Lack of colour choices: feature image

Lack Of Colour Choices Will Get Your Creativity Flowing

If all you have is a limited palette, a lack of colour choices can stop you from painting some subjects. I’m here to persuade you to take up the creativity challenge with the pastels you have available – you may be surprised!

Take today’s demo – a box of tissues as its subject. It’s a lot of off-whites on off-whites. But say my palette only has a few colours to choose from, what do I do? Well let’s check it out.

First, the subject – a box of tissues against a light neutral background. (I worked from life but this photograph gives you an idea of what I was facing.)

 

Lack of colour choices: the box of tissues to paint

 

The thumbnail sketch to determine values:

Lack of colour choices: Most of the piece would be middle-value with the lightest values being where the light hit the tissue and the darkest values being the shadow side of the box and its cast shadow.

Most of the piece is middle-value with the lightest values being where the light hits the tissue and the darkest values being the shadow side of the box and its cast shadow.

 

And here are the colours I used – you can see the lack of colour choices for this subject!

Lack of colour choices: Eight pastels from Unison starter set

Eight pastels from Unison starter set

 

 

So let’s get started on the pastel.

lack of colour choices: 1. The vine charcoal sketch on UART 400 grade paper. (Also visible are yellow pastel marks from a previous drawing that was cut down.)

1. Vine charcoal sketch on UART 400 grade paper. (Also visible are yellow pastel marks from a previous drawing that was cut down leaving this size of paper.)

 

Lack of colour choices: 2. Initially I put down colours that I saw in a general way. I couldn't put down the correct values because I didn't have those choices. In this photo, I have begun to add the creamy white ('Grey 27') to lighten everything.

2. Initially I put down colours that I saw (within the whites and creams) in a general way. I couldn’t put down the correct values because I didn’t have those choices in my palette. In this photo, I have begun to add the creamy white (‘Grey 27’) to lighten almost everything.

 

Lack of colour choices: 3. After lightening, I went back in to reestablish colours and their value relationships. There are still areas that are too dark but one of the great things about pastels on sanded paper is the ability to layer.

3. After lightening, I went back in to reestablish colours and their value relationships. There are still areas that are too dark but one of the great things about pastels on sanded paper is the ability to layer.

 

Lack of colour choices: 4. Here I'm beginning to clarify the shape of the box as well as its colour and value.

4a. Here I’m beginning to clarify the shape of the box as well as its colour and value.

 

Lack of colour choices: 4b. The same stage in black and white to check on values.

4b. The same stage in black and white to check on values.

 

Lack of colour choices: 5. I created the mere hint of a leaf design on the box as well as further defining the shapes of the tissue's light and dark areas, and also the box. I noticed there was a slight reflection in the shadow side of the box so included that.

5. I created the mere hint of a leaf design on the box as well as further defining the shapes of the tissue’s light and dark areas, and also the box. I noticed there was a slight reflection in the shadow side of the box so included that too.

 

Lack of colour choices: 6. I noticed the shadow side of the box had become too light so darkened it with a light swipe of dark blue. And now consider it done! Gail Sibley, 'Box of Tissues,' Unison pastels on UART 400 paper, 7 3/4 x 12 in.

6. I noticed the shadow side of the box had become too light so darkened it with a light swipe of dark blue. And now consider it done!
Gail Sibley, ‘Box of Tissues,’ Unison pastels on UART 400 paper, 7 3/4 x 12 in.

 

Lack of colour choices: 6b. The black and white version. Gail Sibley, 'Box of Tissues,' Unison pastels on UART 400 paper, 7 3/4 x 12 in.

6b. The black and white version.
Gail Sibley, ‘Box of Tissues,’ Unison pastels on UART 400 paper, 7 3/4 x 12 in.

 

You can see that the end pastel painting is very colourful compared to the subject in real life!

It was my initial intention to go further towards the reality of what I saw but as I worked, I began to enjoy the colourful statement and kept with that, just making sure the values were working.

You can see that the lack of colour choices lead the way to a more creative (and colourful) outcome. I could have chosen to stick with my idea of ‘copying’ reality in a more dedicated way but I didn’t. As artists, we are completely free to render what we see with our own perceptions and our own choices of colour, value, drawing, and design.

So I hope now a lack of colour choices won’t hold you back! I’d love to hear if this post has inspired you to try your own simple set up with a small selection of pastels. Let me know how it goes!

*****

 

Also a reminder that I will be teaching an absolute beginner in pastel workshop locally on the last two Sundays of April. For more info and to register, click here. It’s taking place at the Peninsula Gallery and for the price, they will include all the materials you will need – it’s a BARGAIN!! If you have questions about whether it’s right for you, email me or better yet, set up a 15-min call with me here.

 

Until next time,

~ Gail

 

PS. I recorded the progression of this pastel so hope to have a YouTube video of it in the near future. Keep your eyes open! If you’re a subscriber to my YouTube Channel, you’ll be notified when it’s uploaded.

PPS. Next week we have another guest blog – I know you’re gonna love it!!

 

 

6 thoughts on “Lack Of Colour Choices Will Get Your Creativity Flowing

  1. Ellen

    Good example of working with what you have and having the confidence to succeed in making something worthwhile. Thanks for this …….a useful encouragement.

    Reply
    1. Gail Sibley Post author

      Thanks Ellen. I find that starting out can be pretty daunting and the voices scream “it can’t be done!” but by just starting, you’re ahead of the game. I had no idea when I began if I could make it work but with determination and experience, I felt something might come of the experiment. 🙂

      Reply
  2. Genie Geer

    I think I am fairly “old school” because mixing colors from a limited palette was just the way we learned 40+ years ago. 10 yrs ago, I was taking yet another drawing/life drawing class, and foolishly praised a young man for matching the bright pink of flowers from a photo—-and then I saw his mega-pack of colored pencils…which included that exact shade. I still prefer working with limited palettes and enjoy the mixing process. My mom was a master at it; she started with oils, went on to watercolor, and ended her life painting with pastels. Now, me?

    Reply
    1. Gail Sibley Post author

      Genie I’m with you on working with limited palettes – the limitation pushes you to be more creative. The thing about paint of course is that a few tubes of paint can create a tremendous variety and range of colour. It’s a bit more difficult with pastels but with patience and determination, the same can be done! So yes, now you!!

      Reply
  3. Rita Kirkman

    Great post Gail! I just happened to have done a limited-palette painting in my last workshop, with 12 sticks from the Unison John’s Set. Not quite as difficult as your tissue box 😉
    Every time I actually have the time to read your blog post, I’m always glad I did! Thanks for writing and sharing!

    Reply
    1. Gail Sibley Post author

      Rita thanks so much for your comment!! I’m not actually familiar with John’s set – I’ll need to go find an image of it to see what colours you had available to paint with!

      Reply

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