Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Limiting Color Choices Outdoors

I really appreciate what Arthur Wesley Dow says about color in his book Composition.  On page 161, he states in the first sentence, "Color, with its infinity of relations, is baffling; its finer harmonies, like those of music, can be grasped by the appreciations only, not by reasoning or analysis."

In the past I have used a fairly large palette of colors outdoors.  However, reading this profound statement from Dow has caused me to rethink some of my ideas.  So I have been limiting myself further for the sake of appreciation.  You might say reducing the infinity of relations a bit.  So here is what I have been working with lately - the primaries, cad red light, ultramarine blue and cad yellow light, plus yellow ochre.  Of course you can paint with the 3 primaries but the yellow ochre just make me happier and gives me a quicker flexibility.  The mixed pile on the left are the 3 primaries mixed about equally plus titanium white.  The pile at the right are those primaries plus yellow ochre and white – Lovely!  

Here is a small quickie out back 8 x 6.5.  It was a warm cloudy misty afternoon and as I painted this location the sun began to peak through the overcast which added drama to the scene.


Here you can catch the mood; as you can see I used up all my blue and yellow ochre.  I didn’t really have much to start.  The cad red light goes a long way.

 And here is one from out back of an old play house next to a wonderful Beech Tree.  The light on this day was similar, overcast giving way to near sunset light.


  1. Great work Scott! When you say a "quickie", how much time are you talking about? Right now, it seems to be taking forever for me.

  2. That' about 30 minutes. It pretty small about 8x6. I try to stay with larger brushes #6 brights and then a smaller rigger for some details. The smaller palette helps too I think...

    Thanks for commenting,

  3. A correction on that comment Jeremy.. The creek scene on top was 90 min, over worked I think a bit. But the one below (tree house) was around 30 minutes...