Monday, October 15, 2007

Beth and Liberace: Considering an Advanced Artist's Palette.

Here is the palette Beth listed based on Robert Liberace.

My Portrait Palette, based on Liberace’s

Burnt Sienna
Cad Yellow Light * ** ***
Cad Orange
Cad Red Light
Pyrralo Ruby * ***
Alizarin Crimson **
Cobalt Violet Light
Cobalt Violet Med
Manganese Violet
Cobalt Blue Turquoise Light ***
Cobalt Blue Turquoise
Cerulean Blue
Ultramarine Blue
Phthalo Green **
Viridian Green Light
Flake White * **

First, I think we should find the Munsell notations. I know, for example, that Cad Yellow Light is likely 5Y 8.5/16.

Remember that flesh ranges from the 1st to the 5 or 6th chroma, from the grayishness of a shaved beard to the ruddiness of a baby's cheeks.

So, first of all, the mixtures must be neutralized in one way or another to fit within this range. How is it done?

A mixture of Pthalo Green, Alizarin Crimson and Burnt Sienna, plus white, should make a dead neutral, theoretically. Or, one can use Cobalt Blue, Aliz Crim and Burnt Sienna. These mixture will neutralize any mixture.


graydon said...

A basic flesh hue can be mixed from burnt sienna and white.

To set this palette up even more simple, make three strings: Alizarin Crimson plus white; Burnt Sienna plus white; and Ultramarine plus white.

One will have to temper the mixture with yellow, however a Viridian string plus white might work if Cad Orange is added to the Burnt Sienna string at the higher values.


Michael said...


What do the asterisks represent?

Just Paint said...

Contrary to an advanced artist's palette my flesh palette like my regular working palettes are very limited, especially through the early stages of a painting. A few earths, a couple reds, and white and black is about it - rarely but if needed I employ one green and one blue (never in my flesh). Based on what the painting calls for I sometimes use a few blues, or a yellow, burnt sienna I almost never use. I'm sincerely curious, would this type of palette limit what potential the Munsell system provides?

ewschott said...


I know what you are saying... isn't that amazing! ;)

Try mixing a Cad Light with Pyrralo Ruby (Rob uses Permanent Rose which I can't control, I feel like it changes overnight) and Flake white, flake being the dominate, other colors added to adjust skin tone.

For transitional color, mix the alizarin with cad yellow light, a touch of the phthalo green or blue and flake, again adjust as needed.

For darks/shadows (never to have white) use the Cad yellow light, Ruby and turquoise light, once more adjusted as needed just not with white.

When drawing the figure, Rob does this by placing the darks, he never uses lines.

This is the very basic mix for Caucasian skin.

I would love to hear what you think, of course if you have time for this.

nystudios said...

Beth this is for skin? Why use some of the most expensive pigments just to dull them down from their high chromas when you could so easily use cheaper earths? On top of that the mix you suggest of Cad yellow light, Alizarin, and Pthalo with white are three of the most powerful tinters, plus two are transparent another difficult thing for beginners to deal with. In the hands of a beginner you would have crazy out of control paintings. An average size paint nut of these would require a gallon of white to control in the hands of a novice and not with pleasing results.

graydon said...

What I am trying to point out is that this palette works, but one still has to mix it so that it is in flesh range.

Earth colors are in this range as well.

So, what are the advantages here? If you mix Pthalo Green plus Aliz. Crim. you get a neutral, likely a low chroma purple-blue. This would neutralize a mixture of Aliz Crim. plus Cadmium Yellow. But then, you have only one value and one hue, instead of the range.

To make this work better, perhaps, or at least how I might set it up--take the Aliz Crimson plus Pthalo and make a string of values.

Beth, do you mix each value on the fly, or do you make some mixtures ahead of time?

You see, its hard for me to conceive a palette without pre-mixed values. Its not because I know one cannot mix each step, one at a time. However, one has to model the form anyway, so how does one maintain consisten hue, value chroma relationships?

At first consideration, the advantages might come in the broken nature of the paint. That is, by breaking the hues up so that they are not exact, one may achieve a sort of vibration...some call this broken color. However, the down side is that the hues may be too difficult to handle, never quite subtle enough or unified--especially if one isn't as skilled as Liberace, Shanks or Beth.

ewschott said...

Neal most teachers ask you to bring colors in a certain paint for their workshop - granted this gets pretty expensive, but Joy Thomas once told me - "you wouldn't want to attend a piano workshop and have every one with different keys".

Graydon, I haven't done strings of pre tubed "Local's" (Liberace hates that word - don't know why). But just out of lazyness I have pre-tubed a basic dark, a basic transitional and for the locals, I did one with a stronger chroma and darker value, then two with an addtion of ochre and one with a touch of veridian. Honestly I don't know if I could figure out how to do the stings without sitting with you. I guess they would start pretty light and go lighter.

Using my little Student book, so hue doesn't really match, (The chips in the big book must have much longer strings).. the transitional color would be close too a 5 RP 5/4. The higher chroma local color would be close to a 5 YR 9/4, the lighter with viridian would be close to a 5 YR 11 or 10/2 (my book only goes to 8, so these value numbers may be wrong) The Hues are certainly off.

I do have strings of Marvin's palette pre-tubed, only because it takes hours for anyone but Marvin to mix.

Neal, I love the turquoise, I have it in a medium and light, and would use it no matter - it's an incredibly beautiful color and worth it to me, I am not well versed in what all is out there, but it's the cat's meow for me. I think it gives skin a glow when mixed and love the exaggeration it adds.

I have said repeatedly that Liberace's palette is so damn hard that it takes a long time "to get". When I was with him in FL. he told me at the end that I was the only one that got it, well everyone else must have been really bad, because I left going - well it's that motion you make with your index finger rubing it over you lips while humming. I have worked my butt off trying to get it under control.

You would not get the same results with an earth palette as this one - I'm not saying you would get something worse, just not the same.

I am sorry for all these links - I wasn't sure how to illustrate what I have been talking about, also 'cause I don't think we can put images up in here so each is up for a reason YOU MUST COPY AND PASTE:

This is of my daughter, and it is pretty high chroma in the darks, but shows the basics in the lit side:

This is my self P. It really pushes everything on the palette 'cause I wanted to see how far I could take it:

This was a study using the Libearace palette vs an earthy palette:

This was the model I worked from in ireland, a two hour sketch - Graydon this was all mixed on spot, but then you can tell it's a quick sketch:

This is one of my favorites because I adore this woman. It's really strong in color in the clothing which I tried to balance in the shadow side of her face, mainly because she is not happy with her belly.

One of my favorite Sorolla's, because it's a bit more academic (term used loosely) than his more impressionistic style (his beach work which I am pretty sure was later) is of President WH Taft, I really doubt he changed his palette for this, but I am also not versed in his history to know when this portrait happened for him, I just know it was a real feather in his cap - Taft's offical portrait was painted by Zorn, lifes a bitch... the Sorolla is in my home town in the Taft musuem, which is one of the sweetest small museum that exist, imo, the color is rotten in this image, but notice how he handles Taft's girth, damn this is a long link:

This is basically to show how subtle the skin color can be with the high chroma palette:

Again another sketch, where I really wanted to push it, especially bringing the shadow forward, you will also see the turquoise in his cap, but also as highlights on the chin and cheek, a bit on the forehead:

I don't know if these are good enough to answer your questions, remember I have been using oil for 6 years, but it's what I have to show after studying with Liberace.

This is one using Marvin's palette, I think it's one good one (done a few years early than above), since it's posthumous, I had to get a body and parts model, her vest is one of my golf outfits lol, she was so hunch back I tried to hide it the best I could:

NOW THERE WILL BE A TEST ON ALL THESE IMAGES, to see who actually looked at all of them ;) just make sure you check out the Sorolla.

nystudios said...

Beth I would be pissed if I were you. After you had spent all that money to travel to this thing as everyone else did and hotels and all that, that everyone else didn't get it? And you did, but you don't feel like you did, that you are holding it together with a wing and a prayer? That in my opinion isn't money well spent.

After Graydon's July color course, the best painters there just got better, and us rank beginners got more than we could have hoped for. The last thing I or anyone else felt was that we couldn't do what it was we were learning, or that we couldn't control it. To the contrary, I am pretty sure that everyone felt empowered that they could control color finally.

I feel bad for you because I know how that really sucks to spend all that money hoping to get better and feel like you can barely keep it

ewschott said...


Neal what I was trying to say, is it's hard to get Liberace's palette to work, but I thought I had achived it and the samples shown would prove it... so you think they are bad?

Rob is very much like Bill Whitaker when it comes to workshops, he tells you what colors to put on your set palette, but he doesn't tell you what to do with them except the majors as Iisted. Both will come to you and tell you what is working or what is not working.

I thought I had grown leaps and bounds, what is it you don't like?

Don't worry, I am not taking this as an insult or personally, I'm just anxious to hear what you think about the work.

Actually I would highly recommend any to take a Liberace workshop. If you don't like his color palette, he is big on teaching drawing and sculpture. At Shank's school he mainly teaches sculpture.

In Ireland I fell in love with pen and ink, he taught me this - which mainly focuses on drawing and values.

Graydon, I am having a tough time with the conte, but I am giving it a go. Do you know any good references on the Internet I can check out for procedures?

silverhorse said...

Beth, I'm sorry... I just don't understand all this time and effort and bandwidth spent on Liberace's palette and workshops and demos and and and. We are so lucky to have this immense resource and Graydon's gracious patience. Maybe we should be doing Munsell, not Liberace??? Just a thought...

Janet K

ewschott said...

Janet, I think Liberace's palette can be used with the Munsell system, that is what it's all about to me.

Read Graydon's orginal post.

Do you not want to apply this to the palette you use?

As I understand it's about mixing the paint to match your subject by following the forumla matching the chips, I think in addition to the hue the Chroma and Values are equally important so if some one has a high Hue/chroma palette, how is it you don't see it applying?

I think if I don't question Graydon about things like this including others palettes, it will stall my understanding.

As the Apple guy told me 20 years ago, "mam you have to know how to drive it before you can park".

Am I wrong?

nystudios said...

Beth, I was referencing your own words.

"I have said repeatedly that Liberace's palette is so damn hard that it takes a long time "to get". When I was with him in FL. he told me at the end that I was the only one that got it, well everyone else must have been really bad, because I left going - well it's that motion you make with your index finger rubing it over you lips while humming. I have worked my butt off trying to get it under control."

Forgive me if I wrong, but what I understood from that paragraph was that you and many others went all the way to Florida, spent money on flights, rental cars, and hotels. After a (presumably) week's time, you felt that you didn't have a clue what you were doing other that, "well it's that motion you make with your index finger rubing it over you lips while humming" was how you got it to work. And, he confided in you that out of the entire class that you were the only one to "Get" it.

I am sorry but I have been teaching a coaching for 16 years now, and I have a masters degree in curriculum and instruction and if only one in 20 students "Got" my teaching after a week of 8 hour days, then the problem is either the teacher or the system. If I was hired to work with 20 gymnasts for an intensive week of training, and they didn't get better at the end of the week? Trust me things would be said...unpleasant things.

My point was that everyone in Graydon's class with the exception of one person who didn't want to get it, "Got it". And, even she got better.

If you really want me to critique your work, I would be glad to do so privately, although I fully admit I am not the expert amongst experts here, and would do so reluctantly.

ewschott said...

Thanks for the clarification Neal - I was not clear myself.

I know what a damn good coach you are since we were ready for the Olympics just doing floor exercises under your tutorage down the hallway at the motel, well maybe Sophia was. ☺

What I was trying to say was to control the palette took a long while to work with after one week with Rob in FL, but I did go to Ireland (whew talk about cost –actually it likely cost as much as FL)…(Graydon I hear the nature is really needing some chip evaluation in say Italy ;)) for a little over 2 weeks with him too.

Change is a hard thing for me, especially when it’s a palette I like. I love color, I’m just a colorful person – you know how much trouble I get into with that ;) I also know you and Richard worked really hard preparing for this class, and just hearing Graydon speak here and numerous emails he must be one heck of a teacher.

Critique my work – I would love it! Just know my anatomy has major issues, and you can’t critique it based on Munsell.

Kisses, Beth

Janet I do appreciate you calling me out, I was confused – now there is a surprise – I am going to post one more small photo of a “string” of MY skin tones… bear with me! Then that’s it! Of course I have to go to help and figure out how to post an image, unless there is a button somewheree which I don't see, but I know there is some html code, or I can just view this as source! ☺

graydon said...


I can tell you how to control Liberace's palette, but you have to let go of some preconceptions. The first and foremost is that non-earth palettes will somehow get better flesh tones. This is a bit of alchemy that many still cling to, much like eliminating black from the palette. Its not the colors but the organization and knowledge of color theory.

I can mix your list of colors so that you will not be able to distinguish them from Marvin's palette.

Perhaps, what you are responding to, is the broken and inexact nature of the results. That is, in its present state as individual colors placed separately on the palette, the difficulty in handling them adds a modern touch by contrast to more refined modeling. The colors vary widely in hue, and vibrate, somewhat like an impressionist picture. However, with flesh, those vibrations much be kept in check if the image is to appear life-like.

What I need you to understand, is that any apparent randomness can be under your control, rather than an accident. Where you place the cobalt touches can be thought out with precision. You will know why you have added them and give a precise answer instead of just a feeling or hunch.

First, try making a dead neutral from Liberace's palette. Trust me, you will learn a lot.

Rich said...

Just Paint,

I think your question got lost in the crush. There are about 18-20 tube colors that will mix 99% of all colors, including the highest chromas. There may be one or two additional colors for very specific needs, but the majority of colors can be mixed with this list. One does not need a huge number of tube colors to use Munsell, and most of them are less expensive paints.

Does that answer your question?

silverhorse said...


: )