Wednesday, August 27, 2014

How to Limit Your Pastel Palette

'Down in the Valley'             11x14             pastel             ©Karen Margulis
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 Too many pastels. Too many choices. It can get us into trouble sometimes. While it is exciting to finally have a good assortment of pastels it doesn't really make painting foolproof. I used to think if I had the same colors and brands as the artists I admired I would do better paintings!  It doesn't work this way I discovered.

Having too many pastels or maybe not very many can be a challenge. It can lead to bad color choices...too many colors in one painting can destroy the color harmony and can easily lead to mud.

The solution is to limit your palette! 

Once I began to limit my palette and choose my pastels before each painting I started to have more successful paintings. I use a butcher tray and line my pastels in the tray. It is so much easier to keep track of the number of pastels that are being used when they are on the tray!  There is a trick to making this work though.

My Limited Palette for today's painting....Under 30 
The trick is VALUE!  That's right...the all important concept of value....or how dark or light a color is.  You have probably heard the quote "Value does all the work and color gets the glory" It is important to know that if we can get the value of our shapes correct we can use any color we want and our subject will look correct. You can paint an apple purple and it will look like an apple if the values are correct. You may not want to eat it but that isn't what is important here.

So I like to arrange my pastels on the tray by VALUE. I choose a variety of dark pastels for my dark shapes. Then I choose a variety of lights for the light shapes. The rest of the painting will be middle values. I like to use only two middle values if I can. See the photo above for the way I arrange my pastels according to how light or dark they are.

A limited palette selected and arranged by value is the key to making my time at the easel more enjoyable and more successful!


Painting notes: 11x14 on Uart 500 with an assortment of pastels, Terry Ludwig, Great American and a Diane Townsend light.

2 comments:

Jeff said...

Thank you,Karen. I appreciate your explanation. I also appreciated the photo of the colors you chose.

mi fasola said...

thanks so much for the insight on limiting pastels. I think of all those I admire on FB, you provide the most information and instruction.