Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Primary Palette Pears and a Squash

12/20/16 Luminance colored pencils
A couple of weeks ago I got the idea to severely limit my colored pencil palette with a still life. That day I used only five pencils – a drastic cut from the 10 to 20 colors I usually chose. Now I’m down to three primary colors. I showed you the apple I sketched last week in my review of the Baron Fig notebook. Here are a couple more of (you guessed it) Comice pears and a carnival squash. In each case I used only three pencils.

Primary palette used for pear and
squash (above).
When I allow myself to have as many hues as I want, my tactic is to find pencils that come as close as possible to the full range of colors I see – that’s how I end up with as many as 20. When I use a primary palette, I select a red, a yellow and a blue that are somewhat close to the hues I need to blend them into, not necessarily what I see. For example, the carnival squash has streaks of dark green, so I chose malachite for the blue, which has some green already in it. I chose a red-orange for the red, since the squash and the pear both have orange in them. I always make a test scribble on the side so I can see what kinds of grays or browns I can get with the three before I start (at left). Once I commit to the three, that’s all I use.

12/17/16 Faber-Castell Polychromos colored pencils, water-soluble
brush pen
I’m guessing this is a similar process to what painters use to mix colors, and I think I’ve learned that process from books I’ve read on watercolor painting. Yet somehow I find the process easier with pencils. Maybe it’s just that the hues I see on the pencil points are very close to what I’ll see on paper, which is not always the case with paints, especially after they dry. Also, the unpredictable nature of water added to paints throws a whole other variable into the mix that can dramatically affect the hues that result. In any case, I feel like I’m learning a lot more about color mixing through these small studies in pencil than I ever did trying to use paint.


  1. Early on I read somewhere that the fewer colors you use the more unified the results and the more you will learn about color. That's certainly been my experience, though I'm watercolor challenged. Seems you're finding this same thing with your colored pencil approach. Wonderful sketches, Tina.

    1. Thank you, Larry. I'm definitely learning more now, but it's so dang hard to resist all those colors! :-)

      - Tina

  2. I love your sketches too! I think that the watercolor pencils might be what I've been looking for, and I will try the Faber-Castell pencils next! I have tried to subscribe to your blog through email, but somehow I never get your newest blog updates. Any ideas? Thanks!!

    1. Thank you for your comments! I'm so sorry about the subscribing tool. I have been told by many that it's not working, and I tried to fix it, but I'm not very tech savvy, so I ran out of solutions. I'm sorry about that, and I really appreciate that you are visiting anyway! I use the blog reader Bloglovin to track all the blogs I read instead of getting email notifications. Maybe that will work for you.



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