Some time ago, I developed an unhealthy obsession with the color choices made by my favorite artists. I think it all began in college when one of my teachers shattered my confidence by telling me I had horrible color sense because I had used burnt umber in one of my paintings, and "brown should never be used in a painting." I read books on color theory but they never really addressed what it was for which I was searching, namely, controlling chroma without altering the hue with which I was working. I decided that I might instead best learn by examining the palettes of other artists. Whenever I came across the preferred colors of my favorite painters, I recorded them to see what choices they made, and tried to learn from them.
Over time, I have come to understand that color choices are very personal, and that there are no wrongs in laying out your palette, though some choices might be more hindering than helpful. Any hues can work together once you understand the different ways in which you can bring them into harmony. It's important to learn color theory, read about different color systems, and to study specific color palettes, but in the end, it is also important to know that there is a lot of leeway in applying these systems.
If you were to give ten different artists the same ten colors and ask them to paint the same scene, you would end up with ten very different paintings. This is the way it should be. Our color choices are but one of the ways in which we express our individuality as artists.
Having said that, this is the first of several posts I plan to make listing the color palettes of famous artists.
One of my favorite living landscape artists is Dennis Doheny of California. Doheny, a former illustrator, has won numerous awards since turning his attention to fine art in 1996, including the Frederic Remington Painting Award at the recent 2008 Prix de West Invitational. His level of detail, colors, and brushwork are all wonderful.
According to a recent article in the November 2008 issue of American Artist, Doheny's palette consists of the following colors:
• Winsor Green
• Cadmium Yellow Light
• Alizarin Crimson
• Cobalt Blue
• Titanium White
• Cadmium Orange
• Cobalt Violet