Episode 1 - Overcoming Painter's Block

The Benefit of Limiting your Palette.


Sometimes as painters we can find ourselves in a bit of a rut. A funk. A black hole of self-doubt and loathing our own work and the fear that we’ll never measure up to our idols. I have some good news for you. You’re not alone. We all SHOULD feel like this from time to time. It is healthy and I believe, one of the best ways to actually improve your painting. We think more. We look inwards to find the things that drive our work and we focus on the desire to be better. Whenever you’re in these phases, try limiting your palette.

When we paint like rubbish, it is usually the result of bad tone and bad, discombobulated colour-harmony. I see so many students that have every colour under the sun and they’ve all been squeezed out a decade ago and they wonder why they can’t get strong results. Too many options equal more room for failure and confusion. The painting isn’t working so we’ll just try a random colour and see what happens. It never works but I guess you may end up with an abstract masterpiece.

Here is what I recommend. Go to a $2 shop, buy a cheap plastic palette and a few disposable plastic bowls. Start with choosing one colour. A neutral tint or Indigo or Burnt Sienna. Something like that. We need three bowls here. One will have a watery wash, the next, a slightly thicker wash, like milk consistency and the third bowl will have a mixture more like the consistency of thickened cream. SO, you have three bowls, all with different thicknesses of the same colour. Now, go and paint a picture using ONLY these three bowls.

You’ll be amazed at how much more you gel with the subject because you’re looking at it from a tonal point of view only. There’s no fluff.

When you’ve done a few of those little paintings with the one colour, move up to three colours. I suggest Burnt Sienna, Ultramarine and Scarlet Red (or any bright red). Now mix three bowls for each colour and away you go. Paint like this for a week or two, then move onto your usual palette and I guarantee you’ll find that you don’t need all of your colours anymore. In my arsenal, I have 12 staple colours plus a couple of odd bods. That’s it. While limiting your choice will definitely help your painting overall, it is a lot of fun too. Give it a try.




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