Palette Paintings, Process, Progress

Continuing my series on the work I made during my Florida Residency, this post covers what is likely the most important work I made while there-my palette paintings.

Welcome to fall!! And welcome back to Art Bite Blog after a brief, yet restful, unplanned hiatus. Continuing my series on the work I made during my Florida Residency, this post covers what is likely the most important work I made while there-my palette paintings. These paintings are important to my studio practice in so many ways, but are important to my teaching as they illustrate so profoundly an aspect of art making that I feel is an absolute necessity: Process.

I came to make the palette paintings because my literal watercolor renditions of the Florida landscape were dismal and frankly, uninspired. It’s important to start somewhere and for me, beginning with a literal copy of the subject and then breaking down from there is how I’ve arrived at almost everything I’ve done that is remotely successful. Color is my go to for a lot of things, so I thought I’d start from there. The very first palette I made had no form, no rhyme or reason. I’ve long been inspired by Ellen Heck’s Color Wheels and love her design, but I wanted something simpler. When one is on a residency in remote Northern Florida, one uses what one has on hand…so I used the top of a moisture eater I purchased for my cabin and a Dasani cap as my templates. Circles and ovals are my faves, these templates fit nicely in my backpack with no weight added and I could change the design at will-it all works!

The next part of the process was to paint the colors I saw before me without getting overwhelmed by all of them. I decided to focus on one small section of the landscape and paint every nuance I saw within it-how the light changes with time, how the wind affects the color, how clouds, sun, storms, etc. also affect the color. In most cases, I jotted notes on the date, time of day, weather conditions and where I was. I suddenly had many variables with which to dissect and study this very large, very dense jungle of a landscape and I was having fun doing it. Even though I consider myself a fairly decent colorist, I was learning so much about really seeing and mixing color, as well as developing a color palette I could call my own, which was one of my loose goals for the residency. With one of my major goals achieved, the palette painting definitely brought everything full circle-no pun intended

I now make a palette painting or two on every hike, honing in on anything from leaves, flowers, rocks, water, lichen, etc. My next venture is to combine the palettes with the drawings I wrote about in this post. Also, I’ve just started to get a bit more complex with the design of the palettes themselves. It’s so fun and freeing to work within parameters, I’m discovering so much and making new work at the same time.

Please peruse the paintings below. I always take care to photograph the source of the palette and the source images are either next to or in the same photo as the palette itself. Also, FYI, almost all of the palettes are painted on my Hahnemuhle Watercolor Book using my Portable Watercolor Set, both of which are available in my Amazon Store. Visit my Hiking, Travel and Portable Art Supplies Idea List on Amazon for more great portable ideas and visit my recent post, 5 More Essential Portable Art Materials for my favorite products.

5 More Essential Portable Art Materials

Because of my busy workshop schedule and love of hiking, I’m totally into the portability and versatility of my art materials. In this article, I share with you 5 of my favorites.

Summer is upon us, vacation plans have been laid and new memories to be journaled, drafted, sketched and painted are all in the near future. Because of my busy workshop schedule and love of hiking, I’m totally into the portability and versatility of my favorite art materials. I also like to keep things very simple while traveling so as to not add a lot of weight to my pack as well as limit myself to only a few art materials- I’m a firm believer that restrictions breed creativity.

Even if you aren’t a traveler, but perhaps an artist short on time, having portable, lightweight, inexpensive and versatile art materials on hand will offer you more opportunities to make art, even if it’s just while in the waiting room at the dentist’s office. Also, be sure to read 7 Essential Portable Art Materials, for additional add-ons to your travel bag.

To purchase these materials, click on the title link, which will take you directly to the product in my Portable Art Supplies Amazon shop. I have also included some pics of things I’ve made using each material. Most are sketches on the road or on the trail- they’re not masterpieces, but give you a good idea of what each product can do. Also, because of the portability and convenience factor, I focus on water media only in this article.

  • MISULOVE Watercolor Paint Set This folding, fairly lightweight paint set is made to be portable and does not disappoint. I have many portable watercolor sets that were expensive and run out of color too quickly. I’ve been using this one heavily for about 6 months and I’m nowhere near running out of color. With those expensive sets, I was limited on color and always seemed to be wanting a color not included in the set. As you can see, this set offers many colors to choose from and they paint very bright and very rich with an excellent range of translucency depending on how much water is used. The folding aspect of the set allows me to hold it in one hand while painting in the other for those times where there is just no room to spread out. Last, my water brush fits snugly in the slot so that I’m never scrambling to find it in the black hole of my back pack. I have the 42 set of colors, but it also comes in 18, 25 and 33 color sets, which are available through sellers other than Amazon. The mini paintings pictured below were all made en plein air with this set.
  • Meeden Watercolor Tin I love working with gouache-especially the white, which I add to everything. The tubes can be heavy to carry around, so I squirt a little color into the half pans in this tin and away I go. The paint does eventually dry, but gouache can be revived with a little water so it’s ok. These tin boxes are lightweight, include a mixing tray and the half pans are removable for easy cleaning. The paintings below were all made with dried gouache in my portable tin on watercolor block.

Hahnemühle Watercolor Book Anyone who has worked with Hahnemühle papers knows they are quality. I had always worked on a watercolor block, which I still do, but the A6 size of this book and the landscape orientation of it is just perfection for me. The paper is smooth and just lovingly accepts any water or drawing media I put in contact with it. While hiking, I often paint and then quickly run off to the next painting spot with damp pages. The band closure keeps the book closed and allows the pages to dry flat. This book also comes in an A5 landscape size, which is just slightly too large and heavy for me, but may be a more suitable size for others.

Tombow Dual Brush Pen in Black A recent workshop student of mine introduced me to these pens and I’m totally hooked! Its watercolor in a pen with a fine and broad sized brush and water-based ink that will dilute and blend with water. I love this pen for its versatility and if I’m really limited for space in my pack, it’s all I really need. These pens come in many colors and I’ve ordered a few and found that the blacks and darker colors tend to blend a bit better than the lighter ones. Also good to note is I’ve been told that the inks will eventually fade, which is just heartbreaking. Drawings made with these pens should be kept locked away in your sketchbook away from light.

  • Therm-a-Rest Z Seat Cushion It’s not an art material, but it’s definitely an essential, especially for aging bodies. I’m still in ok shape, but I can no longer sit on a rock for an hour and paint without feeling a bit cramped. This cushion folds to a neat bundle and is so lightweight you barely feel it in your pack. It’s also thermal and will protect your bottom from cold and moisture. I love it so much, I also got one for my car!