My thoughts on pre filled Watercolor palettes/sets

Sketchbook Skool posted a nice article on pre filled watercolor palettes.

There were lots of goodies on that post and yes, these are nice watercolor palettes. I have been wanting to try to QOR watercolors but I can’t quite justify the purchase to myself except for collecting a watercolor set that I just don’t need or probably won’t use as much. I do have the Pocket Palette that I filled with my own colors and I use it all the time when I am out sketching and I don’t feel like squeezing out paint. (photo below)

I read the article and I know that Sketchbook Skool has a lot of beginner artists and this was my advice to them:

 A suggestion to Beginners would be to hold off on the more expensive, expansive sets and just start with something basic.  Beginners are better off buying a small plastic palette and squeezing on some tube paint on the palette to carry with them.  You can get a lot of painting done with just 3 colors. A cheap Prang set is OK to start with as well, to see if you even like painting with watercolors.  A pet peeve of mine is the colors in the sets aren’t always colors you are going to use and some of these sets are sickeningly expensive. To spend a lot of money on a fancy set with colors that don’t get used is a waste of hard earned money.  Go with a few tubes instead.

 Also, Watercolor isn’t for everyone and with so many other portable water media like gouache and acrylic, and even watercolor pencils and crayons out there, it might be better to limit spending on fancy expensive sets and instead, play around with a limited palette of a couple of colors in different media to see what fits you. Don Colley uses Faber Castell Pitt pens extremely effectively.  Roz Stendahl is a Queen of Gouache.   Rob Sketcherman uses the iPad. James Gurney switches it up with watercolor, gouache, casein and also oils. There are even water soluble oil paints. (Check out Gurney’s videos and you’ll be amazed how he works with a limited palette.)

The point is, start BASIC.  Experiment.  Play with the materials.  Cathy Johnson and Roz Stendahl, for example, teach the way I learned as an artist.  And I had 8 years of learning between an art focused curriculum in High School, then studying art and getting a degree in Art from college.  You need to know how to mix colors.  every new color purchased should be run through your other colors to see how it blends and mixes. Cathy covers this in her books and her blog, so does Roz.  Make color charts.  Terry Ludwig of Terry Ludwig Pastels STILL carries around the oil paint color chart he made on scraps of canvas when he was young.

As you grow (with daily practice), you pick up skills and preferences.  There is no magic palette or magic brush or pencil or pen.  There is ONLY constant daily practice.  ANY practice, just do it.  I painted over 600 (give or take) plein air paintings (not including the over 80 something sketchbooks) and only about 250 plein air paintings don’t make me cringe, and many, I can proudly say, look pretty damn good.  But I didn’t learn that overnight.  It was years of practice.  

I am adding this comment here, it wasn’t in their comments: Some of you have seen me write this before…Anyone learning to draw and paint has to understand that Tom Brady did not jump out of his bed one morning to say, “Hey, I want to be the greatest Quarterback ever” and then walked on the field and won the Super Bowl. No professional athlete does that, unless you are a three year old thoroughbred with the potential to win the Kentucky Derby. Even thoroughbreds have a few races under their saddle. Every single human athlete, EVERY one, practice their sport for many, many years to get where they are. The same thing applies to artists. You don’t get to be good without practice and most are masters in the later years in life. Why? Because of the many many years of practicing their craft.

I’ll leave off with this:

I learned to paint oils and watercolors from Joan Shih.  Most of you probably never heard of her but she was an excellent educator and painter.  She was a purist and “No tricks” were permitted in our watercolors.  I learned from an amazing lady.  Her color palette consisted of a warm and cool red, a warm and cool blue, a warm and cool yellow, two greens and neutrals…..Cadmium Red Deep, Alizarin Crimson*, Ultramarine Blue, Cobalt Blue, Cerulean Blue, Lemon Yellow, Cadmium Yellow Deep, Hookers Green Light and Viridian, Yellow Ochre, Burnt Sienna, Raw Umber and Ivory Black. ( I can still hear her accent as she said the names of the colors.)

*Alizarin Crimson is a fugitive (fading) color that many artists have replaced or use a synthetic permanent version now.

What do I use today?  I use all of those colors or have them handy in each media I use except Hooker’s Green Light.  (Titanium White gets added to opaque media) but here is my disclaimer:

As I have grown as an artist, I developed my OWN preferences, 

Quinacridone Gold is my yellow ochre, Raw umber was replaced with Burnt Umber, I rarely use Cobalt or Cerulean Blue anymore,  I use Cascade Green and Sap Green now and only use Viridian for really green grass or trees, and I love Quinacridone Coral as my red.  I like purples and oranges from a tube. I love Indigo Blue.

 In my Pocket Palette that goes everywhere with me, I have Ultramarine Blue, Pthalo Blue, Sap Green, Cascade Green, Quin Gold, Imperial Purple, Indigo, Lemon Yellow, Cadmium Orange, Organic Vermilion, Carmine, Quin Violet, Burnt Sienna, Burnt Umber.  Each and every color was carefully selected for maximum use for all scenarios.  I had to leave out the Corals or the Moonglows to go with colors I used most of the time or that I know I will need the out sketching or doing small paintings on location.

You color palette is as individual as you are.  Don’t be afraid to experiment to find what works for you.