Going to paint a dancer? Get inspired by Degas or Sargent. Want to push into the realm of abstraction? Take a look at the work of Klee or Kandinsky.
These stimuli of subject matter and style are pretty obvious aren't they?
But what do the palettes of the greats have to teach us?
Earlier in the week, I was having one of those so-so moments with the latest in my 'Grow Wings and Fly' series.
I'd assembled the collage pieces and laid down some texture on the canvas, but then I started to feel stuck.
I wanted some kind of blues for the ground but I wasn't sure exactly what shade; nor did I want the ground to look completely 'flat'.
I stared at the canvas and waited for my muse to speak.
She must have laryngitis for there wasn't so much as a peep.
So I opened the Pinterest app on my phone. Not, as you might suspiciously imagine, to forget about my painting and drown myself in an orgy of pinning, but to look at the boards where I intentionally collate anything that seems to relate to my artwork.
After a minute or so my attention was grabbed by the painting (above) by Spanish artist, Antonio López García. When I looked at this piece in detail, I was amazed by the range of shades he had used in his 'blue' and green background.
Saving time with colour swatches
I immediately made a quick colour chart based on García's painting using oil pastels and began mixing the colours.
Then I created swatches using splodges of the mixes along with scribbles about the ratio of component colours.
(I keep cut offs from heavy papers trimmed on the guillotine for use as swatches.)
This is one of the few really methodical aspects of my studio practice which I find saves me heaps of time when it comes to reproducing a particular shade I've used before – in the same painting or another one.
The next time I came to the studio the paint was ready and waiting for me and all I had to do was let it speak to the canvas. Pretty soon the ground was laid down and I was able to focus on the next stage of the process.
I've already toned down the colours on the background from what you see here, so who knows how much of the original shades will remain by the time the piece is finished?
But García's palette served as a bridge from that stuck place to the next stage of my work.
And I have a record of that rather delicious palette for anytime I want it.
Get inspired by the palettes of the masters
Looking at the palettes used by our favourite artists gives us insight into the components of our own palettes as well as clues as to how to expand our colour vocabulary.
Just for fun, try this quiz: Can you recognise these famous artworks by their palettes?
What signature colours do you use in your work?
The range of colours we use in our painting is one of the key components of our signature style, yet one which we're often oblivious to.
To discover your signature colours, get out a bunch of your paintings, or flick through a digital photo album containing your art.
You might be surprised at what you find.
If you are not a painter, maybe you can think of an analogous example of the palette within your own discipline? A source of inspiration within the work of others that is easily overlooked?