A New Painting using a Limited Palette


Solo 8X10 oil on linen panel

Limited palette consisting of : Yellow Ochre, Cad Red Lt., Phtalo Blue, Titanium White and Mars Black ( didn’t have Ivory Black but living on an island, you learn to substitute ). Minimizing colors is good practice to force yourself to see in a simple way, warm/cool, light/dark. I’m not fond of using black and perhaps Ivory would have been softer than Mars. This was a slight variation of the Zorn Palette which you can read more about on another blog I found here and see what Anders Zorn produced with a minimal use of color here at their website.

What was also limited was the amount of time I gave myself to finish this piece. I toned the canvas first in a drippy wash and went right to work with placing darks and mass- no drawing. Drawing with charcoal first is something I’m used to doing to get the figure in proportion. It also encourages the undesired characteristic of painting by ” filling in the lines ” rather than seeing shapes in relation to each other.

I’m taking another workshop next week, here on St. Croix, and wanted to loosen up before the class begins. I’m pleased with what looks like essence and gesture. Not including the wonky bend in the neck of the guitar. I promised myself that I wasn’t ” going in ” to re-do or do-over or fix it a little. This is it.

I also promised I would wash the cat by hand next time……


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27 Responses to “A New Painting using a Limited Palette”

  1. Noel Luria Says:

    Due to my color blindless, Ive always seen the world through “limited palette” glasses. Ironically, this new stuff seems even more colorful to me. Must be soemthing “contrarian” in there. BTW the cat seemed extra clean in this picture as well. Hmmmmmm. Love,


  2. Donald Diddams Says:

    You’ve been busy! I love the face and the gesture with head bent back. No shortage of color despite the limited palette. I wonder, how did that feel not to go back in and work it some more..?

    I might try that cat trick with the dog next time. She always seems to want to get in there anyway.

  3. Sharon Crute Says:

    Great expression in the face, this musician is feeling it! Hands are telling it as well. Limiting a palette produces surprisingly beautiful colors.

    If you hadn’t mentioned the guitar neck, I wonder how many of us would have noticed? It repeats the strap, and, just…seems fine. The eye is continually drawn to the face as a focal point and also via the strap.

    Elegant. I can hear it.

  4. w1kkp Says:

    Ok. This is my favorite Luria. When it loaded up, I just went..whoa…I could hear the music. His facial expression is all about what’s going on inside…And, though you say it’s a limited palette, it doesn’t strike me that way. It strikes me as the right palette. Am I gushing?

  5. Jala Pfaff Says:

    Great job, great expression/emotion! I didn’t notice the “wonky” guitar line ’till you mentioned it. 🙂

  6. Jala Pfaff Says:

    P.S. That is indeed a very clean-looking kitty-pie.

  7. Nava Says:

    That is absolutely cool, Bonnie! No drawing? nice!! I agree with you that a meticulous drawing tends to get you to almost paint by numbers, and I myself have also started to just put the very basic lines in and then go for the brush.

    There’s great energy in this one – and the “wonky bend in the neck of the guitar” goes along with the positively elastic-ish style of this painting. I haven’t noticed it till you mentioned it.

    I think hand-washing might be indeed better for cats. They tend to shrink otherwise.

  8. Carol King Says:


    Wow, Here I am struggling with a few darks and you produce this absolutely fabulous painting with a “limited palette”! I need to take some Luria lessons. I love this painting and the way his head is back. I can hear the music. Oh wait, maybe it’s just the voices in my head.

    Another great job! And when will you try and wash the dogs mechanically?

  9. judylobo Says:

    Brava, my island lass. Brava!

  10. Bill Guffey Says:

    Very nice, Bonnie! Love it. The wonkiness is fine, don’t worry about it. It takes nothing away from the painting.

    The limited palette worked well also. I don’t remember the last time I worked with more than five colors plus black and white. Some of the best greens I’ve ever mixed were with black and yellow ochre.

  11. Bonnie Luria Says:

    Don- it felt liberating. Like walking away from chocolate cake – which I didn’t do! I’ve read that a painting is never finished it’s just abandoned.

    Sharon-I really do like limiting colors. It keeps me on track. I guess I didn’t have to mention the guitar neck but it’s my own sense of correctness that drove me to confess before being called out.
    As always- your thoughtfully written comments are so welcomed.

    Pat- gush away. A favorite- I wouldn’t have imagined but maybe it appealed to the child of the 60s in some of us.
    Limited in inventory but not in possibilities.

    Jala twice- so I’m gathering that it’s ok not to mention what we think our flaws are. Like not pointing out another grey hair- who’s looking anyway.
    Kitty read the sign wrong- it said Car Wash- he read it as Cat wash.

    Nava- elastic-ish painting is what I yearn for. Thank you. Do you have those days when your eye and mind see just how you want your painting to be but your hand and brush have another idea? Always looking for creativity detente. Get together you guys!!!!!!!!!

    Carolllaaaaaaa- the voices in your head seem to tell your hand and brush what to do just fine. Thanks though for the big callout. The damn dogs only fit in the bed, not the dishwasher.

    Judy- a tip o the tam right back to you, mentor.

    Bill- thank you- you’ve been a big influence in the successful use of limited colors, You live that theory so well.
    Now I ‘m feeling after everyones’ comments, that it’s not about flawless, it’s about feeling.

    Thanks to you all for the great encouragement.

  12. wrjones Says:

    I like it. I think a limited palette is plenty to do almost any painting but you really made good use of it here. Also like the discipline not to “fiddle” with the guitar neck. I would have had out my ruler to get it straight.

    I’m with Carol, want to come take some lessons. Don’t listen to her when she says I can’t come.

  13. wrjones Says:

    PS – If Carol comes to take lessons don’t let her bring the dog or you cat is history.

  14. Marian Fortunati Says:

    Oh Bonnie… THIS is my favorite yet!!! The colors are fabulous but what get you to say WHOA!!! (which I think I read someone else said too..) is the movement and the feeling which you captured to beautifully in this painting….
    Gosh… just absolutely wonderful!!

  15. JoAnn Says:

    Lovr the way she’s just silouetted by the light. Great contrast, wonderful feeling, fabulous emotion. Limited pallette and no drawing works for you. Push yourself into easy more often!

  16. Nava Says:

    “Do you have those days when your eye and mind see just how you want your painting to be but your hand and brush have another idea?”

    Um… do you ever get any other kind of days? I mean, that’s how it is for me, pretty much each and every time I paint. At some point I decided to stop fighting it and enjoy the element of surprise.

    …and sometimes, I succeed.

  17. Bonnie Luria Says:

    Bill-I thought about using the edge of the palette knife to accentuate the strings but decided it would have been too rigid in comparison to the overall feeling of the piece.
    But I understand how engineers like to fiddle with stuff.

    Marian- I’m turning vermillion from your enthusiastic praise. I’m so glad you like it.
    I’m very eager to read more about your workshop with Frank Gardner. It sounded absolutely wonderful.

    JoAnn-That last sentence is a great mantra: Push yourself into easy! I really like the sound of that and it’s a good reminder to pare down sometimes.
    Thank you.

  18. david lobenberg Says:

    Dear comrade, very nice painting and the limited Zorn color palette is workin for you here! I’m going to use the Z.Palette in my painting class that I teach this Fri. We’re all painting a still life of coffee, napkin, and donut (don’t get better than that in the morn. unless you add some bacon). I’ll try to post my demo on this next wk.

    Comrade David

    PS: Yes, next time hand wash the little feline. A drying in the microwave may be something you might want to try.

  19. Nancy Moskovitz Says:

    So many eloquently crafted and well- deserved comments of praise. I love this painting for its movement and mood too. Do you ever have any duds you are not showing us?

  20. Bonnie Luria Says:

    David- I’m always eager to see the results of your work and your instruction. You are one fearless artist/comrade in the arena of multiple medium mastery.

    Nancy- if it’s duds yer lookin’ fer, have a look see in my storage closet. Sometimes I think it’s better to throw them away in order not to be associated with them if the place had to be cleaned out.
    I just don’t post them.

  21. Joanne Says:

    I LOVE this painting, Bonnie! The colors, the expression on his face, the music… no – really, I can hear him singing!!! You might want to do this kind of :exercise” often – it is really very beautiful. 🙂 Have a fabulous time at the workshop.

  22. Theresa Rankin Says:

    This looks fabulous…you are so inspiring!! I have passed on the Passion for Painting award to you! Check my blog for details!!

  23. Bonnie Luria Says:

    Joann- I take your compliment with a serious blushing of cheek. I just came from looking at your stunning sunflowers in watercolor and that majestic elephant! So I really thank you for the lovely compliment.

    Theresa- talk about inspiring! Now you’re showing some great photography. Is there nothing you can’t do?
    Thank you for that award, which just comes in the midst of a week long painting workshop. It feels so good to be doing it every day.

  24. nathaliewithanh Says:

    Yeah Bonnie!!!!! Very cool! I love everything you’ve painted lately… and I’ll admit I cannot really tell the difference between a “limited time” painting and one you’ve spent days on. I’m a failure. But I’m a failure who loves this painting!!!

  25. Bonnie Luria Says:

    Nathalie, the limited palette refers to the limited number of colors you use- in this case 5.
    If the time was limited, you’d be looking at a blank canvas!

    A failure? You? I just looked at your recent photo entries on your blog and you have to retract that silly statement.

  26. Paulette Says:

    Bonnie this is wonderful!
    I think a limited palette makes art even more unique, because blending colours is an art form of its own.

  27. solvay Says:


    Again – I can HEAR the blues in this painting – maybe not American blues – reggae – or whatever local version of the same soul music. It comes right through the canvas and screen. Love it.
    And, meow – too funny, the kitty in the dishwasher…..

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