The Grow Untamed Palette

Grow Untamed Palette kit

I have a seatoolkit diet: I see a new Art Toolkit, I buy it. Specifically, I love colored and patterned Pocket Palettes. I recently styled the Traveler’s Notebook Company special green palette as a neon palette, and so when I saw an even newer special palette out, the Grow Untamed palette, I had to nab it! This one comes loaded with Letter Sparrow paints, a company I’ve never tried, so being able to try them was a bonus. (This is NOT a sponsored post, by the way. Just my unprompted thoughts on a recent supplies purchase.)

The palette Grow Untamed palette is based on the desert art of Melissa Esplin. It comes with 5 colors. They’re all relatively opaque, which is not my favorite style of painting to do (let’s just say I am not as adept at it as Melissa Esplin), but it made an interesting change.

Swatches of the six Letter Sparrow paints in the Grow Untamed kit.

My impressions:

  • Sky Gouache: I was surprised by how weak this is, even for a pale blue. You have to dig out a lot of paint to get a noticeable color.
  • Buff Gouache: Very similar to Daniel Smith Buff Titanium.
  • Violet Ochre: Opaque, granulating, purple-toned brown color. Most similar color I know is Da Vinci Violet Iron Oxide. Interesting granulation.
  • Kelly Green: Opaque, granulating green made from the Cobalt Green pigment PG50 (same as Cobalt Turquoise). This is the platonic ideal green for me; it is just such a greeny green, not a blue-green or a yellow-green. With its texture, it’s great for foliage.
  • Sunflower: Bold, non-granulating, primary yellow. Semi-opaque. PY74 is the pigment Da Vinci uses for their Hansa Yellow Medium.
  • Italian Orange: Bold, non/low-granulating orange. Semi-transparent. This is not a commonly used pigment; Handprint says it’s fugitive. Pretty, though.

The magic of this color combination is not in any of the specific colors, but in the ways this limited palette comes together to create the colors of the desert. The included card suggested Kelly Green + Sunflower + Violet Ochre makes gray-green cactus colors. Here are some two-color combos I observed:

Two-color mixes from the Grow Untamed palette.
  • Sunflower + Italian Orange for rich yellow-oranges
  • Sky + Violet Ochre for gray-browns (I do wish the blue was darker for stark shadows)
  • Sky + Kelly Green for light, vivid turquoise
  • Sunflower + Kelly Green for rich yellow-green
  • Buff + Italian Orange for mesa orange
  • Buff + Violet Ochre for a range of sandy browns
Interior view of Grow Untamed palette with my attempt at desert painting

I’m not sure I’ll really use these paints for much beyond this very specific use case. After using them, I was aching to go back to my transparent Nickel Azo Yellows and Phthalo Blues. Your painting style may vary. Opaque enthusiasts will love this.

Other extras from the palette include:

  • A mini water brush – nice for micro-sized travel, but it doesn’t hold much water
  • A small 3″ x 4″ sample-size pad of Hahnemühle Agave paper, which is fun because I’ve wanted to try it! I liked the paper, which is pretty thick and not buckly, and has a nice texture. But it dried a bit more quickly than I would like, and when I looked up the price, at larger sizes, it was even more expensive than Arches.

Overall I wouldn’t call any of these items indispensable for me personally, but I enjoyed getting to know the gorgeous art of Melissa Esplin, and of course I love the fun red palette tin, which is totally getting repurposed or added-to with some of my favorite paints!

Appendix – Full Paintouts

Letter Sparrow – Buff Gouache (PW6:1)
Letter Sparrow – Sunflower (PY74)
Letter Sparrow – Italian Orange (PO5)
Letter Sparrow – Sky Gouache
Letter Sparrow – Kelly Green (PG50)
Letter Sparrow – Violet Ochre (PR101)