Mixing My Paint Palette

When I was a little girl, my best friend and I would play in the backyards of each other's houses and make what we called "mixtures." These concoctions were made up of pretty much anything and everything you could dump into a bowl and mix until combined. We would raid pantries, dig up dirt and leaves, and always built a story around what this specific mixture was meant for. Sometimes it had healing powers, other times it was "dinner" (Note: we never, ever actually consumed any of these mixtures). We were attracted to creating something from nothing, and mixing up different combinations of the materials were given was an activity that we returned to often.

These days, I'm still mixing things up, but I've graduated from mud and kitchen spices to mixing up oil paints, mediums and solvents. My mixtures are both bright and pastel colored, and are lovingly painted on to my canvases. One of my favorite parts of the painting process is building and developing my color palette. It always starts out so clean, and then as the painting builds up, so does my palette, and the colors begin to tell a story. 

My love affair with color began when I started to take advantage of the semi-transparent nature of oil paints. I could paint the entire canvas bright pink, and then paint over it with more natural landscape colors. While the pink couldn't be seen anymore, it allowed the painting to glow from within, and added a layer of depth that you can't get when painting on a plain white canvas. I learned how to play with color and fearlessly used the brightest spectrum of the rainbow. 


A solid color palette begins with great paints. Over time I have built a collection of paints that help me access any color scheme that I have in mind, and I'm always learning how they interact when mixed with each other. On a clean piece of palette paper, I start my lineup. On the long side of my palette box I'll squeeze out small squirts of my paints in the red, pink, yellow and purple families. Then, on the short side, I'll add in squirts of the blues and greens. By organizing my paints in this way, I can understand which colors might stand out more in relation to the others.

I've found that complimentary colors are truly the key to a successful painting. I rarely use colors straight from the tube onto the canvas, because I believe the colors in the tube aren't necessarily realistic representations of the colors we see. A lot of the time, they need to be toned down a notch or two and developed a bit, and I do that by adding a complimentary color (a color on the opposite side of the color wheel). Experimenting with different proportions of complimentary colors and additional add-ins is my #1 way of developing an interesting color palette. You are able to access shades and tones of colors that you see in real life. I often challenge myself to look around me, and imagine what colors I would use to mix up the color of the floor, the ceiling, or the rug of the room I'm in. 

The endless outcomes in any grouping of paints keeps my painting practice exciting and intriguing. I love nothing more than opening up my palette, and seeing what fun colors I can come up with each day. There are so many times when I've come up with a "magic" color, and try to recreate it to use throughout my work, allowing a connecting thread to unite a group of paintings. The colors in my paintings tell a story, and they make you feel. Whether that is a calming feeling or something a little more exciting, my goal as an artist is to communicate my thoughts and feelings to you through the colors that I see in nature, that I have then brought to life on the canvas.