Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Reilly Palette: a Palette of Convenience

To set up the figure-painting palette, you must first create the string of neutral control values described in the previous post. By the 1970's the Grumbacher Reilly Neutrals were no longer available. In the Faragasso class we sometimes skipped adding Raw Umber, perhaps for the sake of expediency, finding that the cooler grays worked well in neutralizing flesh. Gamblin makes three useful grays, calling them Portland Grey Light (v.8), Portland Grey Medium (v.6) and Portland Grey Dark (v.4). Their Munsell value designations are on the tube label. You can intermix to get the rest, and you can mix those with the Raw Umber string to create absolute neutrals. You might consider contacting Gamblin and encourage them to expand the line of Portland Grays to include all nine values. 

Local Colors
Place store-bought colors adjacent to the Neutrals at their appropriate value. Paints that will help make local colors, e.g. blonde hair, blue scarf, green drapery. Many of the dark paints accumulate around the first or second value, and for convenience I move them to the far edge of the palette.

Convenience Colors
The next mixtures on the flesh palette are part of what Reilly called a "Palette of Convenience". First create a string of yellow-red (orange) values, and a string of red values. These additional strings of paint will correspond in value to the Neutrals.

A schematic for the palette, most likely done by a student. It shows Cadmium Orange
 at value 6, and employs manufactured paints for the red values of 5,4,3,2 and 1.

To create the yellow-red string begin by mixing Cadmium Orange which, depending on the brand, comes from the tube at about value 6 or 7. Add white for lighter values and mix with Burnt Umber for darker values.

The red string begins with Cadmium Red Light, which, again depending on the brand, comes from the tube around value 5. Add Titanium White to get the lighter values. Create an admixture of Alizarin Crimson (a cool red) and a little Burnt Umber to achieve a true red at first value, and mix this with Cadmium Red Light to make the red values 2 through 4.

Finally, to create the string of complexion values, cross mix each neutral value with it's corresponding value of red and yellow-red to arrive at the average complexion at that value. That mixture will depend on the models complexion average, i.e. pale and cool, warm and ruddy. Try to keep the hue and chroma consistent. Remember this is the complexion average, as you might see it from across the room. The local changes (red nose, gray chin) will be addressed as you paint. 

In general the human complexion ranges from red to yellow-red, from pale to colorful, from dark to light. Reilly's palette facilitates mixing the subject's complexion while allowing for these local changes that occur in the flesh. Mixing this palette is time consuming, but it becomes a time saver when it really matters, during a live sitting. A palette of convenience.

In class we mixed a drop of oil of cloves into each pile of paint to extend the drying time. The palette would remain wet all week this way and so would the paint on the canvas. Be forewarned that this may also extend the drying time of the painting. There are other ways to keep your palette wet; by submerging the palette under water, or freezing it. I prefer to mix and tube the colors, so that they are always at the ready. Empty tubes are available at some art suppliers.

© John Ennis 2010

Next Topic: The Color Note


Kevin Mizner said...

Thanks for running these post, I look forward to each edition. When I see what it takes to be a truly good painter, I feel like I'm flying a crop-duster by the seat of my pants, while Mr. Reilly captained a 747!

Dr. B said...


This collection is going to be so important. I can't believe this blog only has 150 followers at present. This is a gross understatement of the people who would be interested in this I think.
I shall have to charge myself with spreading the word to all the painters I know.
I don't know how you do for money [hopefully very well from your portraits], but I think this page should have a paypal button to donate money...don't know how that will work-out with artists as the readers, but anyway....
I can't believe this stuff has never made it to book form!! Perhaps some day in the future it would be possible to edit the essential pages and collect them into a book for you to make some money from for your amazing efforts at preserving this wealth of information....Thanks again --Carl.

Debra Bryant said...

Add a Facebook "Like" button and share buttons. That will spread the word. I learned this controlled palette method from Frank Covino, who was a student of Reilly's. Glad to see someone else is keeping this going! Thank YOU!

The Big Eardrum aka The Gargantuous Tympanic Membrane aka. Carl Walke said...

That's a fantastic idea Debra! That's a big way that these things spread these days.
I also think maybe a few photos of Reilly's finished works on the page would make it more enticing for people who aren't familiar with Reilly's paintings at all, or how fantastic and amazing they were, they may see this as "just another how-to painting page" and skip over it / breeze over it.

Nadya Persel said...

Thank You so much for your explanation! It is a very important understand in painting!Appreciate it much!