carol carter palette
Source: Carol Carter. © 1996 Carol Carter.

17 : cadmium lemon (PY35), aureolin (? PY40), indian yellow [hue] (PY153+PO62), cadmium orange (PO20), burnt sienna (PBr7), cadmium scarlet (PR108), pyrrole red (PR254), indian red (PR101), quinacridone pyrrolidone (PR N/A), quinacridone magenta (PR122), dioxazine violet (PV23), ultramarine blue (PB29), iron [prussian] blue (PB27), cobalt turquoise (PB36), phthalocyanine green YS (PG36), sepia [hue], ivory black (PBk9) • Carol Carter is a colorist painter with an unerring eye for strongly contrasted yet beautifully harmonious palettes. Though her selection of colors is larger than many, she typically selects only a handful of paints — sometimes as few as two or three — to build an individual painting.

Carter's palette is unusual in its handling of the cool side of the color space. She excludes greenish blues completely, and adds cobalt turquoise — a paint on the boundary between green and blue, to bridge the gap. The result is to contrast the greens and blues more clearly (as the painting above nicely demonstrates), and make the blue greens less saturated than the phthalo colors in the same part of the color space. She can also mix a variety of green textures, using either textured cobalt turquoise or liquid phthalocyanine as the anchor pigment to mix with her ample selection of yellows.

The unusually close spacing across the warm (yellow to red) part of the hue circle indicates Carter's taste for highly saturated warm colors, which (as the demonstration painting shows) she uses as pure colors blended wet in wet on the paper. (In fact, the selection of an orange pigment is by itself almost always a signal of this love of intense warm colors.) Carter uses quinacridone magenta and thioindigo violet to pull light and dark valued of rose or crimson mixtures from the reds, and bright to dark purples from ultramarine blue or dioxazine violet.

Another reason artists choose larger palettes is because they allow pigments to run together on the paper, rather than mix them fussily on the palette. Mixing on the paper foregrounds the pigment attributes and watermarks such as backruns or pigment diffusion, so a wider selection of paints provides a wider range of potential mixing effects. Carter prefers to manipulate her wash areas with extra charges of water or pigment, or delicate strokes with a large brush, to produce passages that seem to flow and breathe in harmony with the self portait swimmers and figure nudes she loves to paint.