Artist Palette Profiles: How Mimi Robinson Mixes “Local Color”

When a person is into color as much as Mimi Robinson, author of Local Color, I naturally find myself asking “What paints does she have in her palette?” 

In a way this question is beside the point, since Mimi’s practice is all about mixing colors yourself, but I was still curious which colors she finds useful for mixing all over the world. Here are the colors she lists in her palette in the book’s “Materials” section. She doesn’t say which color is from which brand, but generally mentions using Winsor & Newton and Sennelier. I’ve made my best guess about which pigment is being used.

SlotMR Has (Pigment Guessed)Some Alternatives
Cool YellowLemon Yellow (PY175)Hansa Yellow Light (PY3), Azo Yellow (PY151), Bismuth Yellow (PY184), Green Gold (PY129)
Primary/Middle YellowAureolin (PY40)Imidazolone Yellow (PY154), Hansa Yellow Medium (PY97), Nickel Azo Yellow (PY150)
ScarletCadmium Red Light or Cadmium Red Medium (PR108)Pyrrol Scarlet (PR255), Geranium Red (PR242), Scarlet Lake (PR188), or sub in an orange such as Transparent Orange (PO71) or Pyrrol Orange (PO73)
Dark Red (Crimson or Dark Scarlet)WN Permanent Alizarin Crimson (PR179, formerly PR206)DV Alizarin Crimson Quinacridone (PV19), Pyrrol Rubin (PR264), Quin Burnt Scarlet (PR206 – discontinued), Deep Scarlet (PR175), Perylene Maroon (PR179), Perylene Violet (PV29)
Primary Magenta/RosePermanent Rose (PV19)Quin Magenta (PR122), Quin Pink (PV42), Quin Fuchsia (PR202), Bordeaux (PV32), Opera Pink (PR122 + fluorescent dye)
Violet BlueUltramarine Blue (PB29)Cobalt Blue (PB28) often mixes similarly; WN Smalt (PV15) is more violet
Middle BlueCobalt Blue (PB28)Ultramarine Blue (PB29) often mixes similarly; Phthalo Blue Red Shade (PB15:1) is a smoother middle blue
Primary CyanPhthalo Blue GS (PB15:3) or Prussian Blue (PB27)Phthalo Turquoise (PB16), Phthalo Blue RS (PB15:1)
Light/Granulating BlueCerulean Blue (PB36)Manganese Blue Hue (PB15); Cobalt Teal (PG50); pre-mixed or self-mixed Cerulean hues (e.g. white + Phthalo Blue)
Earth YellowYellow Ochre (PY43)MANS or Raw Sienna (PBr7), Naples Yellow Deep (PBr24) 
Earth OrangeBurnt Sienna (PBr7)Transparent Red Oxide (PR101), Quin Burnt Orange (PO48), or sub in an Earth Red such as Indian Red (PR101) or Light Red (PR102)
Earth BrownBurnt Umber (PBr7)Mars Brown (PBr6), Raw Umber (PBr7), Van Dyke Brown, Sepia, Transparent Brown Oxide (PR101), Mahogany Brown (PBr33). Or double up with another earth slot (personally I find it more useful to have Earth Orange and Earth Red than Earth Orange and Earth Brown.) 
Mimi Robinson inspired palette

This is a pretty classic and flexible set of 12 colors, I think! You’ve got two yellows, three reds, four blues, and three earth colors. 

Mimi indicates two triads in this set as suggesting starting places if you only want to have 3-6 colors:

  • Triad I: Permanent Alizarin Crimson, Lemon Yellow, Ultramarine Blue
  • Triad II: Cadmium Red, Aureolin, Phthalo or Prussian Blue

I can see even more great triad options, for example: 

  • Modern: Permanent Rose, Lemon Yellow, Phthalo or Prussian Blue
  • Traditional: Cadmium Red, Aureolin*, Cobalt Blue
  • Earth: Burnt Sienna, Yellow Ochre, Cerulean Blue

* (Personally, I’d stay away from actual Aureolin, i.e. PY40, since it’s both toxic and fugitive, but any equivalent would work. For the other colors I think my suggested equivalents and Mimi’s color are equally good.) 

For the practice of mixing Local Color, I don’t think it’s necessary to sweat too much about what exact base colors you have in your palette. Some paints will make it harder or easier depending on how similar they are to colors in that specific landscape, and how flexible they are as mixers. But there are many colors that mix gorgeously, especially primary colors (any variation on red/pink/magenta, yellow, or blue/cyan/turquoise). There are many ways to mix similar colors, and you can still make a beautiful painting even if your colors don’t really match the landscape.

Another useful exercise I’m gradually working on, to refine my colors:  

  1. Go to a pretty place to paint.
  2. Notice what colors are great there, and what colors feel like they are missing.
  3. Refine palette. 
  4. Go back!