Updated: Apr 12
There’s this thing that happens when I’m preparing my palette at the beginning of any project, when fresh paint hits freshly-scraped, pristine plexiglas. It’s a moment of reverie and deep satisfaction sprinkled with a faint crackle of nervous anticipation.
Arranging the colors in just the correct sequence is the code that opens the gate. The familiar smell of Linseed Oil is the painter’s incense, an invitation do dive right in. Sometimes, though, the untouched cleanliness of the whole setup is religious like an altar and I’m afraid to touch it, to muddle the perfection. So, recently I decided to preserve the moment.
I’ve arrived at the following palette through a natural distillation of my working process over the last 15 years of making paintings:
Flesh Tone (Gamblin)/Buff Titanium/Naples Yellow
Cadmium Yellow Medium
Raw Sienna/Burnt Sienna/English Red
Cadmium Red Light
Napthol Red/Grumbacher Red
Cadmium Red Deep
Ultramarine Blue/Viridian green
Although highly refined and realistic images may potentially be achieved with a much smaller palette, each color listed above fills a unique void in the spectrum according to which I see and use color, for my particular style or version of high-realism painting.
This is especially true with the 4 reds I use. The bulk of my preferred subject matter is dependent on a wide range of subtle variation in the red area of the color spectrum. Highly specific combinations of these reds are a crucial part of my technique on most paintings. There’s a formula for the most convincing fresh blood that must be followed.
As indicated above, in three areas of my palette’s color spectrum are alternates of a similar hue that may be rotated in, according to the particular needs of a piece.
And of course, there is no true Black included. “Black” in all its subtle variation is achieved from several combinations of the darkest colors, which is a method that’s more conducive to a highly realistic result. Furthermore, teaching oneself to recognize the subtle nuances in such a strong color as black is an important step in being able to create lifelike and convincing illusions.