Greg Mason Burns

Choose Your Palette Based on What You Want to Paint

Choosing your palette is not as difficult as you may think. Let me give you an example. I’m also a rock climber. Some climbers take all of the gear they think they may need during a climb while others only take the gear they anticipate that they’ll need. I had one climbing friend ask another partner one day, “So what gear do you take with you?” The second answered, “It depends on the climb.” And so it is with your palette. Choose your palette, don’t let it choose you.

Look, I get it, some people like the palette they work with. That’s completely acceptable and I certainly have colors that I like more than others as well. But the answer, as always, is that it depends. Really, it depends. If you want to paint earth tones then break out your earth tones. If you want to do all blue then leave the yellows in the drawer. Deciding what you’re going to paint, if even you’re not sure how you’ll get there procedurally, can be a pretty big deal at the outset.

I think about every single painting before I begin work. Sometimes that thinking takes five minutes. Sometimes it takes years, but I always think first and then get to work once I finally know what I’m doing. My process is more emotional in that I need to feel it to visualize it, but when I do I approach my painting with the right palette in a much more confident and declarative manner. I often also do many studies before committing to a painting. That helps me to decide the palette. In the end, choose your palette based on what you want to paint.

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Choose Your Palette

City VI – Poppy Fields – A carefully chosen palette despite the obvious unpredictability