Lake in Tonal Palette (2016)

The restriction I set on myself here was to work an entire painting with only two colors, along with white for mixing. I chose Burnt Sienna and Thalo Blue, which are variations on basic orange and blue, which are complimentary colors.  Combining the two produces a nice range from highlights to midtowns to shadows, all you need to succeed with a canvas.

To keep my focus on stretching the limited palette as far as possible, the chosen scene is simple: just mountains and water.  It’s the way to go if you’ve never painted with this method before.  Trying to create a vast array of trees, boats and weekend vacationers with just orange and blue may lead you to an early grave.

My tendency as a painter is to employ as many colors as I think I need to create the run of color effects I want. If you paint quickly, this may not create any issue.  If you work one painting over the course of days or weeks, you might find it difficult to remember which colors you blended in what amounts to create the mountain range that you left half-finished before taking the weekend off to go to Disney World.  And you’ll lose plenty of time trying to re-create them when you get back to your studio.

Using only one or two colors forces you to concentrate on more subtle variations in tone and in maintaining them during the course of the entire painting experience.  The lessons learned will carry over into your future work.  Future paintings will have more depth and sophistication, you’ll have less of a mess on your palette, and you may save a couple bucks on paint.

Grab yourself a small canvas or board, two complimentary colors, a lot of Titanium White, and try it.

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