Colour Mixing Inspired by Georgia O’Keeffe’s Palette

Colour Mixing Inspired by Georgia O’Keeffe’s Palette

Colour Mixing Inspired by Georgia O’Keeffe’s Palette

Ga O’Keeffe (1887-1986) is usually credited with currently being the ‘Mother of American Modernism’. She is ideal acknowledged for her substantial-scale, billowing flower paintings and the quite a few landscapes she painted during her time in New Mexico, a location that she returned to yet again and all over again. From the chilly and austere colour palettes of some of her flower paintings, to the hot and burning hues encouraged by New Mexico, O’Keeffe was possibly a single of the biggest colourists of the 20th century. This write-up will take a search at the colors in her palette, and puts with each other three color palettes motivated by the color interactions in her work.


Photograph of Ga O’Keeffe with her sketchbook and watercolours by her aspect taken by Alfred Atieglitz, 1918.


Georgia O’Keeffe’s Palette

In 2020, a selection of pigments from Georgia O’Keeffe’s studio went up for auction at Sotheby’s. The jars were labelled in her handwriting, but regardless of whether these dry pigments have been in fact employed by O’Keeffe is uncertain, as she was acknowledged to obtain her oil paints from Winsor and Newton. Nevertheless, they give us an concept of the types of pigments she liked to use in her colour palette. They provided Burnt Sienna, Purple Madder, Rose Madder, Raw Umber, Pink Ochre, Yellow Ochre, Gamboge, Chrome Eco-friendly (a mixture of Chrome Yellow and Prussian Blue), Cobalt Blue, Indigo, Zinc White, and Terre Verte.

These colours may not impressive on their possess, but how she applied them certainly was. Her colour palette was extremely centered and intentional. She created color swatches, and prepared and refined the colors prior to placing brush to canvas. Although there is imaginative freedom to be discovered in the spontaneous use of color, there is also one thing to be stated for a thought of approach and a restricted palette.


Blue and Eco-friendly Songs by Ga O’Keeffe, 1921. Art Institute of Chicago


Color Palette #1: Terre Verte, Burnt Sienna, Yellow Ochre, Carmine, and Cobalt Blue

The very first palette is encouraged by one particular of O’Keeffe’s recollections all through a single of her stays in New Mexico:

    “I climbed way up on a pale green hill and in the night light—the solar below the clouds—the colour outcome was extremely strange—standing superior on a pale eco-friendly hill exactly where I could look all all around at the pink, yellow, purple formations—miles all around—the colors all intensified by the pale grey inexperienced I was standing on.”

O’Keeffe is enduring, in a extremely true and embodied way, the result that colors have on every single other– a amazing-toned Eco-friendly Earth (PG23) intensifies the fiery hue of warm colours. So, with this in intellect, the initially palette is manufactured all around Environmentally friendly Earth:



I did not blend the Inexperienced Earth in the chart higher than mainly because its a low-tinting color compared with the many others, and so it arrives to the fore when made use of on its very own. The moody purples designed by Carmine and Cobalt Blue and the warm oranges of the Carmine and Yellow Ochre definitely established off the fragile coolness of the inexperienced. All round this palette is balanced and functional, jogging the gamut among cool and heat tones.


Colour Palette #2: Cobalt Blue, Carmine, Manganese Violet, and Cadmium Yellow

A person hanging issue about Georgia O’Keeffe’s palette is the way she set two identical colors future to each individual other in a way that reveals both their discrepancies and their similarities, resulting in a sort of ‘tension’ amongst the two. In Sunrise, a watercolour analyze from 1916, she put a dazzling purple-pink up coming to a very hot purple:


Sunrise by Georgia O’Keeffe, watercolour on paper, 1916


The neat purple-pink will make the red appear comparatively heat, although the purple provides out the blue-tones in the purple-pink. The yellow in the centre sorts a focal issue that, as a complementary colour to purple, even further intensifies the purple tones in the bordering colours. With this in brain, the next palette includes Carmine and Manganese Violet– two colours that aren’t really far from every other in the colour wheel (they are bluish purple and reddish violet respectively). When used jointly they show an exciting color ‘tension’ we locate in O’Keeffe’s get the job done.



My initial thought for this palette employed a a lot more fragile yellow, but I realised that the purple-large mixtures of Cobalt Blue, Carmine, and Manganese Violet were crying out for an intense, opaque yellow to act as a complementary. The combination of Manganese Violet and Cadmium Yellow may well be of desire for portrait painters– it will make an fascinating brownish orange that I was not expecting!


Jackson’s Manganese Violet oil paint


Colour Palette #3: Lemon Yellow, Viridian, Green Earth, and Prussian Blue

The prior two palettes have manufactured use of complementary colors (i.e. yellow and purple, environmentally friendly and orange), but this last palette is encouraged by one more way that O’Keeffe makes use of color- applying a very slim colour palette. A good instance of this is her portray Blue and Environmentally friendly Audio which you observed earlier in this write-up, but it is a colour palette she made use of in some of her huge-scale flower paintings as nicely. The next palette incorporates colors from a interesting yellow (lemon yellow), a yellow-environmentally friendly (Terre Verte yellow-shade), a blue green (Viridian), and a inexperienced-blue (Prussian Blue). This compact slice of the color spectrum makes a unified, nevertheless subdued, color palette:



We can understand a ton from the artists of art record, and what Ga O’Keeffe’s palette teaches us is that breaking away from the traditional primary-color palette (in which all three principal colours are represented) can produce some intriguing final results. Which a single of these palettes is your favorite?



Even further Reading

Color Mixing: 8 Blues in Eight Confined Palettes

Venetian Crimson: the Purple Earth Pigment That Evokes the Italian Renaissance

Recreating Rembrandt’s Colour Palette With Present day Pigments

Pigment Stories: Yinmn Blue, the Newest Blue Pigment


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Evie Hatch

Evie’s interests lie in the heritage and features of artist colors and components. This study performs a massive section in her art observe she loves investigating classic methods and tends to make her own watercolour and oil paints. Evie graduated in 2016 from Camberwell Faculty of Artwork with a diploma in Drawing. She is at present finding out Art Record at the Courtauld Institute, London.