Week 1 of 52: Creating a personal color palette for watercolor.

For the first week of my 52 week challenge I decided to go back to basics. I wasn’t really sure where to begin so I started by breaking in my new watercolor sketchbook with a sketch of some saw grass roots from a previous camping trip.

I also ordered the 238 paint sampler from Daniel Smith in preparation for my annual birthday art supply order and as I began to explore each of the beautiful color options offered, I had a shocking realization – I’ve never really thought about my color palette!

After going through my paints to see what I had and what needed replacing I realized that it’s been a very long time since I’ve evaluated my personal color choices (if at all). Most of the paints I have were gifted to me by a mentor or came from a couple of chance clearance sales when I scooped up a ton of tubes for $1-$2 each. I’ve always had 2-3 colors that I favor – Indigo, Quinocridone Burnt Orange, and Yellow Ochre have always been my power trio, for example. I suppose that a lot of the basic colors I learned with just became second nature for me and thinking about it beyond a few additions here and there just wasn’t natural.

For the last couple of years for my birthday I’ve purchased 3 tubes of paints from Daniel Smith (I’m a fan of their highly granulating pigments in certain lines) but the goal was not color so much as effect – Moonglow and Lunar Black my favorites so far. Combing through the choices on the 238 sample card emphasized the range of colors that I have little experience with. Have I just been under a rock?


Understandable, this caused a complete re-evaluation of all of the colors in my possession. I started to make charts of all of the brands and colors I use now and then compared them against colors I was drawn to on the Daniel Smith cards. After hours of exploration I decided on 8 new colors which would provide a new foundation for a more bright and varied color palette. I’m waiting for them to arrive now… I am very excited!

Of the colors I currently have (and there are a LOT) I settled on the following 24 as the basis of an extended palette of basics. I’m going to condense this down further when the new paints arrive this weekend.


I got a little excited about the new semester starting too and, seeing as my old paint-brush roll (that I’ve had for over 10 years) had almost completely fallen apart, I made a new one – why not start the year fresh on a number of fronts?! I even started filling some of my new empty half-pans with the favored colors (boy, that’s a bitch, isn’t it?).



After all of this, I still hadn’t really created a work for the week… I decided on this cute little hermit crab to start with. I’ve drawn a lot of crabs but I’ve rarely tried to paint them. I don’t know how I want to handle shells and beach items – I don’t know what style I’m shooting for yet. So I’m going to play around with different things.


I almost always start paintings with a value layer. Grisaille enables me to build the forms before I pull in color and while I quite like this method I’m not sure how I feel about this anymore. I think I’d like to explore alternative methods of painting at some point this year. I’m not 100% happy with it, honestly. There is much to be improved and I feel very rusty.


And there you have it – Week 1 down. Only 51 more to go… I think I’d say I’ve gotten off to a decent start and I’ve only made myself more excited about the coming year in the process so that’s some good momentum that I hope to hold onto in the coming weeks.

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