I was in grade 6. We had a substitute teacher that day. She had an “exciting” art project for the class. Paint a picture using no more than 3 colours. Well, just feed me peas off a palette knife then! I was appalled. What an insult to my greed at the paint trough; scoffing every blob of cheap acrylic paint onto the underside of an ice cream lid. How dare my appreciation of all 48 shades of magenta be repressed to just 3 colours. Am I being asked to choose my favourite child when my family is more colourful than Mardi Gras on steroids? This visually astute child drinks milk with her Skittles as a way to experiment with tonal value. Not surprisingly I pronounced my resistance to the task with a full palette of colour and completed the project in contented silence.
Fast forward 22 years and I can finally see the purpose behind the 3 colour art project set by the teacher. Minimal palettes are a great way to explore harmonious colour schemes while forcing you to look at colour in an atypical way. This is where I really recommend referring to a colour wheel. You can find a good one at www.colorwheelco.com. The above oil on canvas painting of our young boy with the tennis ball was achieved using a Split-Complementary Colour Scheme. Australian Grey (yellow-orange spectrum) and Olive Green (yellow-green spectrum). Both colours were used as mid tones over the Payne’s Grey and the Zinc White. I originally started the painting without the Australian Grey (which contrary to its name is actually a flesh colour), but felt that the Olive Green needed a lift that wasn’t as harsh as the white. I used chisel brushes to create movement and the thick, spherical brush to create the fur-like texture of the tennis ball. My signature was completed in Australian Grey; following Claude Monet who always signed his work using a colour directly taken from the painting.