How Do I Use a Limited Palette on a Plein Air Aspen Painting?

Step 1: Drawing

I draw the composition as simply as I can to save time in the light that is always changing. I like to draw with orange; the drawing may be any color, thinned with mineral spirits (I use Gamsol made by Gamblin). I quickly block in some of the shadow color of the trunks and some darker color on the logs.

This shows my palette and finished block-in.

On this painting, I only used (from left to right) Quinacridone Red, orange mixed from my red and yellow, cadmium yellow, cadmium lemon, viridian green (far right corner), ultramarine blue, and cerulean blue. The mixture to the left of cerulean is a violet mixed from ultramarine and red, with a little yellow to gray it. My titanium white is bottom middle.

Photo of the scene

This is a photo of the scene – I didn’t paint it this way (after I took the photo I decided to change my perspective a little and add what was on the right of the main tree, moving it to the left in my painting). I was shooting directly into the sun, so couldn’t get a very good photo, but that’s okay – the photo is just to remind me of a few things if I need it; not to paint by.

Finished painting, “Making a Comeback” 12 x 9″

I didn’t really make any changes to the block-in – just added more paint, detail and a little refining.

Using a limited palette is much easier outdoors – paint tubes add weight, and sometimes you have to “pare down” when walking any distance. Also, you can mix any color from the three primaries that you need. I use two yellows when painting fall aspens because my favorite, the lemon, is not warm enough by itself. Also, you could substitute Alizarin Crimson easily for the red. Try it! I sometimes see the need to add my Burnt Sienna to the palette (I love it), but I didn’t this time.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this post, and I’m making a new year’s resolution to post on my blog more often. I hope all of you have a Merry Christmas, and very Happy New Year! Don’t forget to click on the images to enlarge them, and I’ll be in touch next year!