As many of you know when I come to choose my colours I simply have a look at my palette, sometimes think which colours haven't I used for a while and what might go with them and what will make a nice combination that might look good with my subject. So very unscientific to say the least!!
I don't always use my planets now but if I find I am losing my way with colour choices or a bit uncertain I go back to them and they ALWAYS make a difference.
When looking at my options I always choose one (or sometimes more) colours which will give me the darkest tonal value... all paints will give the lightest values simply by adding more and more water but not all colours will give the darkest values and even if it is only for the slightest touches, some really good darks will make your work sing. Colours such as Indigo, prussian, Ub, purple, burnt/raw umber etc.
So I start by adding my prospective colours fairly wet but quite concentrated to my paper (usually in a circle hence the name planets) adding more water to allow the the different colours to mix (water is the transporter so paint will only flow where the paper is wet). I start usually with 3 colours and then may decide I need another one or at most two more. Once the paint is on my paper I watch it mix and mingle and judge the effect I am getting....the colours produce the mood and atmosphere so it is clear very quickly if I like or if I think they will suit my subject.
Once I have chosen my colours I use only those choices. This helps in two ways, first to harmonize colour around the painting and second it takes away any decisions you might have to make mid painting when you may be rushing and you may not make good choices... you know which colours you are using as you have already decided so all greens are made with what you have chosen, all oranges, purples and everything in between all from your initial choices. I often find it helps me to work only with tone once I have chosen my colours and simply apply the paint in darks, mid tones and lights as I see them in my reference. Here is an example
Here is another example...a photo I took of a chocolate box cottage in the Lake District. I have painted this subject many times but each time adds a new dimension as I choose a different palette
This first example is an xmassy theme using purple, burnt sienna and green gold... lovely cool feel to this one and exactly the sort of atmosphere I was looking for
And finally a painting of my friend's dog Holly a gorgeous Shitzu cross
2 things I am trying to get across here.
First is that you don't need many colours to create a good painting and the more colours you use especially when you are in the early stages of your journey the less likely you are to get a good result. But the secret of choosing a good colour scheme is to try it our BEFORE you start and one way to do that is to use a colour planet.
Second you don't need to be a slave to your photograph in fact have the confidence that you can steer away from it and actually improve the image and give it an added dimension. I have to say this one took a while to sink in with me as I never thought I could improve on the information a photograph gave me... after all that was nature and that's what it was like... so wrong and now the last thing I want to do is create a photographic representation so even if I decide to recreate my subject as close to life as possible I will always play around with a different background and add colours and tones which will enhance my subject, pitching light against dark and placing complimentary colours together. these tricks will all help to enhance the image, will add another dimension and create truly individual work.
As many of you will know I mix paint on my paper so by using the colour planets it gives me a really good idea of how my painting will look and how the paints interact together.