Skip navigation

Category Archives: palette

  In my last post I was talking about my earliest encounters with real artists who knew the value of earth tones. The other night when I should have been sleeping I was instead loitering about on Twitter. I’m in a process of amazed discovery as to what an astonishing resource that app is for artists. I came upon an artist called Murat  Kaboulov and opened his site (run by a relative as he sadly died in 2010). I was immediately not only entranced by his pictures but catapulted back in a kind of eureka moment to the unswept floor of a studio in Beaufort Street Chelsea where flakes of oil paint and toast crumbs stuck to my four year old knees as I played at my mother’s feet while she posed for a portrait.

  The beautifully presented website www.muratkaboulov.com even uses a version of the divine sludge colour as its background. But the paintings …what a joy to behold….take a look at these … I can’t show you a picture because they rightly have the images protected from download but here’s a screenshot you can click through on which I hope will entice you to visit and enjoy this inspirational work:

                                                       www.muratkaboulov.com/figurative
So in my dream painting Murat Kaboulov shall now be one of my guides. Each of those paintings is worth hours of study and each demonstrates masterfully how vivid colours need earth tones to work. In 60s psychedelic and pop art bright colours were allowed to stand alone but even then it was rare. A quick search of Google images for Peter Blake, that quintessential artist of the Kings Road era, revealed the use of the Divine Sludge time and time again. For just one example you might remember this piece for its bright colours but look carefully – it depends wholly on its earth colours for its impact:

I have painted pictures in the past, I’m proud of a few and not shy to sell them but I’ve hardly begun. I learn as I go, I try and look deeper, I know what I want to do. I’m going to have to live long I think.

My desire to make pictures, even the digital ones, began firmly with a love of paint. My heart absolutely sang when I found this great blog post at one of my favourite Facebook ‘Likes’, Retronaut (highly recommended, one of the best little blue and white buttons I ever pushed). Feast your eyes on photographs of actual palettes of Seurat, Van Gogh, Renoir and Delacroix with images like these:

Seurat’s palette reveals clues to his technique as well as
use of colour
I have something in common with Gustave Moreau
at least, my palettes are as messy as this.

Colourlovers, another fascinating site for those who are intrigued by how great painters actually went about things uses colour analysis tools to explore the palettes of specific paintings. I really like the idea of being able to draw out a basic colourscheme from a painting that affects me visually. I think one of the greatest ways to learn anything is to look at things you admire and try and work out how they began. I went looking therefore for some tools to analyze palettes. I found several but  far and away the best one was this: http://www.cssdrive.com/imagepalette/index.php.
I chose my image Northern Lights because it has quite a broad spectrum of colours and fed it into the app and this was the result:

That site actually allows you to save the colour scheme as a CSS style sheet which means you can base the theme of a website or page on the colourscheme of an artwork or photograph you like. This app gives much much more colour information than the others I tried too. Give it a whirl, it’s loads of fun and the possibilities for artists and designers who want to get under the skin of what makes a particular image pop are endless.

    I’m not, it is probably obvious, a trained painter. I’m pretty much self-taught and although I always enjoyed and was praised for my art when a kid the obsession to really get at it only fully struck me quite late in the day, at the most inconvenient time for such a messy obsession to install itself. Paint was in short my pregnant craving. No, I didn’t have any really strong desire to eat it but all of a sudden, back in 1983, when I was living (believe it or not)  in a little Greek pigeon house under a mulberry tree on Mykonos (Vienoula’s Garden for those who know ;-)) and just going into my second trimester for my adored son – suddenly PAINT. Oh I had to have it. Along with paint there was also Welsh Mints (not easy to obtain in the Greek Islands even now) and Opera, a form of music I had hitherto had absolutely zero interest in seeing as dancing to New York House DJ’s in Pierro’s was more my style at the time. I remember I got hold of some paint, tape of Carmen, some Caran D’Ache crayons and on one of those ersatz canvas pads made some sloppy efforts at abstracts. I hadn’t a clue what I was about.

     I had known artists growing up as a tiny child in the late 50s. If you remember the Stella Artois advert where the bar owner is grumbling about taking all these payments of paintings in return for his fabulous beer (little realising that he is collecting a future king’s ransom in masterpieces) it was a bit like that with my folks who had a club on the King’s Road Chelsea in London. We didn’t acquire any Van Gogh’s or Gauguin’s unfortunately but I did get to visit various studios of artists of the day and The Gateways was quite renowned for the paintings that adorned the walls (not many photos of them remain, I do have a few and will get them out and publish them here when it gets cooler).

     So the smell of oils was an early memory (though I find linseed almost intolerable as it happens and when I was pregnant it was out of the question). The Chelsea artists of the days loved earthy colours. As one whose childhood and teens were in the 60s I developed a strong attraction to the clear and vivid colours of The Beatles’ Yellow Submarine. I also unusually enough grew up with American comics provided by someone close who was at the time a servicewoman stationed the AAF base in Ruislip and could therefore shop at the PX there. So Superman, Casper the Ghost, Green Lantern and Flash were my heros. In those days of course they were simply printed on comicbook paper but the colours were rich and the covers of each edition were a weekly treat. I loved them.

   So it has taken me a good many years to light upon a memory of the particularly resonant sludgy blue-green-grey-gold-brown that underpinned those art pieces I remember from my earliest years. Over the past few years I have only painted in my mind. Some would say that’s not enough and I would agree with them. However it has had to do. You’d be amazed how much time I have spent dreaming up versions of that strangely vivid sludge. I have some big plans in that direction. More soon…