Artist Palette Profiles: Nikki Frumkin

My much less skilled imitation of Nikki Frumkin’s Eldorado Peak at Sunrise. HO Quin Magenta (PR122), LS Sunflower (PY74), HO Ultramarine Deep (PB29), DV Diox Violet (PV23), WN WInsor Blue (PB15:3), HO Iso Yellow Deep (PY110) on Arches Hot Press.

Nikki Frumkin, aka Drawn to High Places, paints dreamy, colorful mountainscapes that blend precise line art with bold, wet-on-wet color blends. I love this art (I have several prints!) and one the cool things about it is that Nikki doesn’t really seem to use all that many different colors! A bold, limited palette can seem endless in the right hands.

I don’t have a definitive list of Nikki’s palette, but here’s a quote from a supply list she put together for a workshop:

Tube paint that’s been squeezed and dried in a palette is great for saving space outside! I love Art Toolkit’s palettes in any size. If you already own a set you love using, please bring that. If you are buying colors, here are a few of my favorites by Schmincke. Daniel Smith also makes great paint. Indigo, Cerulean Blue*, a warm yellow, Magenta, Payne’s Grey, Viridian Green and Violet.

Nikki Frumkin, Yosemite Conservancy Backpack & Paint Retreat

* I’m assuming based on other sources that she means Cerulean Blue Hue, but Schmincke also has Cobalt Cerulean and Helio Cerulean, which is how they name their genuine cerulean and Phthalo Blue GS respectively.

It’s inspiring to me how few colors there are in the list, yet how complete it feels as a palette. Let’s look at how we might build this.

Palette Slot (basic)Nikki’s Choice (Schmincke)Other Alternatives
dark blueIndigo (PB66/PB15:1)Indanthrone Blue (PB60), Payne’s Gray, Ultramarine Blue (PB29)
cyanCerulean Blue Hue (PB15:3/PW4) Cerulean Genuine (PB36), Manganese Blue Hue (PB15), Phthalo Blue GS (PB15:3), Phthalo Turquoise (PB16), Cobalt Blue (PB28), Cobalt Turquoise (PG50)
a warm yellowCadmium Yellow Middle (PY35)Hansa Yellow Medium (PY97), Pure Yellow (PY154), Brilliant Hansa Yellow (PY74), Lemon Yellow (PY175), Hansa Yellow Light (PY3)
magentaMagenta (PV42)Quin Rose (PV19), Quin Magenta (PR122), Quin Fuchsia (PR202), Alizarin Crimson hue
black/graySchmincke Payne’s Grey (PR101/PB29/PBk7)Neutral Tint, any black
greenViridian (PG18)Phthalo Green (PG7), Phthalo Green YS (PG36), Viridian (PG18), Hooker’s Green
violetSchmincke Violet (PV23)Imperial Violet (PB29/PV19), Quin Violet, Ultramarine Violet

Nikki has also selected paints for a couple of of collabs with Art Toolkit, including one with Daniel Smith colors (Hansa Yellow Medium, Quin Rose, Phthalo Blue GS, Lavender, Imperial Purple, Cobalt Teal Blue, Phthalo Green BS, Indigo) and one with Schmincke colors that I can now find no evidence of on the Internet. But luckily I still have the ad in my email inbox! Per the email, “These colors are Nikki’s favorites for capturing changing light in the mountains, especially sunrise and sunset.” Here are the colors:

Nikki Frumkin’s chosen Schmincke colors for a December 2021 Art Toolkit collaboration featuring a special bronze-colored pocket palette.

This includes all the colors I listed above (with the slight change of making Viridian be Phthalo Green), plus these extras:

Palette Slot (extended)Nikki’s choice (Schmincke)Other Alternatives
turquoiseCobalt Turquoise (PG50)Same alternatives as for cyan, especially Manganese Blue
violet blueUltramarine Finest (PB29)any Ultramarine Blue (PB29) or Ultramarine Violet (PV15), e.g. WN Smalt
orangeChromium Orange Hue (PO62)Cadmium Orange (PO20), Transparent Orange (PO71), Pyrrol Orange (PO73); or a yellow-orange such as Hansa Yellow Deep (PY65), Isoindolinone Yellow Deep (PY110), New Gamboge, etc.
yellow-greenMay Green (PY151/PG7)Phthalo Green YS (PG36); other commercial mixed yellow-green with Phthalo Green and yellow, e.g. DS Phthalo Yellow Green or DV Leaf Green; DIY mix with any yellow + phthalo green; Hooker’s Green or Sap Green (esp. bright variants like Holbein)
metallic/special effectsSilver (mica)any metallic/iridescent/duochrome; fluorescent paint like Opera Pink; Titanium White (PW6) for making pastels

Only 7 colors in the basic palette (with 5 more in the optional extended palette) – this is pretty compact yet very vibrant and bold. Looking at Nikki’s art, I can clearly see lots of magenta, dark blue, luscious candy coated yellow, cool greens, and soft lilac purples; it’s a lovely cohesive palette and its repetition across the pieces makes them look like part of the same oeuvre. You don’t need a ton of colors! (Repeat after me: I don’t need a ton of colors.)

What’s more, I really love all these colors (I just want to eat up the image of the Schmincke colors from the email, even though I don’t even really like to use Schmincke because their binder gives me lots of weird cauliflowers). And they just look so darn good together! I already have equivalents for many of these, maybe the best thing is to weed out the colors I don’t want to use, rather than buy more paint.

I’m inspired by the lack of earth tones in here; granted Nikki mostly paints skies, but then, so do I!

Taking into account alternative options, it’s pretty similar to my Neon Palette! So this has given me some great ideas about how to tighten it up and use it to paint dreamy, colorful skies.

UPDATE: I used this as a the basis for the Neon Palette II.