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Mud Palette Approach

Hi Mark.

I ran across an article and was curious to hear your opinion.

It essentially breaks down to this:

“Mud Palette” to Achieve Harmony"

"A system of mixing colors based from “mud” mixtures that govern shadows, midtones, and highlights.

First mix the darkest-dark color (olive green, alizarin crimson, and Indian yellow) and use that to establish the tone of the canvas, the drawing of the subject, and the darkest-dark shapes. The large amounts of a specific shadow “mud” color are mixed based on the model’s local shadow color and adjusted according to the darker and lighter shadows, and on the warmer or cooler shadows. Once the darkest darks, background, and shadow side are complete, the artist prepares a light-side “mud” (titanium white, burnt sienna, yellow ochre pale, scarlet lake, and manganese blue). and mixes from that to achieve halftones and highlights."

"This system has several distinct advantages, especially for inexperienced painters. First, it simplifies the drawing process by relieving any concerns about color and unity. Second, it helps establish a dark, transparent shadow tone that helps the illusion of luminosity. Third, it results in a harmonious picture, especially in the areas of transition between relative values and color temperatures. And, finally, it eliminates the need to make radical adjustments in value and color relationships toward the end of the painting process. “I won’t actually paint with this mud mixture, but I will mix from it for every color combination I prepare along the way. For example, I might add more of the darkest dark mixture to make the darker values; or I might warm the mixture by adding scarlet lake or cadmium red deep.”

“Remember that I never paint the mud color directly,” he reminded students. “I mix from that pile and that’s what keeps it unified.”


  • dencaldencal -
    edited October 2019

    Welcome to the Forum.

    Can’t get the link to work. Would like to see some work done this way. Sounds like a tonal drawing variant to produce an underpainting - darks to lights etc followed by colour. 

    Similar to subtractive painting - wash of mid brown, paint in darker shadows, then rub out the lights.

    Mark’s method demonstrates a unified appearance by toning the canvas and using a limited palette.
    Using a properly exposed photo or still life colour are then mixed starting from a chromatic black.

    I’ll follow this up and try to see what Sean Cheetham is doing.

    Thanks for posting.


    Update. The link worked in the other copy of this post, at least for the text. Unable to see paintings.
  • Here's a few of his paintings. The process seems to make sense. I'm curious about Marks take on it.

  • Amazing paintings! The values are exquisite and the texture is gorgeous. I'll have to check this guy out. 

    Welcome to the forum, @JohnnyBoy.   :)
  • Welcome to the forum @JohnnyBoy.
     I enjoyed the article very much, glad you posted photos of paintings here, didn't get to see the photos with the article.

     Interesting approach he has and now I understand his color palette for this mud he creates, now I can create it for myself with a 12 color palette (with a few added colors) that I work with if I wish.

    Thanks very much for this! 
  • I worked briefly with an artist who daily mixed her "mother color."  It was a pile of paint composed of all the colors she was using in her painting . . . a pile of mud.  With every mixture she made for various passages on her canvas, she would add a tot of her mother color to it.  Said it gave her paintings harmony. 
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