Maine: Palette Rivalry

42 p.m. on July 26, 2008, whereabouts unknown
“Sea & Sun”,
by Robert Leedy, 2008
watercolor on plastic palette,
8″ x 11.5″,
somewhere around 1:42 p.m. on July 26th 2008,
whereabouts unknown.


I photographed my watercolor palette as I painted
“Red Boat”.  


WOW! What a painting in itself !


Which goes to say that with an open mind, you can begin to appreciate the mess you are making as you squeeze out colors and dip into wells. In watercolor. perfect color mixing happens on the paper where pigments are allowed to intermingle – as opposed to mixing colors in the palette beforehand.

But as a plein air painter with limited palette space, it is inevitable that pigments will blend on the palette – especially if your palette is not level. This is a disastrous effect which should be corrected in the beginning- whether it be moving to a more level spot or – as I do –   employ rocks here and there to balance  the surface.

Your colors will mix and mingle on the palette and that is not a bad thing. David Dewey frequently stresses that your painting is in your palette which basically means that if your palette is not interesting, chances are your painting is suffering.

But wait! You are wondering which is better: colors mixing in the palette or on paper?  On paper is ideal but often one starts with a primary color or two mixed with a complementary color which is fine as well. There are rules but then rules are made to break. The important factor is to keep introducing colors into a mix whether it be on paper or in the palette. Over mixed colors translate to boring paintings. The very nature of watercolor is the wonderful intermingling color mixes that may not necessarily occur within other media.


Bottom Line: You WILL mix colors in the palette before placing them on the paper. The key is to keep them fresh and don’t over mix. Once your palette gets established (and interesting looking), you can basically work solely from your palette’s eclectic mix of color. The fact that you remain among these colors adds to the overall unity of your painting.


If you like the playfulness of looking at palettes as art , you should enjoy seeing
“The Birth of Venus”

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