22 December 2022

When palettes are fresh like salads each day,

As a painter, when working outdoors, I need to make up a palette of colours each time I work. I cannot say that every other painter does this because we all have different ways of working especially away from one's studio. Other painters will often make up larger quantities at a time or just use tubes or jars chosen from the vast array of premixed colours offered in today's market. 

When working outdoors, I myself, use a very limited palette. It consists of just two blues; Ultramarine and Prussian blue; a rich Magenta Red, Lemon Yellow concentrate, a Cadmium Yellow medium, and Titanium White. With these colours I can pompously say that I could reproduce almost any colour needed. And like a funky-looking witch at midnight I make my own 'black' when needed by using Prussian Blue and other 'secretive ingredients' that cannot be revealed to ordinary civilians (I took an oath). But one secret I did learn many, many years ago came from Cezanne, who though he used black and white on the same palette, would mix both of them in infinitesimal amounts to each of his other colours to help ensure an overall harmony in his pictures. He mixed such tiny amounts to every colour it would be hardly perceptible to the naked eye, but when spread across a French landscape they would absolutely radiate.

Because I set up a spontaneous palette for each session, I tend to limit colours to conform to a simple aesthetic idea drawn from a particular sky and similar to the key signature of a musical score which also loosely cements an idea.

Like an intimate Jazz trio weaving around an old Standard through various keys, there is also an improvised order to a painting palette similar to the main key signature anchoring the musicians enough to freely play in relative harmony. And equally, on the palette, primary colours are mixed to create tertiary ones which usually guarantee an overall harmony once they are all evenly mixed together. Like the royal families of 18th century Europe, political unity was achieved everywhere by the wise intermarriage of their offspring. The same is true of a palette.

But as well, one's palette is extremely personal, it is about as personal and original as a line drawing by just about anyone, and it should be. I know a few painters who have copied their masters's palette, and even after a lifetime of working, they have stayed loyal to it. I don't really understand this myself, but hey! I have another friend who has been painting for sixty years and has never varied any of his colours. I expressed astonishment when he told me this one day a few years back. But in the Painting World, everyone has to follow their own way because, man รต man, Painting is hard thing to do most of the time. And to be fair, I work so small that this improvised procedure can work for me, but to work larger is another ballgame altogether, with far more pitfalls.

Below, is one of Delacroix's palettes which may not reveal much due to its old age but it's a relic of beauty nonetheless, and concerning it, he wrote in his journal at one point:

"My freshly arranged palette, brilliant with contrasting colours, is enough to fire my enthusiasm". 

Maybe,.... but there was a rumour circulating at the time that he took his palette to bed with him at night and though this might be just the vindictive gossip of a scorned lover, it does raise the possibility that his fire was misplaced.

I imagine that Picasso used palettes at the beginning of his career but I have only ever seen photos of him mixing his colours on white porcelain plates which filled up his voluminous homes and where he appeared to paint in nearly every room, prodigiously so.

Over the last five years my palette has evolved only slightly but not too much. It has less colours now and it's shape is larger, just a piece of shiny cut formica glued to a piece of wood because as they say, more real estate is always better. It's heavier than a hand-held one but I don't hold it, it rests on the open tray of the easel when its set up.  

Below are some examples of different palettes on different days and over different years. I used to take photos of them from time to time when they looked interesting but I've since gotten out of the habit. Too often, I will forget my phone. Some show the colours at the beginning while others show them at the end of the session. 

At the bottom, I throw in some cleanly washed aprons (important!) and studies of the surgical gloves which can sometimes be quite sexy too.

(addendum, a few people have told me I should just show these instead of my paintings) (!)

Ladies Watch Out! Jack the Ripper is about!

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