Limited Palette Paintings – Cat and Tree

Siamese Cat
Cat and Wagon Wheel, watercolor on paper, 5.25″ x 6″

For the paintings this week I used a limited palette of five paints – genuine turquoise, raw sienna, Minnesota pipestone, and black hematite – which I’ll post at the end here.

This painting above was the second attempt because the first was an experiment that didn’t work well. I originally drew this on heavy printmaking paper and then decided to try covering it all with transparent watercolor ground before painting over it. The paint lifted off the transparent ground too easily, behaved differently in areas where the ground was a little thicker, and just didn’t feel the same as paper.

It would have still worked though, but I had tried painting it much darker so it’d look like it was lit by a candle or fireplace, and that was didn’t look as good as I wanted. There were a few other problems too, like the expression not being right. So after finishing that first try I started over and made it again. This one is on normal, good watercolor paper from Twinrocker. The reference photo is from Pauline Govaert on Paint my Photo.

Tree on a Windy Hillside
Wind and Rocks, watercolor on printmaking paper, 4.25″ x 6.25″

The week started with this painting. The sky was a challenge to get right because the palette didn’t have a normal blue. The turquoise was very greenish, and since my color vision isn’t very good with greens and reds it was hard to get the right balance of manganese violet added into it to cancel out the green without going too far into violet.

Turquoise is a color that I really like but almost never use, so I wanted to make a point of including it and as a challenge to not have a normal blue to fall back on. Looking around there’s not much turquoise, except maybe distant mountains, so it seems mostly for mixing. The pipestone is like a red ochre, but a bit weaker and more pinkish. I didn’t use it that much, but it did make a good grey with the turquoise. Manganese violet is the one paint here that I made myself from dry pigment. It turned out to be very useful, especially for mixing with the raw sienna for a range of reddish browns. The cat is mostly just those two colors mixed, plus some hematite in the darkest areas.

The chart was posted here on my Instagram last Sunday, which is when the weekly palette for most weeks from here on will be posted.

Resting Tiger

Relaxed Tiger
Ink and white gouache on tan paper, 7″ x 7.5″

Lately I’ve been practicing with a newly bought dip pen. I like the tactile sense of the nib on the paper. The white is white gouache, thinned with a little water and applied to the nib with a brush. It’s not as convenient as ink, but opens more possibilities.

The reference photo was one I recently took at the new tiger exhibit at the Denver Zoo. I had wanted to practice sumi-e painting and tried it with an ink stick on an old roll of paper. Then I started trying other papers, and on every painting tried a different brush. In the end they didn’t seem very successful, so I’ll have to more practice again, but after a few days I decided to revisit the same photo with the dip pen.

Materials used (Amazon affiliate links)
Leonardt dip pen set
Noodler’s black ink
Winsor & Newton white gouache
Strathmore toned tan sketchbook

Highline Deer

Deer Against Blue and Tan.
Graphite and colored pencil on tan paper, 7.5″ x 9.75″

This is one of a couple of deer I saw while taking a long walk at the Highline Lake State Park last week. I liked the pose as it stepped over a branch.

On the reference photo I made a grid and some diagonal lines to make it easier to see where different areas of the body are in relation to each other, but there was no grid on the paper. Transferring a drawing from a photo to paper using a grid on both can really help to get good accuracy, but the process is so slow that I don’t enjoy it. This was still slow because it was partly relying on that method, but I feel like if a drawing can’t be transferred by sight then it means more practice is needed, which is still something I need. Besides that, I tried using some sight-sizing, which is where you hold a pencil between you and the subject and use your thumb to measure the length of various things. That way you don’t accidentally draw a line disproportionately long and it’s faster than using a grid.

In the first try the proportions were off because I was going purely by sight and not measuring anything. Since the drawing was going to be started again anyways it was an opportunity to try different pencils and charcoal on that paper, so that’s why it looks a little messy.

The second try was drawn just with my favorite pencil, a .3mm Pentel graphgear 500 with either 2H or 4H lead. I have both and I’m not sure which is actually in it. The eraser was a thin Tombow mono. The drawing was going pretty well, but there wasn’t a finalized plan for what to do in the rest of the composition or what kind of background to use, so I decided to place everything in an oval with a simple background. After watching a video on how to draw ovals it went surprisingly well.

The background sky is just a Prismacolor light cerulean that’s heavily applied in two layers and smoothed out with a Derwent blender pencil.

Swimming Penguin

Cute Swimming Penguin
Watercolor on 300 lb watercolor paper, 3.75″ round

Here’s another animal painting from a photo I took at the zoo. The water was obviously the hard part, especially since I don’t normally ever paint water like that. Also look, it snowed last night.

This’ll be the last entry for this week’s theme, the five color palette I posted on Instagram here. I was going to try finishing another landscape painting this week… but it is my Everest. There’s this one photo I keep trying to paint in watercolor for the past couple of months, and watercolor is probably not the best choice for it. Anyone that can paint that in watercolor can probably paint anything. Also I’m sick, so progress has been slowed a little.

Amazon affiliates links:
The palette is linked above.
Da Vinci Harbin kolinsky sable round #6
The paper is an old scrap of Fabriano 300 lb soft press.

Next week will have a different theme. I have some ideas, but if anyone has suggestions let me know.

Dall Sheep

Dall Sheep on Rocks
Graphite and pastel on grey paper, 5.5″ x 8.5″

A few months ago I went to the Denver Zoo and took a photo of a Dall sheep, which is like a bighorn sheep but white. Wikipedia says it’s a subspecies of thinhorn sheep, so I guess the horns aren’t so big either. By the way, I’m posting things on Instagram now, here, and I’m thinking that I might post things like sketches or works in progress there before posting them here.

Amazon Affiliates links:
Strathmore gray toned sketch book, 5.5″ x 8.5″
Pentel GraphGear 500 pencil
Tombow MONO Zero Eraser
ContΓ© Γ  Paris white pastel pencils

Black Chinned Hummingbird

Hummingbird on Branch
Acrylic on 60lb sketch paper, 9.5″ x 13″

This little hummingbird has posed for photos many times as I go for walks through a nearby field. Most of the final painting is made with ivory black, zinc white, and titanium white, but some carbon black and a little water soluble graphite were also used.

Black Chinned Hummingbird ref

I don’t have a very long range lens, and he’s very small, so to get a closeup photo for a reference I combined an old manual focus Minolta 200mm f4 lens with an old Vivitar 2x teleconverter. The teleconverter really reduces image quality, but for the purpose of a reference photo it worked out.