Thursday, March 21, 2019

Spring Palette Refresh (Screw Minimal Palettes)

Getting ready for spring!
My basic palette

The sunshine and warm temperatures we’ve been having this week have made me optimistic: It’s time to refresh my palette for spring. Working with my usual basic palette (shown at right), I’ve substituted Caran d’Ache Museum Aquarelle 015 (though it may look yellow in my photo above, it’s a very yellow yellow-green) for 245. I’ve also added Caran d’Ache Supracolor 091 with the hope that I’ll soon be sketching cherry blossoms (or at least plum blossoms). It’s a slightly darker pink than the one I’ve used in previous years because pink always becomes less intense than it looks in the test swatch.

I’ve been thinking more about primary palettes, choosing a palette based on frequency of use, and other palette minimization attempts, and today I’m here to say: Screw them all. That doesn’t mean I’m going to add a hundred pencils to my palette; I’m still sticking with not exceeding the 25 slots in my Tran Portfolio Pencil Case. But the more I think about it, the more I realize that it doesn’t make sense to be so stingy with specific hues, especially if they are difficult to mix and convey meaning that another hue might not.  

Just the right green.
Case in point: A couple of weeks ago at Union Station, I began drawing the large pottery vases and tile walls, and I was thrilled to pieces that I happened to have the color verdigris (Caran d’Ache 182) in my bag. Although I don’t have much use for it in Seattle, it’s a hue I always make sure I take with me to Europe for statuary and building details. I guess I had left it in my palette ever since my trip to Portugal last summer. In any case, it was just the right kind of green that would be difficult, if not impossible, to mix, especially with colored pencils. More important, it conveyed meaning in terms of the décor of the place. Someone went to a lot of trouble to find vases that match the wall tiling.

However, my renewed liberalism about color does not mean I’m letting myself go in terms of my sketch kit in general. In fact, even as I allow more hues, I’m going to be more conservative than ever about considering everything else I carry.


  1. I'm glad to hear the color will be back. I can't imagine you at this time of year with blooms popping out soon all over and trying to be happy with a minimal pencil set.

  2. I just might add the verdigris and the pink!


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