Friday, October 5, 2007

Other Color Methods. Controlled Palettes of the Past, Etc.

Post other palettes here.


Scott said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Scott said...

Marvin Mattelson's Palette

The following was posted on another forum:

Cadmium free and loving it.

For the past two years I have eschewed the presence of cadmiums from my palette and have never been happier. Of course my palette is geared towards painting naturalistic and not electric skin tones.

Although I was successful using cadmium colors in my own work, my students struggled to control them. There seemed to be a fine line between controllable color and the gaudiness on one side and muddiness on the other, so I decided to look for a better alternative.

I equate trying to mix the colors of flesh with cadmiums to be like learning to parallel park in a Boeing 747. It can be done but I think it's overkill.

I was drawn to the palette of William McGregor Paxton, who in my humble opinion was the greatest colorist of flesh. Paxton theorized that if we come from dust and return to dust we should use dust (earth colors) when painting flesh.

The effects upon my student's work has been nothing short of phenomenal, not to mention my own. It's almost impossible to paint a bad looking flesh tone if you approach it intelligently.

My complexion colors are Venetian Red, Indian Red, Yellow Ochre, Raw Umber, Ivory Black and Flake White. This array of colors is more than sufficient to capture the subtle variations and nuances found in human skin. I may introduce some other colors into the shadows based on reflections from the surroundings areas.

In addition to my flesh colors I listed above, I always put out Ultramarine Blue, some sort of Permanent Alizarin, and Viridian Green. On very rare occasions, if I need a more chromatic hit, I use Michael Harding's GENUINE Naples Yellow Light (not to be confused with the dull variety of naples yellow most manufacturers offer) and Michael Harding's Vermilion.

I also use neutral grays to reduce the chromatic intensity of my colors. Finding the proper complement for each pigment I use would only serve to increase the number of colors on my palette reducing the potential for a harmonious painting.

I offer the portrait I recently posted of Sylvia as an example of the kind of rich color that can be achieved without resorting to the use of cadmiums.
Marvin Mattelson

View the palette online:

This is the first controlled palette that really made sense to me. You can read more about his method by reading here:

Do a search on Marvin's posts for more info!

Scott said...

The Covino Controlled Palette©, similar to the palette of Leonardo da Vinci, which inspired such notable illustrators as Howard Pyle, N.C. Wyeth, Harvey Dunn, Frank Reilly and their followers, uses a graduated range

From Michael Georges:

he method was taught to me by Frank Covino, an excellent teacher.

The Cartoon
Covino uses a graphing system to get students to draw their forms to the board in charcoal - no graphite - graphite is slick, can leach through the paint, and is not recommended for drawing anything below a painted surface. Next, you do a complete charcoal rendering of your form on the board - establishing your complete value system and taking the cartoon to as much detail as you can. When complete, you spray the board with Damar Retouch Varnish to seal the charcoal a little and make the surface ready to receive your underpainting.

The Underpainting
Covino recommends the Verdaccio method for underpainting flesh. He also does the rub out method and grisalle, but only for advanced students. Covino's palette is a controlled palette based on nine values from dark to light. Thereby, he has you create nine values of Verdaccio using Flake White and Chromium Oxide Green (I have tubed these so I don't have to remix every time). He recommends mixing the verdaccio with 1/5th Liquin - again because of short workshop time and also because liquin dries rock hard permanent. You proceed with the underpainting by simply matching the values that you see in charcoal - if you rendered a cheek in value 7 in charcoal, then you simply paint over that cheek with value 7 verdaccio. Again, you do the underpainting to as fine a detail as you can as your underpainting will actually serve to define the form for some parts of your painting that you will glaze.

Color Stage
With the Verdaccio complete, Covino recommends beginning the color stage by glazing first and then applying opaque paint. Most backgrounds can be accomplished with one or more glazes over the detailed verdaccio underpainting. Covino's medium makes his glazing technique work - most mediums today are not suited to glazing. The medium is comprised of:

Damar Varnish
Stand Oil
Venice Turpentine
Rectified Turpentine

Once the glazes are completed, then you can go on applying more opaque paint to the areas of the painting that require it. He recommends "scrubbing your darks" and "painting your lights". The lighter the paint, the more heavily it is applied. He never recommends applying opaque paint over a fully dried glaze BTW. For flesh (no glaze on flesh - opaque only), he has a specific pallette that is mixed in several stages. First, you mix a row of nine value neutral grays, and to them, you add the color of the light (i.e., Zinc Yellow). You then mix a row of nine value oranges. By mixing the grays with the oranges, you get nine values of flesh tones. Some of the gray is saved out to gray certain areas like edges, etc. He also has you mix a row of blood tones. The blood tones are never used straight, but are mixed with some of the flesh tone of the same value to create a redder tone of flesh that is added to cheeks, tips of fingers, nose, etc. Again, you are just matching value to value between flesh and verdaccio. Put a value 4 flesh over a value 4 verdaccio. He recommends painting into a wet surface by lightly spraying medium over the area before you begin applying color. When the painting is done, he recommends one coat of medium over the entire thing (when dry enough as to not disturb the surface) to give it a uniform gloss. And of course, varnishing the painting with Damar Varnish after 8-12 months.

So that in a very small nutshell is a quick sketch of Mr. Covino's method. If any of you have an opportunity to meet him or take a class from him - let me plug his talent, his knowledge, and his ability. He is a master of our time (my opinion). He also admits that this is just "one" way of painting. When you consider that he is largely teaching an untrained pupil-base, the method is very effective and people who have never painted before in their lives come out of class with some pretty impressive first paintings. For the intermediate or professional artist, the value cannot be over expressed - RUN don't walk and get into a class, and get his book "Controlled Painting". Frank's website is The site is NOT impressive, but his work is.

Frank's method is a great place to "start" for anyone who is serious about making a real go at painting realistically. There is so much info, techniques, etc. that you could use his teachings as a very solid base to begin your own explorations from.

I have since modified many of the things I learned from Frank into a system that works well for me. I don't use his medium anymore as I have found better for my process. I am now exploring a direct method of more dead color underpainting I learned from William Whitaker - another Master painter of our time.

Scott said...

The Munsell Color System for Artists

from Michael Georges

It seems like many great minds in the art community are thinking along the same track as Graydon, but, they're just behind. I wish someone who knows Michael could contact him and let him know what Graydon is covering. Anyone know Michael personally?

graydon said...

Other controlled palettes I explained at my color course: those of Bouvier, Denman Ross, Fantin-Latour, Seurat and Delacroix.

Many artist in the past would have agreed that controlled palettes are helpful.

Michael Aviano had a palette that he called the Gold, Silver and Rose Palette.

The Silver was a row of neutrals, value 2-8; values 1 and 9 were black and white respectively.

The Gold was Burnt Umber plus Yellow Ochre, from values 2-5 and then Yellow Ochre plus white for value 6-8.

The Rose string was Alizarin Crimson plus Burnt Umber at value 2, then mixed with English Red Light or Venetian Red until the 4th or 5th value. Then bring either Eng Red or Ven Red up with white to value 8.

One could add a Burnt Sienna and white string in between the Gold and Rose strings, for values 2 to 8. (Windsor Newton Burnt Sienna comes out at 2 on Michael's value scale)

I will post photos of the other palette when I figure out how to do it.

ewschott said...

Diego Velazquez

Listed are the ingredients Velazquez used to make his colors:

White: Lead White and calcite
Yellow: Yellow Iron Oxide, lead-tin yellow, Naples Yellow
Orange: orange iron oxide and vermilion of mercury
Red: red iron oxide, vermilion of mercury, organic red lake.
Blue: Azurite, lapiz lazuli and smalt
Brown: brown iron oxide and manganese oxide
Black: organic black of vegetal or animal origin
Green: azurite, iron oxide and lead tin-yellow
Purple: organic red lake and azurite

Source: "Velazquez: The Technique of Genius" by Jonathan Brown

I think a lot of the "methods" of the very historical set palettes were basically what was available.

Graydon, If it's OK to post a current palette that is very controlled let me know, it is extremely different. Velazquez speaks for itself, but I will try to find the thoughts behind the other should it be OK.

graydon said...

You can post anything you wish on palettes, here.

As you can see, though, Velasquez didn't use anything magical. Its the thinking behind it.

Some nineteenth century artists, like Leon Bonnat, didn't use a prepared palette and did marvelous work. When I have seen photos of some artists working, they work our of a pile of white, creating slight value increments as they mix. That is, they bring the white down with a darker mixture little by little, thus creating a sort of blended value string. Bonnat hatched one tone over another. Some, veiled a tone over another creating a sort of average. Still other hunted and scraped until they got it right, like Waterhouse and Sargent. Both did brilliant work but the surface, at least in Waterhouse's case, is cracked and damaged beyond repair. Some of this is due to lack of preparation. As the nineteenth century waned, artists became more and more suspect of metier, until, as we see today, they through craft out completely.

ewschott said...

Graydon, is there any evidence that the cracking of a number of paintings started to reach mass amounts once "mediums" were introduced? I thought I heard this somewhere and know artist who are very die hard about not using them.

graydon said...

This might be true. At the middle of the nineteenth century, artist became obsessed with media. I use a simple medium of stand oil or linseed, turps and venice turpentine (not always, but only when a softer effect in needed...sometime Canada Balsam)

Who know what media will last. The jury is still out. Just avoid bitumen and too much of anything, it seems. I know that Gerome used a touch of copal. His paintings are in good shape. Poor Bouguereau's paintings are cracking.

MarieMeyer said...

The Federalist Era portrait painter's palette, according to the introduction written by Faber Birren to the book "Hints to Young Painters" by Thomas Sully, 1783 - 1872.

Birren writes: "One curiosity is the general absence of a green pigment. Gilbert Stuart, for example, made use of Prussian blue, white, yellow, vermilion, crimson lake, burnt umber, and black - but no green." He goes on to say that the palette recommended by Sully "did not provide a truly clean or pure yellow (brighter than ochre), a pure yellow-green, a turquoise blue, a magenta, or a rich purple. The apparent reliance on yellow ochre for a pure yellow is difficult to understand. Yellow ochre has a tan or mustard-like tone; it is more of a pale gold than a yellow. Yet in Sully's time - and for many decades earlier - clean yellows such as cadmium yellow and Naples yellow were commonly available. A partial explanation may be found in the fact that portraits in Sully's day were predominantly warm in tone, a principle which Sir Joshua Reynolds thought essential for the best art. Blue, for example, was needed to form shadows and was not otherwise applied over a large area. When green was needed, such as in natural backgrounds, a dull version could readily be mixed from ultramarine and yellow ochre. If gold predominated, rich, luminous beauty was assured."

marvelousmarvin said...

Graydon, I'm glad you specified the exact arrangement of Aviano's palette. It may utilize similar colors to those I use, but the way he constructs the strings is too close to Reilly. No wonder you found it difficult to control. I had the same issues with Reilly's colors and arrangement and why I searched for a better solution just as you did after your frustration with Aviano's.

I believe my palette arrangement of colors is far more elegant and more highly capable of controlling HVC with the greatest subtlety, and in the hands of a knowledgeable artist one can achieve the kind of control that Bouguereau was capable of.

Therefore, in the future I'd really appreciate it if you would please refrain from lumping me together with them (in the name of scientific accuracy) until of course you have empirical evidence to the contrary. (I need a symbol to insert here to indicate humor laced with truth!)

ewschott said...

Oh I hate to follow Marvin with this, damn I need every symbol there is...

I have used this for awhile, so with apologies I have some of my additions to Rob Liberace's palette for portraits, I don't have my notes in front of me to say what he uses exactly, I believe you will see a difference to others.

I also went back through that whole end of the dreaded "Chroma" thread at Cennini to find Rob's (L.) notes to me... ouch that still stings there... anyway, let me reinstate I do not know enough about Rob's or Shanks or anyone elses theories to defend this, I just know I love color and Marvin promised me I could play a little out of the box should I wind up with him again, except he said no " " in the shadows (can't remember which blue) I said only turquoise. :)

OK Marvin, hold your breath!

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 * **

Very basics -
* mid (“local” caucasian) skin color

** transitional

*** shadow

The sienna is removed as soon as the block in is completed.

I do know there has been many debates on these forums about a "true" colorist, I don't know if that is the point in his statement.

Rob's statement:

A "colorist" (Sorolla) I suppose allows color to play a primary role in the definition of form.

A "Tonalist" (Velazquez) uses values

A "tenebrist" (Caravaggio) uses extreme contrasts of light and dark. There are very few purists in each discipline-most migrate back and forth depending on circumstances-Sorolla becomes more of an Academy tonalist when painting portraits inside and more of a colorist on the beach.

A colorist sees great potential in exploring color and portrays it with abandon. Sorolla delivers color with the primal force of a tropical hurricane.

A colorists palette allows artists to reach the extremes of color. The want red to be RED! not a murky terra rosa-Shanks uses every bizarre form of red to come up with a red in nature-he's not so much trying to match color as he is pushing it beyond it's appearance. In order to show others how beautiful or interesting something is to you it's often necessary to exaggerate a bit -or more than a bit. From nature you "build a world more real than reality" says Oscar Wilde. That is art and color can be your vehicle. Nature must be heightened in order to make art -otherwise it's mere visual journalism.

I use burnt umber for the first lay in and then it's all color-I don't use earth colors in my mixing but Shanks and others do use some to supplement their bright colors.

I have a limited palette technique which I demonstrate in class using only Alizarin(red), yellow, thalo green and white. It works similarly to the printer CYMK idea or more closely the RGB idea (aliz and thalo g have enough blue in them that they act as blue when mixed just so with a bit of white). It's a fairly efficient approach.

One can start with a colorist palette and end up with a tonal image (or mud) and one can start with a tonal palette and still suggest vibrant color-your vision of the end result is the key. If you have a colorist intent a brighter more pure palette makes sense.

Look up Louis Griffel's book. She's from the Cape Cod color school(hawthorne-Henche) that influenced Shanks and the Egeli's

I am hoping Rob may join in here, but it's my guess it took him 3 hours to type the paragraphs above, so I'm guessing he'll have to talk Lina into typing.

ewschott said...

Oops, I just found Rob's:

Skin and everything:

Burnt umber for blocking in, remove when done.

L. cad yellow
Cad orange
Cad red light
Permanent Rose
Perm alizarin
Manganese violet
Cerulean blue
Cobalt turquoise blue light
Ultramarine blue
Phthalo blue
Phthalo green
Flake white

I did change Pyrralo Ruby (instead of permanent rose), I swear that stuff - rose- grows overnight.

graydon said...


Please elaborate how you make these strings?

Say, for the lower values of the red string, what are the mixtures?

Remember, that there are no cadmiums on Michael's palette and this is just one solution. We were free to use any earth color, or any color for that matter, unless the chroma was wildly out of place. For the yellow string, at value 6 we often placed yellow ochre light; some placed naples yellow at seven: each for the yellow string.

Unless we are doing the same thing, and correcting for some kind of hue shift, I can't get my mind around how you differ that greatly from Aviano, since the image of your palette, the one posted by a student, looks so similar.

So, please explain. Perhaps you are doing something in between what I do and Aviano's. But I assure you, Aviano is not Reilly. I have all of the books written by other students, each describes a cad red string, a cad yellow string, a neutral one and an average complexion string...mostly orange mixed with neutrals.

graydon said...

I took the following from a post by your student:

"Mixture of titanium and flake, ivory black and raw umber for the neutral greys.

His complexion colors (again for students - no telling the magic he spins), are Yellow Ochre , Yellow Ochre light, Terra Rosa and Indian Red."

This seems incomplete for the full value range of hues? Indian Red is a fairly high chroma orang-red, a synthetic iron oxide. I think Terra Rosa is the same, albeit more toward primary red, and is usually laked, that is, enhanced with modern organics ( Old Holland makes a useful flesh ochre that appears to have been laked also due to the chroma) Both are around value 4 if I can remember, although, again, I don't know the brand. Yellow ochre and yellow ochre light are values 5 and 6 or 4 and 5, according to the brand. Do you lower their values with a combination of umbers?

Also, I will have to try again and get an absolute neutral with raw umber. Are you checking the mixtures against Munsell? And if not, is the shift in hue important? Which brand?

For me, the hue is what is the essential thing. You see, I am already confused since paint terms are inherently vague. If terra rosa and indian red can produce the range for the ruddier part, then they are perfect choices. I would guess they could do so if augmented with a darker red of the same hue. However, if they can't, then they are rather limiting and one would have to add others.

I think we used French Red Ochre at the color class to mix flesh, as well as Alizarin Crimson. One could also use a dark purple-red and bring it back into flesh range.

graydon said...

I am sorry, I read Scott's post over and found that you do add Alizarin. So, the mixture of Raw Umber and Alixarin makes your shadows. Since Raw Umber alone could never make the shadows correct on ruddy areas.

All of these colors:

Black, White, two reds of different hues, Alizarin Crim., Yellow Ochre and Yellow Ochre Light, and raw umber can hit 99 percent of all flesh hues with sufficient chroma.

I prefer burnt umber because 1. it is more chromatic and 2. vies with the general complexion of healthy flesh better that raw and 3. make an easy, perfect neutral, when mixed with black.

But the mixtures of the two, Alizarin Crimson which is around the 8th chroma and raw umber, around the 1st or 2nd, should be able to do most things effectively.

That said, I nave never needed naples for painting flesh. It is too chromatic. But is can certainly be used. Likewise, I find ultramarine, the most chromatic purple-blue available, too hard to handle. Terre Verte, seems to be chromatic enough and closer to the hue range of veins. Viridian is too chromatic, although I enjoy using it.

Really, though, Marvin. In all fairness, this varies so little from either Aviano or myself. The major difference between you and me, which I think is important although not critical, is that I prefer to think in hues and chromas, that is Munsell, rather than pigments. I can navigate color space when I am in front of nature or painting from my notes.

marvelousmarvin said...

I use the HVC model to navigate color space. Obviously anyone who understands color, in this maner, can use any colors they desire and come up with similar results. However, using certain pigments makes the task easier.

This is why I choose raw umber, yellow ochre, ivory black, terra rosa, indian red, flake white as my primary flesh mixtures, plus a drop of alizarine. I avoid burnt umber, since it causes sinking in.

My other colors round out my palette. I don't just paint skin. ;-) If I come across something that falls outside the gamut of my palette I will add the appropriate hue.

As I paint I don't think in terms of warm and cool, too ambiguous. ;-) If I'm painting something red I determine if it needs to move more towards red-purple or yellow red. This will determine which tube of paint I squeeze out of to add to the mixture. Does this make me pigment oriented? I don't think so.

In a twelve day workshop I demonstrate my color painting for four full days. I do an additional six hours discussing color theory and mixing. I just don't have the time to lay it all out here with a comprehensive explanation, therefore I'm writing a book on subject.

graydon said...

No, it doesn't make you pigment orientated, just half-orientated. : )

But what has been vexing, Marvin, for me as an artist, is the inherent changes in hue that those string evince. Like I said, and I know you disagree, is that I have been using a very similar approach.

For example, if you mix terra rosa with white, you get a change of hue and chroma. Terra Rosa will be, of course, more red and higher in chroma than its mixture with white, which is more yellow and more grey. In order to correct this pull, a pigment that has more red and higher in chroma has to be added. I would add alizarin plus white to correct the pull, but any pigment that veers toward primary red will do. ( By the way, I plotted alizarin on the Munsell chart, and it is around, if I remember correctly, 6 to 7 R 2/8 or 9; I had anticipated that it would be purple red. But it too changes when mixed with white. )

All pigments shift in hue, value and chroma when mixed with white. All, too shift in hue when mixed with neutral, if they are neutralized a lot. (One reason to avoid high chroma pigments when painting low chroma object, if the Munsell chips are not referenced)

But since one has to correct for these shifts when painting form, why not do them ahead of time? One, then, will know exactly what is on the palette, what chroma and which hue. Exactly, not approximately. After all, flesh is only in a certain range of hues. It averages 7.5YR for most complexions. Some are at 2.5 and other at 10YR. But when painted, 10YR seems too yellow, interesting, yes, but too yellow for the most part. Even Asian skin is more like 8YR.

Adjusting one strings ahead of time with Munsell has distinct advantages:

1. There is much less mixing on the canvas. One can easily establish the average shadow, halftone and light by adjusting the HVC on the canvas, but the subtle half-tints are much more difficult. One can paint without muddiness and dip into the string with confidence never worrying about hue shifts.

2. Locals can be managed better. With local chroma strings established, one can mix between them with ease. One string = one local. One can be assured at all times that what is on the palette is within a given local, both the local chroma and the local hue. One can be certain that, when changing from one chroma to another, no guess work is needed. Chromas are critical. There is a grand canyon of difference between a chroma 1 and a chroma 2. Chroma 1 will paint the beard on a shaven man and chroma 2 will be Bouguereau flesh. But even Bouguereau's women get grey in the halftones. A chroma of 1.5 will work here and its very difficult to mix without bracketing between 1 and 2.

3. One is never dependent on certain pigments. That is, pigments can be chosen for all sorts of reasons: convenience, permanency, oil absorption, taste, history etc. Moreover, these pigments can be used in a variety of ways.

4. Averaging is possible. Instead of doing an underpainting in burnt umber or raw umber plus white, which varies in hue and chroma, one can do an underpainting in 5YR at the 2nd chroma. Then, with ease, once the average is established, the variety of hues can be added. One has established a logical base.

Its not that any number of palettes don't work. And yours is certainly light years more sophisticated than 99 percent. It is not wrong. Yet I know I have taken it one step further toward Munsell and it has made a world of difference, not only in painting flesh, but in painting flowers. I painted 200 roses in my last painting. Knowing that rose leaves were a certain HVC made averaging them a breeze.

On a final note, I have not had any trouble with Old Holland Burnt Umber sinking in. Its my favorite brand and the most chromatic I have found. But I do use retouch varnish. If it hurts the longevity of my paintings, then I am sparing future generations from looking at them. : )