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

Nikki has also selected paints for a number 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 gold pocket palette.

Let’s take the smallest list, however, as our canonical palette, since it’s the only one that wasn’t part of a promo to fill such-and-such number of slots in a promotional palette. It’s also inspiring to me how few colors there are in the list, yet how complete it feels as a palette. Here’s how I would pack my palette for my imaginary trip to Nikki’s retreat:

Palette Slot (basic)Nikki’s choice (Schmincke)Nikki’s choice (DS)I would use…
dark blueIndigo (PB66/PB15:1)Indigo (PB60/PBk6)DS Indanthrone Blue (PB60)
bright blueCerulean Blue Hue (PB15:3/PW4)Phthalo Blue GS (PB15:3)WN Winsor Blue (PB15:3)
warm yellowCadmium Yellow Middle (PY35)Hansa Yellow Medium (PY97)WN Winsor Yellow (PY154)
magentaMagenta (PV42)Quin Rose (PV19)HO Quin Magenta (PR122) or DV Red Rose Deep (PV19)
graySchmincke Payne’s Grey (PR101/PB29/PBk7)(none listed, presumably DS Payne’s Gray would work though)MMB Neutral Tint (PBk26)
bright greenPhthalo Green (PG7)Phthalo Green BS (PG7)DV Phthalo Green (PG7)
violetSchmincke Violet (PV23)Imperial Violet (PB29/PV19)DV Dioxazine Violet (PV23)

Based on the other palette choices, we can also assume that the following might not go amiss:

Palette Slot (extended)Nikki’s choice (Schmincke)Nikki’s choice (DS)I would use…
turquoiseCobalt Turquoise (PG50)Cobalt Teal Blue (PG50)SH Cobalt Turquoise (PG50)
violet blueUltramarine Finest (PB29)HO Ultramarine Deep (PB29)
orangeChromium Orange (PO20)maybe SH Transparent Orange (PO71)
yellow-greenMay Green (PY151/PG7)probably just mix this with the yellow + green
light purpleLavender (PW6/PV15/PB29)maybe DV Ultramarine Violet (PV15)
silverSilver (mica)Titanium White (PW6) gouache

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!

Looking at my version of it, 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.

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