 6x4 pastel on homemade ground started out as a thumbnail sketch clearly using the "L" or elle composition design. It remained the elle design but came from a careful selection of colors that I found in the artwork of others. Deciding on a palette used to difficult for me. I've watched many YouTube and read many artist blogs and no one uses the same technique. But one thing is the same. Most successful artists like Karen Margulis and Robert Burridge, and others -- they start off with a selection of simple colors and expand from there.

Pre-selected Colors from Saved Color Cards

In the past I’ve collected color combinations I like or want to try. Sometimes I try to collect as many colors as I have seen in the works I admire. Lately, I'm trying to narrow down the colors to what may or may not have been (but I think) what the artist might have selected as a simple palette to block in the basic shapes for their design. Below you see my selection, and below that the basic ell composition blocked in very simply and with no detail.

These are used for the early stages but then I start adding neighboring shades as I begin layering in color. For example, I put in the yellow-orange knowing it would be too bright to just leave. But since yellow and orange are the complementary color of violet and blue, I can add lighter versions of the complement over the yellow orange and make the background line of trees recede as the complements mix and gray down the saturation of all four colors.

Above is the ell shaped composition using the basic selection from my box.

This, above, is about half-way through the creation process. You can now see how additional colors in the family of basic color choices are added. By the finish, the addition of yellows and blues and greens over the blues helped finish this off.

What I learned

  • By keeping the painting small, I got to try out a color combination without having a lot of time and money invested

  • The small size let me work fast, sometimes when things go sour and I can't get things on track, it's not a big deal to toss the failed experiment

  • Because they are new combinations I am trying, I could experiment with layering without fear

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