My palette consists of values that are laid out in a value string and what I call a plane pool. The plane pool is the area where I take up values of paint, that represent planes of form, on my brush before applying paint to the canvas. I use the plane pool in order to decrease the opacity of paint before I apply it to the canvas. I try to use a fairly opaque amount of paint to make it easier to mix paint wet into wet on the canvas, but desire to avoid painting so thickly that the amount of paint on the canvas adds a considerable amount of difficulty to manipulating the paint on the canvas. The amount of paint in the plane pool is less than the paint from the value string and therefore provides an area for me to easily take up a desired amount on of paint my brush.
When the plane pool becomes emptied, after repeatedly taking up paint on my brush, I have to refill it with paint from my value string. The strokes of paint above and below the plane pool are areas where I wipe off excess paint before applying paint to the canvas. Depending on the amount of paint that I want to use, I continue to wipe off excess paint on a paper towel before applying paint to the canvas.
Using the Palette to Apply Paint
Although the values on my palette are laid out horizontally, while painting I consider the relationship of those values to a form that I am modeling.
Above is a visual representation of how I consider the values in the plane pool on my palette in their relation to a form that I am modeling. I must note that the thought of viewing the paint on the palette as planes of form to be applied to the canvas was first brought to my attention by Greg Mortenson during a painting demonstration that he gave.
Harold Speed has noted in his book Oil Painting Techniques and Materials that “Generally speaking, remember that you can only attend to one edge of the touch that you are making." For making transitions between strokes, I agree that it is most effective to focus on only one edge of a transition at a time in order to better control the paint on the brush.
This way of interpreting the palette is very much like sculpting, where planes of clay are added onto a mass and then spread into the surrounding planes to create transitions that represent a desired curve of form.
This process is very much like sculpting, where one uses a removal tool to bend a form down a desired amount.
The sculptural principle of this process remains the same even during instances when the wet into wet properties of oil paint limit how much a value is affected when additional paint is added from its respective areas on the palette. In these instances I just take up the required planes from my palette and work them into the form on the canvas by using the wet into wet properties of oil paint mixing to bend planes a desired amount towards or away from the light.
So in the instance above, where I needed to turn the area more towards the light, that area's respective value on my palette would not turn the form enough towards the light when it mixed with the darker wet oil paint on the canvas. Instead I had to take up planes that faced even more towards the light on my palette so that I could turn that area as far towards the light as needed.
The amount of paint already on the canvas, the amount of paint that one is applying and the amount of pressure that one applies a stroke with all contribute to how far I must depart from an area's respective value on the palette to turn a form a desired amount.
I have mainly been practicing this process on painting spheres to transition into grayscale painting, but will continue to utilize a sculptural thought process for my cast paintings.