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Digital Subscriptions > The Artist > June 18 > Take six colours

Take six colours

Paul Brown shows how it’s possible to mix a variety of colours from just six oil paints. Not only is this an exciting challenge, it’s a perfect plein-air painting palette

OILS

Ihave never used a large selection of oil paints, always preferring to mix as many colours as possible. As my career progressed I found myself using fewer and fewer colours, particularly when painting en plein air. As an experiment I decided to see how few colours I could use and still achieve the results I desired. By thoughtful elimination I discovered I only needed six colours: cadmium red light, raw umber, yellow ochre, French ultramarine blue and lemon yellow (Michael Harding Artist oil colours) and zinc white (Gamblin oil colour).

Mixing the colours

In Chart 1 (below left) you can see that from just three colours you can make 21 tonal variations of black and an alternative for cerulean blue. A few years ago I became frustrated by the garishness of cerulean blue, particularly when painting skies. I felt the colour was just too much and would often look out of place in a painting. Purely by accident I found I could make a near alternative by mixing lemon yellow, French ultramarine blue and zinc white.

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About The Artist

Welcome to our June issue with plenty to inspire artists in all media. Watercolourists will love Amanda Hyatt's Five Steps to Watercolour technique with a 10-minute exercise to try, Ann Blockley's invitation to let go of reality and get creative with the medium, Jean Haines' advice on how to paint white flowers, while Julie Collins shows how adding ink can create definition and impact. For inspiration for oil painters don't miss cover artist Jason Sacran's step-by-step self-portrait, Patrick Cullen's article on painting in India and Paul Brown's advice on using just six colours to paint a landscape. For acrylic painters we have Michael Kidd talking about his stylised acrylic compositions, Jo Quigley's demonstration on how to paint successful reflections in acrylics and Marie Antoniou on how to transform a dull photo into an interesting painting, while Barry Herniman demonstrates the versatility of the under-used medium of gouache. With all this and much more, why not try a new medium or technique in the coming weeks under the guidance of our fantastic contributing artists!