Artist Palette Profile: Kelley Vivian

One of my favorite gouache artists is Kelley Vivian, who paints gorgeous nature scenes typically in New England settings. She has painted numerous National Parks across the US, but her local park, like mine, is Acadia in Maine, and I just love her homey-looking Maine landscapes and seascapes, complete with lots of evergreen trees and rocky beaches. I especially like the way she treats golden hour and sunset light, with glowing sunlight flashing through the trees. 

Kelley’s work was an inspiration to me picking up gouache, and I consulted her site when choosing my gouache palette. Here’s what I learned.

Kelley’s favorite brands are Winsor & Newton and M. Graham. Here are her six most used gouache colors, from her Art Supply List:

  • MG Titanium White (PW6)
  • WN Cadmium-Free Yellow
  • WN Permanent Alizarin Crimson (PR176)
  • WN Ultramarine Blue (PB29)
  • WN Prussian Blue (PB27) – “My second-most frequently used color after white and pretty much the only color I sometimes use straight without mixing.”
  • WN Burnt Umber (PBr7, PY42)

Other colors listed on her more in-depth Art Supply Guide:

  • WN Cadmium-Free Lemon
  • WN Pale Rose Blush (PY42, PR4, PW6) – Kelley’s shortcut to peachy pinks for sunsets. I think of this as a specifically Kelley Vivian-ish color. 
  • WN Cadmium-Free Red
  • WN Sky Blue (PB15, PB29) – convenience sky/distant mountain mix
  • WN Cerulean Blue (PB35)
  • MG Phthalo Green (PG7)
  • WN Naples Yellow Deep (PBr24)
  • WN Yellow Ochre (PY42)
  • WN Burnt Sienna (PY42, PR101)
  • WN Indigo (PB15, PB29, PBk6)
  • MG Payne’s Gray (PB29, PBk6)

In total, 17 colors are listed here, but for those starting out, she recommends starting with a smaller set. (Ha. Ha.) I have a number of these colors, in part because I consulted Kelley Vivian’s list when putting together my set. Here’s my attempt to arrange a Kelley Vivian-like palette from my colors. Checkmarks indicate that I used the same hue/pigment (if not the same brand).

Kelley Vivian inspired gouache palette

I made a few lateral moves (PY3 Lemon instead of Cad-Free Lemon, Holbein Primary Yellow (PY3, PY74) instead of Cad-Free Yellow, PR255 Vermilion Hue instead of Cad-Free Red, Permanent Rose (PV19) instead of Permanent Alizarin Crimson (PR176)). I subbed Holbein Turquoise Green (PG7, PW6) for Cobalt Teal, although it’s not quite right. And I mixed up my own dupes for Pale Rose Blush (with Yellow Ochre, Permanent Rose, and Titanium White); Sky Blue (with Phthalo Blue and Ultramarine); and Indigo (with Ultramarine and Payne’s Gray).

I noticed in painting this out that Kelley Vivian uses mostly primary colors (yellows, reds, or blues) plus earth tones, but she paints a huge range of of pinks, purples, oranges, and greens. It’s a great testament to how flexible a primary-based palette can be.