Oil Painting: Chris McHenrys Palette

In the November 2006 issue of American Artist, we explored how Texas artist Chris McHenry balanced constrasting values, color temperatures, and edges to establish depth, atmosphere, focus, and emotion in his oil landscapes. We present an excerpt from the article.

by M. Stephen Doherty

McHenry’s experience with color as a billboard painter greatly informed his future color choices as both a landscape artist and a portraitist. “Looking at a billboard that had been in the direct sunlight for several months was a good lesson in the accelerated aging of paint colors,” the artist remembers. “I would carefully examine billboards that had been up for a year or more and adjust my palette accordingly. When I first started painting portraits, two of the colors I favored were rose madder and alizarin crimson. However, after two weeks in the direct sunlight on a billboard, these colors would be completely bleached out and the face would appear jaundiced. I started using the synthetic quinacridone colors because they do not fade as noticeably. The cadmium colors are also relatively lightfast and most blues tend to hold up well. All colors will fade eventually but the key is to pick a palette of colors that fade the slowest, and at the same rate, so that the color balance does not shift.”

McHenry uses various brands and colors but usually Winsor & Newton oils in the
following colors:

  • cadmium lemon
  • cadmium orange
  • bright red
  • quinacridone
  • redquinacridone violet
  • ultramarine blue
  • cobalt blue
  • Permalba white

View a step-by-step demonstration of McHenry's work.

To read the feature article on this artist, check out the November 2006 issue of American Artist.

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