2 Limited Palette Studies

I’ve been doing some limited palette exercises to try to get a better grip on color temperature. The self-portrait is Ivory Black, Venetian Red, and Tit. White. The skull is Ivory Black, Raw Sienna, and Tit. White. I also attempted to control the paint consistency on the skull for the transparent darks/opaque lights effect.


Wonderful works Jacob! I have a question for you though. A few years ago I found myself in a bit of a debate with full-time Munsell cheerleader Graydon Parrish over the value of limited palette works/studies (pardon the pun.) It was my contention that the idea of strategically limiting your palette for certain tasks can provide great benefit (you can see this in my painting curriculum.) No matter how many benefits/advantages I put forward, Mr. Parrish held fast that there was no benefit whatsoever (I can tell you that he was quite adamant about it.) In light of your efforts here I was wondering what inspired you to use a limited palette?

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Thanks Anthony! Anything that stands out to improve? (I know I’m too vague sorry).

I initially tried it after some disappointing portrait attempts because Harold Speed recommends it as an intermediary exercise between monochromatic and full color. It was helpful for me because anything that simplifies the process of learning oil techniques is welcome. The importance of controlling color temperature was a new concept for me. The way it was presented in a GCA workshop sounded attractive to me, that it can be enough to get the relative color relationships right and not worry about recreating the exact colors in nature.

I’ve also found myself enjoying paintings that are monochromatic or limited palette, like Adam Vinson’s (or Velazquez hah), so I’m open to exploring it more to see if it might be something I want to use.

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Both efforts are impressively done Jacob. There is nothing that stands out as “problematic” here. In any case, rather than some cold critique that is usually only an exercise in the observer’s personal preferences—I can share a general rule of thumb that you may find useful as you move forward.

Consider where you amplify contrast and for what reason. Many of us refine edges or communicate disparities without really considering the lure of contrast. It pulls our gaze like a flame draws moths. The greater the contrast—often the greater the pull.

For example, here is an edit of your skull piece with the contrast reduced between the background value swell and the upper edge of the skull cap. The skull pops a bit less as it is not as liberated from the background as much—BUT your gaze is far less likely to be drawn there (due to both the contrast from the swell against the rest of the background AND the perimeter of the skullcap)—away from the face or other high-contrast focal points.

Again, absolutely nothing wrong with your contrast placement—but it is a good opportunity for me to share a consideration we should keep in mind as a work develops. It helps us to have a slightly stronger influence on where people might fixate on one of our pieces.

Looking forward to seeing more of your work my friend!


Great job on both paintings, Jacob! I Really like the greys in your portrait, they really support the colour nicely!