View Full Version : earth palette fruitbowl

07-22-2002, 01:35 AM
I'm not crazy about earth palette paintings (kind of drab & somber) but I wanted to explore this idea, simply as an exercise to see what those simple, humble earthy colors can do.

I wanted to do mostly vegetables, but the variety of fruit I had at home had a much wider range of colors, so I did that instead. Plus I wanted simple shapes...nothing too complicated. It's in acrylic.


The colors in this picture are a tiny bit higher chroma than the actual painting (usually the photos turn out greyer than the original).

I used the following acrylics:

-Golden heavy body burnt sienna
-Wallacks (local brand) Xtra yellow ochre
-Liquitex Basics mars black
-Liquitex Basics titanium white

Artistically, it's nothing special...too tight for my liking (though a bit messy), not particularly accurate, but I'm happy with the results.

But I can't believe how those four dull colors give the impression of all the hues around the color wheel. I was expecting it to look all brownish-looking, (which I actually was looking forward to) so it came out as a surprise. I was particularly surprised that I got the illusion of:

-a lemony yellow (yellow ochre + t. white)
-blue for the blueberries (mars black + t. white)
-burgundy color for the grapes (dark grey + b. sienna)

cobalt fingers
07-22-2002, 09:14 AM
That's impressive. What a neat study for people thinking about limited palettes. Your colors look really good considering the limits and the work sure holds together...like Zorns.

07-22-2002, 09:22 AM
Realistic and impressive. All around good. I like the bright chromas a bit too much and it's limiting. Ill have to try this. Thanks

07-25-2002, 07:28 AM
Thank you Tim and Islandwoman. I still can't believe that it's done in those four colors. When it was about 2/3rds done I looked back and literally thought: "whoa...am I sure I didn't accidentally use some high chroma colors?"

Islandwoman, I too like high chroma colors. The trick is knowing where and where not to use them.
i.e. use them where you want the attention to be. And duller colors serve as a bit of a backdrop or 'supporting cast'. At least this is generally what I like to do.

07-31-2002, 01:31 AM
This looks great Patrick, I was looking forward to you posting your experiment and although I was expecting a landscape this is really interesting. It is pretty amazing how wide the range of hues looks in the finished piece isn't it? You can see how one might do the underpainting with earths and use transparent overlays to finalise hue and increase chroma - very traditional.

By the way I just got a big order of paints from Dick Blick I was waiting for, including Zinc White and the transparent iron oxides, I'll post comments when I've had a chance to do some experiments.


08-01-2002, 05:22 PM
Thank you Einion. Funny thing; the burnt sienna I used is the only burnt sienna I have in acrylics; it's Golden's regular, opaque burnt sienna. It's nowhere near as high chroma as their beautiful transparent iron oxide (nor does it have the value range). So I was worried that it wouldn't give the illusion of red. Same with the regular, opaque yellow ochre I used...would it give the illusion of warm and cool yellows? It's scary to think what could be done with transparent iron oxide & transparent yellow iron oxide like Golden's.

About using transparent overlays; I have a feeling this would give higher chroma than if the paints were just mixed themselves. That's something I want to experiment with eventually. Not to mention the great look of depth...Great for water.

Tell me how those paints turn out. I'm always interested in peculiarities of particular brands of paint/pigment. For example is the zinc white (if it's not Golden) cooler than Golden's dissapointingly un-cool version of it? Etc...

08-01-2002, 10:47 PM
Hi Patrick, I didn't say it very clearly but I was talking about glazing with transparent high-chroma colours to finish - like the blush on cheeks (both kinds!) achieved with a light glaze of crimson over an underpainting of white and earths. This is much like a lot of early oil painting was done of course - saving the expensive pigments by using them sparingly.

It is Golden's Zinc White I bought. As I mentioned at the time, my Golden colour chart's swatch for it is what one expects to see, not the warm, brownish yeuch on yours! The tube is what it should be, a very cool white and from the swatch on the label you can see how transparent it is. I used it experimentally on the last two paintings I did last week and it really is strikingly transparent. If I recall accurately how I used to work for the same effect a few years ago, what I suspected seems to be the case - in acrylics at least, you could let down Titanium White with added medium and get pretty much identical handling characteristics. In oils, where you might want to minimise the use of mediums, a naturally transparent colour is worth having as an option, so it definitely has its uses there, but in acrylics I can't see any use that TW + added medium wouldn't mimic. I'll let you know if further work disagrees with this assessment, I'll be trying direct like-for-like comparisons and if you don't hear more then take it as read that they're identical or close to it.

I was in England a while back and bought a selection of new acrylics to test (Vallejo). Among them was a Quinacridone Red (actually it's magenta) but just to show how large this family is it's not PR122 or 202 but one I had never seen before, PR192. This may be a new pigment as it doesn't have a Colour Index Number assigned yet. It's medium-valued in masstone, exactly what I was looking for. It mixes a range of very good violets with Phthalo Blue GS, although you can't come close to Ultramarine because the chroma is just too low. Ultramarine Violet, Dioxazine Purple and Thioindigo Violet can all be simulated pretty much identically though. One of the advantages of the huge savings when buying online (I used Dick Blick because of free shipping for orders over $200) so I indulged in a few colours I don't need in the low series nos. to see first-hand what they are like. One of these is Ultramarine Violet (Golden's) so I can see how close I can really get, not just comparing it to the swatch on the colour chart. I also now have three phthalo blues, four if you count my old tube of W&N from before they sold both types, so it should be very interesting to see how they compare. The Vallejo colour is super quality, incredibly high tinting strength and very clean in tints with white, with a lovely high-chroma tint.

By the way, before I forget again, I tried some mixing experiments a couple of months ago to match Cerulean Blue and you'll be pleased to know you can mix a hue of it that is as close as anyone could need (even for a critical use like skies). The two routes I took are very strange on the face of it - I was matching one specific cerulean, W&N's so they wouldn't work for all versions - but it was interesting to realise just how neutralised the colour is in real terms. Just like many commercial hues I used Ultramarine in addition to Phthalo Blue (you really have to much to my surprise) and it highlights how tints of Phthalo Blue are not "chalky"!


09-12-2002, 02:25 AM
I'm brand new to WetCanvas and I'm reading this post for the first time. I just wanted to say how much I loved viewing this "experiment". The piece is fantastic and to learn that you did this with a limited palette of just four shades is amazing.

Thank you for sharing your results!

Wayne Gaudon
09-12-2002, 06:56 AM
:clap: nicely done .. great experiment .. lovely piece of work.