Friday, September 21, 2012

Exploring the Power of Grays

Sometimes it takes a while to find your way in the world of color as a painter especially when living in Florida. The Sunshine state brings out the colorist in most painters I know who live here.  Homes are open design with big windows, and with beautiful sunlight days the sunshine flows in abundantly.  Most people love big, bright colorful paintings on their walls, what walls they do have because of so much glass.

I've tried painting the intense colors but they are just not for me.  My first art teacher told me that neutral grays are easier to live with over a long period of time and that bright, intense colors aren't.  I think he was right.  The delicate warm and cool grays of the color wheel make me tingle with delight.  Intense color for me, used sparingly, and supported by an abundance of grays is my re-found friend as I explore my color interests. In fact, the more I explore color the more I am convinced this will be my palette for a very long time.  "My name is Debbie and I am a Tonalist."  Saying it is half the battle.

Below are photos of the painting I just finished along with a photo of the actual still life, and the first pass of color, the finished (I think) piece and some close ups.

The photos aren't the best as far as the lighting but you get the idea.  The beaded tassel and the brandy in the overturned snifter are the only intense colors.  Just enough!  The fur piece is my grandmother's muskrat collar.  I remember her wearing it and was fascinated with the beady eyes looking at me.  There is an actual head and dangling legs on this thing which I carefully tucked toward the back.  I truly don't see how ladies of the day wore this gruesome looking creature but it was fun to paint.  Chime in on your feelings about using grays in your paintings.


  1. Fantastic piece, really like the palette.
    I do think we need to see more of the muskrat collar your description of it was so interesting and now I want to see it.

  2. My older ladies who come on Saturday to paint just told me it was a fox stole. As I painted the fur, I felt like I was going to get a visit from PETA. I will post a close up of the fur with a better image. I truly was easy. First, block in the light and dark shapes with a bristle brush remembering to keep all the edges soft, including the different light and dark value shapes. With the next pass of color, I repainted the background so it would be wet and with my mongoose fan brush, carefully feathered the edges. I did the same for the inner edges--light into dark and dark into light. Edges tell the story and brushwork is laid in with different directions and with different pressure. Hope this helps. Thanks for the comments and this palette is so easy to use. Raw umber, burnt umber, black, white, burnt sienna, yellow ochre, and ult. blue.


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