Pull from James Gurney’s blog:
Howard Pyle’s Palette
Blog reader Walt Morton asks:
“Did Howard Pyle teach or endorse a particular palette of colors? He was so methodical and analytical, I believe he had an ideal palette underlying his methods.
Yet I find no printed evidence.”
Offhand I didn’t know the answer, so I reached out to my lifelines.
Kev Ferrara says:
“It is my understanding that Pyle’s emphasis was always on values, and color was of secondary consideration. [Harvey] Dunn said that Pyle ‘preached tonal values 24-7’ and had a very negative view of his own abilities with color. In fact Dunn reported that Pyle claimed he didn’t really understand color at all. Given the many beautiful pictures in color by Pyle, we may take this anecdote with a grain of salt… something Dunn said which was designed more to drive home to his own students the preeminence of values in picture making.
“Regarding actual palette set up, Harvey Dunn said that Pyle taught his students to ‘Keep shadows and light absolutely separate both on palette and on picture.’ Dunn elaborated elsewhere: ‘Keep light colors and shadow colors separate on palette, shadow colors on left, leaving a division between, and then light colors on the right.'”
Howard Pyle, The Dancer, 1899
Ian Schoenherr, author of the Howard Pyle blog, says:
“I have almost nothing to add to what Kevin said. In my transcribed records, there’s little mention of the specific pigments Pyle used.
“However, in a letter Gertrude Brincklé wrote from Italy on March 12, 1911, she said: ‘Mr. Pyle colored a print of Holbein’s ‘Richard Southwell’ for me – not just tinting, [but] modeling with water colors, white, vermillion, cerulean blue, thick colors.’
“And two observers assumed that Pyle added vermillion to his black and whites (starting in the early/mid 1890s). Likewise, an 1897 news item said, ‘He even uses color sparingly where that will add to the ‘value’ of his scheme. Black and red is his favorite combination, with the introduction now and then of blue and yellow.'”
“Like Kevin said, there are a few photos of Pyle with palette in hand – and I think only one (from early 1899 – above) shows the paint side – but that doesn’t help much.”
Thanks, Kev and Ian.
Book: Howard Pyle: American Master Rediscovered