Less Can be More

This week, the New England painter, Nita Leger Casey, posted a painting challenge on "The Nahsua Artists Breakfast Club" blog.
The challenge was to paint her landscape photo using just 2 colours plus black and white.  The colours were Yellow Ochre and Burnt Sienna.

I can't resist a challenge, so I gave it a try.

Everyone knows that you can mix every colour from the 3 primary colours: red, blue and yellow, but who knew that black could be the "blue"?  When mixed with yellow ochre, it gives soft, muted greens; with burnt sienna, it makes a smoky purple (which I didn't make use of, now that I look at it); and with white, it mimics a muted blue.

None of the colours are dramatic show-stoppers, but they do create a pleasing, earthy range of colours that's perfect for landscapes.

This palette reminded me of Anders Zorn, the famous Swedish painter of the late 1800's and early 1900's.  A brilliant figurative painter, he was known for using an extremely limited palette and, somehow, making it look like a bountiful assortment of colours.  Zorn's colours consisted of: Vermillion (Cad Red Light makes a substitute), Yellow Ochre, Ivory Black, and White.  Occasionally, he'd add Ultramarine Blue or a Cad. Yellow.

The advantage to using so few colours is that you have to think less about which colours are the best for a specific subject and, instead, focus on paint consistency and brushstroke.  As well, there's no denying it makes harmonious paintings, because of the repetition of subtle variations of so few colours.
I think I'll try this again, but next time I'll try to maintain more transparency.  This piece has some thinly-applied, transparent darks in the shadow forms, but I'd like to see it done with a lighter touch everywhere - less white overall.

If you want to see more limited palette suggestions, check out this post in David Rourke's blog "All the Strange Hours".  Maybe you'll want to challenge yourself and give one a try.

Happy painting!


I love it , I knew you would make it a beautiful painting with all your wonderful stokes, A+
A. S. Helwig said…
it looks so rich! Well done.
Dean H. said…
Great concept! You did super!
I may have to try some with this palette.
Thanks painters! It means a lot to get compliments from the 3 of you.