marlies najaka palette
Source: Marlies Najaka. © 1996 Marlies Najaka.

13 : hansa yellow light (PY3), hansa yellow deep (PY65), nickel dioxine yellow (PY153), opera (? PR122+BV10), ultramarine violet (PV15), dioxazine violet (PV23), lapis lazuli (NB31), indanthrone blue (PB60), iron [prussian] blue (PB27), phthalo blue GS (PB15), phthalo cyan (PG17), phthalo bluish green (PG7+PB15), hooker's green [hue] • In contrast to the generalist solutions to the four fundamental palette limitations that were explored in Chuck Long's palette, Marlies Najaka tweaks the primary triad palette specifically to produce the most attractive mixtures possible for a specific application — in this case, the variety of greens necessary for botanical painting.

The template for Najaka's palette is the "primary" triad palette, in which green mixtures are made with yellow and blue paints and purple mixtures are very dull. But she makes several novel choices:

• Most painters rush to add a variety of red, orange and earth paints to their palette. Najaka recognizes these are superfluous — if you choose the "red" paint carefully. Her choice is opera, an intense magenta mixture of quinacridone and resinated dye made by Holbein and Winsor & Newton. Unfortunately the dye in this paint is impermanent, especially in tints, and there is little benefit to the gamut by using opera in preference to the more permanent quinacridone magenta (PR122), which also responds glowingly in yellow mixtures.

• She chooses three yellow paints — nickel dioxine yellow (PY153), hansa yellow deep PY65) and hansa yellow light (PY3) — all with very good transparency and lightfastness. Nearly all green mixtures fail because the yellow paint is impermanent, so choosing very lightfast yellows is a major consideration in palette design.

• There are seven blue or violet paints, which is the least popular way to expand the primary triad. Yet the choices are logical. Texturing pigments (ultramarine blue, cobalt blue, cobalt cerulean or cobalt turquoise) are excluded in favor of dark, transparent and staining pigments — indanthrone blue, iron blue and three phthalo blues. Ultramarine violet and natural lapis lazuli produce subtle whitening or texturing effects. All these paints are also very permanent, but unfortunately dioxazine violet (PV23) often is not.

• There is a single green paint, hooker's green, that is typically mixed from phthalo green (PG7 is slightly more lightfast) and a transparent deep yellow paint, such as nickel azomethine yellow (PY150) or nickel dioxine yellow (PY153). The lightfastness of hooker's green paints depends on who makes it, and it is always prudent to test the brand(s) you use.

Painters generally opt for one of two two green mixing strategies: (1) a yellow plus a green or blue paint, or (2) a convenience green adjusted with any other paint on the palette. Najaka's palette suggests she uses both strategies equally, or may even prefer the first. She has 30 green mixing pathways available: 12 between the convenience green (hooker's green) and any other paint on the palette, and 18 between each yellow and every blue. The convenience green or "home base" green mixing strategy from hooker's green also contains three gray mixing lines: a warm gray to the magenta and a pure neutral gray, one textured and one transparent, to the two purples (dioxazine and ultramarine). There are also nearly exact gray mixtures between the two deep yellows and the two blue violets (indanthrone and lapis lazuli).

Any of the cool paints can be used to dull the red, orange and yellow mixtures between magenta and yellow, and again all the mixtures are transparent. The "warm" mixtures are kept to a minimum in her botanical paintings but browns and tans can be mixed easily with the magenta and middle green paints, pushed warmer or cooler by added yellow or blue paint. 

In Najaka's business model the issues of palette gamut and lightfastness are affected by the reproduction and sale of her paintings as full sized giclée (inkjet) prints.

Many artists now use multicolor inkjet printers to provide lower price points for a larger quantity of work, and in these situations the gamut and lightfastness of the paints does not matter, provided the paint gamut is not significantly larger than the printer's ink gamut, the lightfastness of the giclée inks is suitably high and the artwork is promptly scanned as a printer's image file.

Inkjet inks normally have a very small and consistent particle size (so they won't clog the inkjet printer nozzles), which means they typically have a lower lightfastness than paints made of the same generic pigments. Most printers state that their giclée inks will last for 25 to 35 years, which is the permanence standard deemed "fair" in paint testing — but quite acceptable for economical prints.

As for gamut, all Najaka's transparent greens and warm color mixtures can be duplicated almost exactly by the phthalo and arylide inks used in jet printers. A micronized quinacridone can get most (but not all) of the brilliance of her pure opera paint, but specifically cannot produce the fluorescing colors of the pure paint, some of the most saturated mixtures of the opera and yellow paints, and the most saturated purples mixed with opera and/or dioxazine violet. Darkened or dulled reds, oranges and browns will be no problem.