Fall in Vancouver Palette

I’ve just spent a week in Vancouver in early November, what my aunt described as “the worst time to visit Vancouver” due to the rain and fog, but I had fun! I like rain and fog. Plus, it was much cheaper than visiting in the summer.

I didn’t know what colors I’d need, so I packed a pan each from nearly my entire collection –  41 colors – in two Art Toolkit palettes (1 Folio + 1 Pocket). I initially had my main colors in the folio and overflow in the pocket, but ended up swapping them around to build a Vancouver Palette in the Pocket Palette since I found it more convenient to paint outside from a smaller palette. 

Inspiration

Though I didn’t begin palette-building until I arrived on the scene, I took notice of the palettes of my favorite PNW artists ahead of time, notably Molly Hashimoto (Seattle, WA), Claire Giordano (Seattle, WA), Nikki Frumkin (Seattle, WA), and Maria Coryell-Martin (Port Townsend, WA). 

Of particular interest was Molly Hashimoto’s “Palettes of Place: Pacific Northwest”, a former themed Art Toolkit containing the following Daniel Smith colors:

  1. Hansa Yellow Medium
  2. Permanent Alizarin Crimson
  3. Dioxazine Violet
  4. Phthalo Blue Red Shade
  5. Fuchsite Genuine
  6. Perylene Green
  7. Quinacridone Burnt Orange
  8. Yellow Ochre
Molly Hashimoto’s Pacific Northwest Palette (via Art Toolkit)

M. Graham, a paint company based near Portland, Oregon, also released as Pacific Northwest palette containing: 

  1. Dioxazine Violet
  2. Yellow Ochre
  3. Neutral Tint
  4. Anthraquinone Blue (what I would call Indanthrone Blue, PB60)
  5. Sap Green
M. Graham’s Pacific Northwest palette

Clearly, it seems important to have Yellow Ochre (or at least some kind of earth yellow), Quin Burnt Orange, and Dioxazine Violet on hand. These are also colors used by Maria Coryell-Martin and Claire Giordano. Nikki Frumkin is the outlier with a rainbow of very bright colors. Her paintings are more influenced by sunrise and imagination than realistic landscape colors like rock gray and pine green. It’s worth keeping in mind that wherever I go, I can take my preferences with me! 

The Palette

After swapping around and trying various things, here’s where I ended up after a week. 

Fall in Vancouver Palette

In many ways, this is my autumn palette with a few muted PNW colors snuck in.

Top Row: Bright Colors

Holbein – Imidazolone Yellow (PY154)

t was nice to have a basic yellow for mixing up greens (with blue). Like the PNW artists with Hansa Yellow Medium, I found that this yellow mixed nice, bright greens. It’s also useful for pops of yellow that contrast with the otherwise gray atmosphere, like autumn trees. 

Yellow leaves in Stanley Park. Photo taken November 3, 2023.

I initially tried having Nickel Azo Yellow as my only yellow, as it did double-duty for basic yellows and mixing, but I found it lacked that “pop” factor of a middle/primary yellow. Combined with the other dark colors on the palette, it tended to look dreary. NAY is clutch for keeping the chroma from getting out of control in high-intensity mixes (e.g. Phthalo Blue or Green), but since many of my blues/grays were already super-muted, it was overkill. 

However, I did miss NAY or Quin Gold for certain sun-drenched sunrise scenes. (Sunrise in Vancouver in November is at, like, 9am.)

Morning golden hour hits pines over Lost Lagoon, Stanley Park. Photo taken November 3, 2023.

Da Vinci – Hansa Yellow Deep (PY65)

The autumn leaves in Vancouver were just as fabulous as those I left in Boston, if not more so because the season is later there, so a bold yellow-orange was a must for the season.

Mount Pleasant, Vancouver. November 4, 2023. Brilliant autumn yellows from Hansa Yellow Deep plus Quin Red (PR209).

Holbein – Pyrrol Red (PR254)

A late edition, but one I found surprisingly versatile. Not only is this bright red great for autumn leaves and the occasional pop color (e.g. Canada flags flying from boats), it also mixed surprisingly great deep muted mountain mauves with the blues. I spent a bunch of time trying to decide between various earth reds for muting blues, and Pyrrol Red was there all along!

Hornby St Pier, Vancouver. Painted on location. November 2, 2023. Pyrrol Red useful for pop color flag.

Da Vinci – Quinacridone Red (PR209)

Although my pet color didn’t get as much use as it normally does (not that much bold pinky coral in this landscape), I was glad to have it on hand for the occasional super-bold orange autumn tree. As with Imidazolone Yellow, I found I really enjoyed dropping a pop color into an otherwise muted landscape. 

Surprisingly orange trees outside Stanley Park. Photo taken November 3, 2023.

Daniel Smith – Quinacridone Rose (PV19)

I went back and forth between choosing DS Quin Red (PV19), DS Quin Rose (PV19), and Holbein Quin Magenta (PR122), in various combinations. Quin Rose is a nice balance between the pink and the magenta. Useful for mixing up bold and bright autumn-tree reds (with PY65), or for pinkish sunset skies, or for the bright pink scale-like feathers of Anna’s hummingbirds. 

Anna’s Hummingbird, painted in a Vancouver hotel room. November 4, 2023. Quin Red and Quin Magenta are useful for pink scales.

Holbein – Phthalo Blue Red Shade (PB15:1)

Useful for blue skies (when there were any!) and a great mixer for middle greens. With earthy reds, it’s easy to mute down to a muted mauve/violet blue for mountains.

Even in November in Vancouver, the sky is sometimes surprisingly blue. Photo taken at Beaver Lake, Stanley Park, November 7, 2023.

Holbein – Manganese Blue Nova (PB15)

A great pop blue for occasional, shocking blue skies, bright greens, and cyan tones in Steller’s jays.

Steller’s Jay, painted in a Vancouver hotel room. November 7, 2023. In this case I used Phthalo Blue RS and Phthalo Blue GS, as well as Payne’s Gray and Perylene Maroon for muting.

Bottom Row: Muted Colors

Daniel Smith – Monte Amiata Natural Sienna (PBr7)

I played around with a few different earth yellows, but I kept coming back to MANS. I definitely wanted a very yellow hue for a hint of sunshine behind a cloudy sky, and only MANS and Naples Yellow Deep gave me the yellowness I wanted. I felt that MANS mixed more nicely in other situations. 

On location at Beaver Lake, Stanley Park, Vancouver. November 7, 2023. Warm yellows are a must for dry grass.

Daniel Smith – Quinacridone Burnt Orange (PO48)

I usually go with Transparent Red Oxide (PR101) for my earth orange, but I tried QBO to see what Molly Hashimoto saw in it, and it just felt more right in this environment than it had back east. For one thing, it mixed warmer, brighter browns, especially with violet; too warm for my usual environment.

Central Park, Burnaby, British Columbia. November 5, 2023. Carbazole Violet + Quin Burnt Orange make a warm tree trunk brown.

I liked how QBO mixed ‘quin gold’ hues with yellow, and the chestnut browns I mixed with Indian Red were perfect for many types of birds, such as chestnut-backed chickadees and northern shovelers.

Chestnut-backed chickadee, painted in a Vancouver hotel room. November 7, 2023. Chestnut color from QBO + Indian Red.

Da Vinci – Indian Red (PR101)

A less-used color, but one that mixes interestingly with blues to make granulating cloud grays and deepen reds. 

Vanier Park, Kitsilano, Vancouver. November 6, 2023. Indian Red made warm gray cloud mixes.

DS – Carbazole Violet (PV23)

The second crucial component in my redwood browns, warmer than my usual Indanthrone Blue, and more adept at bringing out violet undertones in bark.

Since I didn’t have Ultramarine Blue on this palette, it was also useful to have violet for blue sky zeniths, and I found myself mixing it into mountain and cloud grays as well. 

DS – Indanthrone Blue (PB60)

The queen of moody blues, this color added blue richness to hazy, rainy streets and also worked well in dilute for distant, foggy mountains. You can also use this for yet more evergreen colors (either on its own, for blue-looking distant spruce, or mixed with a bit of yellow.) 

Granville Island gulls. November 2, 2023. Indanthrone Blue used for distant mountains/land.

Winsor & Newton – Perylene Green (PBk31)

Convenience color for evergreens. I usually find this too dull in the East, especially on sunny days, but for Stanley Park’s gorgeous mix of hemlock and cedar and Sitka spruce on a drizzly day, it was perfect.

Sea to trees, Stanley Park, Vancouver. November 3, 2023. Perylene Green ideal for evergreens.

Holbein – Payne’s Gray

It was handy to have a beautiful convenience gray for overcast skies. Holbein’s Payne’s Gray is on the neutral side (more gray than blue), with a smooth texture and a deep color I simply adore. I also used it for buildings; sidewalks and streets; distant, fog-hazy silhouettes; black/gray birds; and for mixing up dark, muted evergreen hues with a yellow.

New Westminster pier. November 5, 2023. Payne’s Gray used in shadows and clouds.

Conclusion

A week isn’t really long enough to test a palette (especially if you keep switching it up like me), so hopefully sometime I can go back and try again! Really, the colors of the PNW aren’t terribly different from the colors I used all the time in New England, but I was delighted by the subtle differences I noticed (e.g. warmer bark, greener greens) and excited to bring them out as vividly as possible.