In my quest for learning how to oil paint, I have come to the conclusion I know very little about color theory and usually just go on my “instinct” when painting and choosing colors. I have read some on my own, but knew all along I need to get serious if I am going to meet some of the goals I have set for myself in this painting journey.
One of the most inspiring and encouraging artists that I personally know is Lori Putnam, a Nashville artist whose work I both admire and drool over! See her website here. Her work is fresh, loose, and just absolutely beautiful. She also has a couple of small booklets (which you can purchase at her website) about oil painting, plein air painting, and color theory that I have purchased that I consider some of the best material I have read on these subjects. And believe me, I have a book addiction, and if I showed you a photo of my shelves of books relating to painting and art, you would know I know what I am talking about! Her booklets are full of little gems of information that I might have read or heard somewhere before, but her way of presentation just sticks with me. Sometimes it is like that with learning.
Lori also has a wonderful blog that includes some valuable posts on many subjects relating to painting, but some very good ones on making color charts and using a 3 color plus white palette like she does. Now I know there are probably countless posts and book chapters out there on chart making, and there is no one right way, but I decided to just go with this and do them. I was not convinced that I could possibly get this many colors with just one tube of each primary and white. However, after doing the charts with Lori’s detailed instructions, I am convinced. As most artists are, I am a visual learner for the most part and learn best by doing.
The main thing I learned after doing this exercise was this – I don’t have to have every color paint that the manufacturers make in my painting supplies to make beautiful paintings. Now, I know that sounds simplistic, but somehow before I did these charts, I thought that the people who painted with a limited palette or even an expanded limited palette were just somehow born with some sort of talent or sense of color that I was not born with and I could never learn it and would have to buy my own yellow ochre for the rest of my painting career. There is nothing wrong with using a ton of paint tubes, but if you aspire to plein air paint much, it makes it rather difficult and cumbersome to use 20 different tubes out in the field.
Will I only paint with these 3 colors from here on out? I’m not sure yet and also know that it doesn’t really matter right now. Some of the best advice that every artist that I have studied with has been something along the lines of “this is the way I do it, but you must find your own style and way of doing things.” Great advice!