My Painting set up

Wilcox Palette thumbnailIn response to a discussion on the botanicalart yahoo group about palettes I have put together an article on my painting set up and palette. With just six colours I can easily mix any colour I want. Click on Read More below to find out how..



My Palette 

Wilcox Palette 

My palette is a Wilcox palette and works on the principle that there is no such thing as pure primary colour. For example, yellows always lean one way or another - either towards orange or green, reds lean towards either violet or orange and blues lean towards either green or violet. This is why it can be so hard to mix the colour you want, you might have been using the wrong type of primary colour! For my palette I use the following artist quality Windsor and Newton colours:

ColourW & N Paint
Green-YellowLemon Yellow*
Orange-YellowCadmium Yellow
Orange-RedCadmium Red
Violet-RedPermanent Rose*
Violet-BlueFrench Ultramarine*
Green-BlueCerulean Blue

* These are the colours I use the most for botanical art - consider buying a bigger tube of these.

First the six colours are put in the main compartments (that look like arrows and point in the direction that their colour leans). Then the secondary colours are mixed in the three circular wells. Once these are done, you are ready to start mixing colours and painting. Yes, there are lots of other wells that you can use - I mainly work in the central ones and use the outside ones if I am going to mix a large amount of the same colour. Undoubtedly all the wells are part of the Wilcox system, but this is as far as I've gone with the theory. If you want more information check out this site, or you can buy the book

One implication of the arrangement is that any colour's complementary colour is always on the opposite side of the palette.  You can use this to darken any colour, so if you want to darken orange, say, you just add blue.

Paint is expensive, so I tend not to waste it. I've found watercolour paints can be left to dry on the palette with no ill effects and simply rewetted when required. If the palette starts getting really messy and dusty, you can give it a quick rinse under the tap. 

[Edit: Although I have found Wilcox's ideas extremely useful, some of his ideas are not strictly correct and you might find other systems more useful - each to their own! Have a look at the site for an amazingly comprehensive guide to watercolour paints. The basic pallete and the secondary palette are well worth having a look at. Thanks to the members of for the heads up. ]

Brushes and other gear

brushes and other stuff 

Finally, here is some of the other stuff I use to paint:

  • Brushes (use blue-tac to hold to lid of box): try lots, I like Windsor and Newton, but have many others too
  •  A syringe to squirt mixing water
  • A flower container (available from florists) to keep picked flowers from wilting

A word of thanks 

Most of these techniques were taught to me by Jenny Phillips, the most wonderful botanical artist and teacher. If you live in Melbourne, I would highly recommend her courses at the Botanical Art School of Melbourne. If you are not from Melbourne, Jenny also conducts courses around the world - keep your eye out for her.

Happy painting!