creative constraint

I’m a novice painter. I don’t want to stress over doing things the exact right way and in time become a master artist, that’s not my goal. I have turned many hobbies into professions over the years and it’s nice to have an outlet where I can embrace the freedom of unreserved play. I like experimenting and trying without knowing the outcome or having an instructor show me an easier way.

I’ve been struggling with mixing paints and realized that I kept wanting to add more tubes and pans of colour to make different colours and I was ignoring the basics. Last week I reduced my options from 18 half pans … to five.


My mini palette now consists of Cyan, Lemon Yellow, and Magenta with Payne’s Grey and Burnt Umber to round out the options.

These constraints have already provided more colour creativity than before. Even when I’m only mixing greys.

One quick tip: while some artists like a messy palette, I’m practicing mixing colours. That means I want to keep it clean as I work on different combinations. I struggled with hot water and soap until it dawned on me (aided by some googling), watercolours are oil-soluable. I put some vegetable oil on a paper towel and wiped my plastic palette mostly clean without any additional elbow grease! The staining on the plastic was wiped away with some abrasive bathroom cleaner. Proof of a cleaner palette.

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