Painting With a Limited Palette on a Red Oxide Ground

By H. Edward Brooks in Art Tutorials > Painting Tutorials

In one of my recent paintings, Clydesdale 2, I used a limited palette and a Red Oxide toned ground. I chose Red Oxide as my ground to serve as a mid-tone, allowing me to focus on the warm and cool relationships.

Here was my process:

Step 1. I developed a linear drawing of my subject, not overly detailed but proportionally accurate.


Step 2. I used Alizarin Red to block in my shadow shapes, and Titanium White to block-in my lightest local lights.


Step 3. I began to loosely fill in the local colors using Lamp Black, Ultramarine Blue, Alizarin Red, Cadmium Red Orange and Titanium White. With just those five colors I can mix enough variations to find my color ranges.


I used the Red Oxide ground to moderate the colors that I applied to the canvas. By allowing the ground color to show through, you can achieve different warm and cool relationships while still keeping things unified.

(Here’s another tip: use a painter’s palette that is the same color as the ground color of your canvas—in this case, Red Oxide. This makes it easier to assess what your color mixtures will look like when placed on the canvas.)

Step 4. I begain to develop the cooler aspects on the neck, top of the head, and the upper hind-quarters.


Step 5. I used an old #14 Escoda Optimo Kolinsky brush to “pounce” these colors, and lightly knit the pieces of paint together.


I was careful to not overdo it. I wasn’t blending the colors, since I wanted to keep the integrity of the colors I originally placed on the canvas.

Step 6. I began to block in the background black. I used my Lamp Black with a touch of linseed oil, working quickly to get one layer coverage.


Step 7. At this point I had completed the background, and went back in to develop more of the local color and textures.


After a little more work refining the colors and adding some final details, here was my finished product:


To see more artwork by H. Edward Brooks, please visit his fine art blog.


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