dale laitinen palette
Source: Transparent Watercolor Wheel by Jim Kosvanec. Watson-Guptill, 1994. © 1994 Dale Laitinen.

13 : cadmium yellow (PY35), yellow ochre (PY43), naples yellow, burnt sienna (PBr7), cadmium red (PR108), pyrrole red (PR254), alizarin crimson (? PR83), rose madder genuine (? NR9), ultramarine blue (PB29), cobalt blue (PB28), cerulean blue (PB35), cobalt turquoise (PB36), phthalocyanine green BS (PG7) • Dale Laitinen's palette is one of the most individual represented here — from his minimal use of yellows to his preference for cobalt pigments — and it repays careful study.

The basic framework for the palette is the artists' primary palette (signaled by the inclusion of a green paint), but Laitinen is unusual in choosing only one saturated yellow (and the relatively opaque cadmium yellow, at that) to pair with the moderately unsaturated yellow ochre. Naples yellow and burnt sienna are really light and medium browns, so Laitinen's paint choices have limited the yellow side of the color space, apparently to ensure muted green mixtures and to provide texture and warmth rather than transparency in yellow mixtures. This is a "split primary" palette that diversifies the yellow paints on transparency, saturation and value rather than "warm vs. cool" hues.

The blue side of the palette is carefully spaced to give a complete range of cobalt pigments, from cobalt turquoise to cobalt blue, with ultramarine to anchor the dark reddish end and provide the saturation necessary to mix satisfactory purples (which are used in the demonstration painting to great effect.) These blue and green paints are spread far enough apart to provide a wide range of mixed greens, and compensate for the reduced range of yellow pigments.

Reds are limited to the pale and unsaturated rose madder, the dark alizarin crimson, and two middle reds, cadmium red and pyrrol red — like the yellows, very similar in hue but differing in texture and opacity. Both alizarin crimson and rose madder create interesting, gentle violets with ultramarine blue, though both are fugitive paints and should be replaced. The purples mixed with cadmium red are a dull maroon. Very interesting "earth" reds (equivalent to venetian red or indian red) can be mixed with burnt sienna and cadmium red.

The balanced mixtures possible with this palette are shown nicely in the painting: the colors tend to be unsaturated, the color bias can be modulated toward warm or cool, and the so called "opaque" colors are applied deftly and at the best dilution to create wash effects that are transparent and beautifully fluid. Colors are modulated across very subtle differences in hue and value, and the painting repays leisurely viewing even as it declares a strong composition and color design.

Laitinen's palette is an excellent example of how breaking the "workshop rules" — you must use a saturated split primary system, you must avoid black, you must avoid white, you must avoid "opaque" colors such as naples yellow — can give lovely and highly personal artistic results, when joined with the right kind of motif and painting technique.