Thursday, July 26, 2012

Color Palettes: Teresa Oaxaca (b. 1987)

Doll Maker

Among the recent generation of students to pass through the contemporary atelier system, there is a young artist whose skill and unique aesthetic discernment have brought her much attention in just the few years she has been working professionally.  Though only in her twenty-fifth year, Teresa Oaxaca, can boast of participating in group and solo shows throughout the United States, as well as in Italy, Ireland, England, and Norway, and of successes in competitions from the Art Renewal Center's Annual International Salon through the Portrait Society of America's International Portrait Competition.  She has proven that with dedication to one's craft, and an unerring passion for a personal vision, recognition and acclaim can still come relatively quickly.  


Book of Genesis

Oaxaca began by exploring sculpture when she was quite young, and before reaching the age of 10, she was already receiving private instruction from art teachers in the Netherlands, where her family lived during the years 1996, '97, and '98.  At the age of seventeen, the precocious Oaxaca enrolled in the Angel Academy of Art in Florence, Italy, where she remained for the next four years.  Immediately afterward, she headed to Norway, where she worked in the studio of Odd Nerdrum for the summer season.  Then in 2009, Oaxaca returned to Florence, where she attended courses at the Florence Academy of Art,  and where she eventually became a Student Instructor in Life Drawing.  Returning home to the Washington, D.C. area in 2010, she spent the next two years studying with Robert Liberace at The Art League Alexandria, in Old Town, Virginia, before deciding to embark fully upon her professional career.  Though currently not training under another artist, Oaxaca continues her schooling through continued study of Old Master paintings, and is, at the time of this writing, on a grand tour of Europe's premier museums to examine the works in their collections.






Vanitas with Typewriter

White Tea

Oaxaca credits her training in Florence with having the greatest influence on her progress as an artist, and she still uses the methods first learned at the Angel Academy of Art to produce her paintings .    When constructing her paintings she adheres to the "fat-over-lean principle," making sure that early layers of her painting have less oil in them than subsequent layers.  This method prevents beading in successive layers, and ensures that upper layers will dry more slowly than initial layers, therefore reducing the chances of cracking as the painting ages.  In the first stage, the wash-in or drawing stage, 
Oaxaca uses a "soupy" medium consisting of a fast-drying pigment – such as raw umber – diluted with turpentine or odorless mineral spirits.  Next, she lays in paint as it would come straight from the tube, or thinned very slightly with turpentine or OMS.  This is the dead-colouring stage, where "flat areas of loose color are laid in to better see the drawing and establish a color and value range."¹  The following step, the First Painting stage, is when form is established, and details are roughed in.  For this, Oaxaca uses a medium of 1 part linseed oil, to 2 parts turpentine.  In the final stage, the Second Painting, the medium she uses consists of 2 parts linseed oil to 1 part turpentine.  A caveat must be appended to this procedure, however;  the mediums mentioned are best suited for light-value colors.  For darker colors, the Dark/Black Medium is recommended to prevent sinking-in;  this medium is initially made with 2 parts linseed oil to 1 part damar varnish, and with each successive layer of paint, more linseed oil is to be added.


In Time


In the Balance


The Palette of Teresa Oaxaca

From Right to Left

Cadmium Yellow Medium
Yellow Ochre Light
Naples Yellow Light
Titanium White
Alizarin Crimson
Cadmium Red Light
Cadmium Red Medium
Venetian Red
Dioxazine Purple
Cadmium Yellow Lemon
Ultramarine Blue
Raw Umber
Ivory Black

Oaxaca mixes titanium white into the main colors of her palette to create value strings.  This enables her to see the full range of each pigment, and to differentiate between her dark colors like ivory black, raw umber, and dioxazine purple, which can all look similar when first squeezed onto the palette.  It also makes it easier and quicker for her to grab the appropriate value, and helps her to be more liberal with her paint application.

"1. Cadmium Yellow Medium- This is a nice warm yellow, and the closest thing on my palette to an orange. I consider this color to be an auxiliary pigment, mostly employed for bright things like flower painting.  
2. Yellow Ochre Light- One of my main pigments that is always on my palette. I use this for everything from flesh/figure painting to still life. One of my main beliefs is that the minimum means should be used to express the subject. So in other words, why take out the cadmium when the earth color will do the job? This is something I was taught in the Florence schools in Italy. There they believed that sticking to a limited palette would achieve a balanced, harmonious result.  
3. Naples Yellow Light- Another new pigment I am trying out. It is a bit brighter and lighter than the Yellow Ochre, and I sometimes use it instead for my lights.  
4. Titanium White- Old trusty. This is the only white I use... It is the brightest, and least toxic (you could eat it, it is put into cake frosting). I find its drying time to be alright. I keep a clean pile of this on the right hand side of my palette, and also use it to string out the other colors.  
5. Alizarin Crimson- ...Beware! Very strong. Use only when necessary. I find it so helpful to mix in my dark reds, and perhaps accent in a few key areas. I don't use it in the lights too often though. This is why I have 4 reds, so that the others can handle that job. Alizarin is a lake, very transparent and dark, the darkest of all my reds.  
6. Cadmium Red Light- A nice bright, warm red. This one is great for some skin tones, but most of the time I can do without it. I like it in flower painting, baby's cheeks, jester masks, that sort of thing. I don't know if the first closeup photo picks it up well, but every red has a different personality in its light, pastel range, so I just pick and choose what feels appropriate.  
7. Cadmium Red Medium- A dark red, a relatively new pigment for me. I started using this one when I began the "Father Time" Painting, and have kept it around ever since. It was very useful on Father Time's coat, cool skin tones, and cooler light red petals. 
Please keep in mind that I am just describing some common uses I can remember for these pigments. I am by no means advocating a"paint by numbers" system, or saying that there is such a thing as "fire-engine red" or "brick yellow" or "flesh tone". Truly I believe every object's colour depends on the light hitting it and the reflecting colours around it. There are no formulas, just practice, observation, and experience. Or more truly, Value, Chroma, and Hue. Just to be clear, Value refers to tone (think of a 9 step scale from black to white with intermediary greys). Chroma refers to the intensity, or dullness and Hue can be described as "greener" or "bluer," i.e. Cad. Red Medium is a "cooler," more "bluish" red than Cad. Red. Light. 
8. Venetian Red- Another old stable pigment, always to be found on the palette. I make 90% of my reds with this, and it goes into a lot of the shadows and browns, etc. It is basically an earth red, warm in hue.  
9. Dioxazine Purple- I never used this color until I started painting purple things... And even then you don't really need it, but it is useful. It helps one achieve strong darks too.  
10. Viridian- The only green on my palette. Use sparingly. Much as with Alizarin, I use it to tint more than anything. As you may have noticed I am pretty heavy on the yellows so I am able to mix greens just fine.  
11. Cadmium Yellow Lemon- A nice bright, cool yellow. I am a strong believer in having a warm and a cool version of something.  
12. Ultramarine Blue- My one blue, it is very nice and dark, semi transparent.  
13. Raw Umber- I am a big user of Raw Umber! It dries fast and goes into many of my wash drawings. It is also one of those 5 pigments which I so strictly adhered to back in school. Really, you can do a lot with these. For example in studio and figure painting, most greens can be accomplished with this pigment.  
14. Ivory Black- I am also a big user of black. This is also how I achieve my "blues", as the grey it produces can look a lot like blue, especially when laid next to a stroke of red or some other warm color."²

Father Time

Born During a Carnivale

Lillith the Putto

Building Blocks

Clamor of the Unconscious

Still Life with Cattle Skull


Plague Mask

All to Ashes


"My work is about pleasing the eye. I paint light and the way it falls. Simple observation reveals beauty; often it is found in the unconventional. Because of this I have learned to take particular delight in unusual pairings of subject matter.  Frequently my compositions are spontaneous. When a person comes to me, they occupy a space my mind. Arrangements form from there until with excitement I see and have the idea. The design is both planned and subconscious. For this reason I surround myself with Victorian and Baroque costume, bones, and other things which I find fascinating- I want subject matter to always be at hand."³

Paradise Lost


Mancini Fiddler

Girl in Blue

Self Portrait in Blue

Self Portrait with Jester

Girl in Pink


Artists and Muses (in progress)

Pregnancy Doll (in progress)

To see more of Oaxaca's work, please visit her website  For more information on her methods and current projects, please visit her blog, Drawing & Painting Journal.

¹ Oaxaca, Teresa, "Judy & Blitz Portrait, Mediums," retrieved July 26, 2012 from {}.
² Oaxaca, Teresa, "My Palette & Eugène Delacroix," retrieved July 26, 2012 from {}.
³ Oaxaca, Teresa, "Teresa," retrieved July 26, 2012 from {}.


M. S. said...

Well said!--> "She has proven that with dedication to one's craft, and an unerring passion for a personal vision, recognition and acclaim can still come relatively quickly." It always makes me happy when young prodigy artists are duly acclaimed, regardless of their country of origin.
Matt, thanks for sharing!
Teresa, keep up the good work, wish you the best!

Johnnie Sielbeck said...

Remarkable! Thank you for featuring Teresa's work.

Marcos Dorado said...

I truly appreciate her classist training. I am especially captivated by her tonal drawings.

Thanks for featuring Teresa, Matt. I'll share this link with my friends.

All the best,