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Which colors should I use?

When I first started out Plein air painting I figured I could save precious time mixing by putting out as many tube colors as I could fit on my palette, in theory this makes sense right?. Quickly I realized a number of errors in this thinking.

Firstly, space was limited, the smaller palettes didn’t allow for all those dabs of colors. Secondly, the time it took to put the paints on the palette and the extra weight of carrying all those colors into the field took its toll. Finally but most importantly, my paintings lacked harmony. By mixing multiple paints, from different brands and with different qualities the overall final painting always felt incoherent, no matter how close to the subject I tried to match the colors. For years in the studio, and with the luxury of time, I had returned to making my own paints and mixing sub palettes from the three primaries. There were a few colors I couldn’t quite mix but this was a sacrifice I was willing to make in order to keep my work harmonious. I decided to return to a limited palette again for my plein air painting, sticking initially to a medium temperature red, yellow and blue. Unfortunately, what I was willing to tolerate in the studio didn’t work outdoors because there was such an important emphasis on cool and warm variants of local colors. With only one set of primaries I was limited to the temperature I was able to create. For example my skies were suffering because the light cool Cerulean blue of the California sky was extremely hard to mix with a warmer ultramarine blue (by adding a cooler Yellow to the ultramarine, due to the reddish tint of the blue, you end up desaturating and making a gray rather than the clear bright sky colors).

So I’ve finally settled for now on a split primary palette for my outdoor painting with a couple of added browns for ease of washing and sketching.

The palette consists of a warm and a cool version of the primary Red, Blue and Yellow. I also added to my set a Gamblin FastMatte titanium white, which drying time and covering ability is very useful while painting en Plein Air.

It made sense to offer the complete set to anyone wishing to have harmony and better control of the colors in their work outdoors.

You can buy the Richard J Oliver full set and a half set over at my webstore.

I sell the Artist grade Gamblin oil colors, currently in the smaller 37ml tubes as a set.

Thank you so much for your support!!


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