The Urban Palette

7th Avenue and 31st Street, oil on canvas, 9x12 in.

There are certain things that just “say New York”: sunlight and shadows on brick, heavy cornices on rooftops and sun-baked road surfaces. If you look at these elements, you will see many unexpected colors in them, black top is not black, it’s usually grey from wear and tear and loaded with purples, ochres and blues in the shadows, naples yellow makes a wonderful contrast on the sunny parts of the pavement.

What color is brick? We think of it as red, but in the city it comes in many colors: yellow, rust, white, and when the sun hits it, it picks up all sorts of reflective colors from the objects that surround it. Here, I’ve used a combination of cad red light and yellow ochre on the sunny parts of the building, the shadow areas are made up of this combination plus a mixture of cobalt and alizarin to make them have a purple cast.

The cross walk lines are not pure white, they are in shadow and pick up a really nice purple/blue cast. Here I’ve added a bit of king’s blue and some alizarin to the titanium white to make a shadow white. For the sunlit whites, I”ve added some naples yellow to the white. It’s all about color variation and really looking for those unexpected colors, rather than simply choosing the colors based on what we “know” are the colors of the subjects we paint.


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