Magnolias in the rain and a new car palette

The magnolias are in full bloom, but falling fast with the rain. I had to paint from my car today but wanted to capture them before they’re gone.

I experimented with something new in my car studio today. A few weeks ago I received a Portable Painter palette to try out. I filled it with Daniel Smith colours in preparation for my workshop at the Chicago Sketch Seminar (more about that below) but hadn’t had a chance to try it out in the field until today.

Wow, it’s basically the perfect system for the type of car sketching I do. The palette holds 12 half pans and on the sides there are two water reservoirs. There’s a spot for a travel brush, and my other brush is resting across the water reservoir. Very compact and neat compared to my usually messy setup.

If I had purchased this years ago, it sure would have saved a lot of mess in my car. My palette is usually on the passenger seat which results in lots of dribbled paint on the gear shift as I dip into the colour. With this setup the only mess will probably be on my jeans, but that’s a lot easier to resolve than cleaning the whole car.

The new palette is filled with 12 Daniel Smith watercolours. They’re sponsoring some of the workshops in Chicago, including mine, which is titled Bare Bones: Working with limited palettes in watercolour. Since the workshop is about creating unity and harmony in your sketches by using fewer colours, I’ve been creating different triads of colour in a small sketchbook. If you look on the Daniel Smith website you’ll find a great post about colour mixing charts. Mine (below) is adapted from their six-colour template. You can see how two colour combinations work together, and also how they all mix to form different greys and neutrals (across the bottom of the page).

21 Comments on “Magnolias in the rain and a new car palette”

  1. redharparts says:

    Could you list the colors in your palette. I tried downloading and enlarging the photo but still couldn’t quite read the paint tubes. Thanks.

    I have a Portable Palette and think it’s a good design.


  2. Instructive, as always. The magnolia sketch is joy-filled! Hopefully the blooms will last a bit.


  3. Denise says:

    Love the soft pastel-y colors in this:) Always a sight for sore eyes after long, cold, wet winters (and spring)! The car set up looks great, too. I may have to change mine up. As always, thanks for sharing!


  4. drawandshoot says:

    The magnolias are so beautiful this year! Love your new palette, Shari – very cool.


  5. Maria de Jony says:

    Hi Shari, Thank you for capturing the beauty of the “fleeting” FGB Magnolia blossoms and relating your new palette experience to your followers. I benefit from your experience and love your work.
    Noticing that your photo displays you sitting in the “drivers” seat while sketching. This I have also done. However, as a right-handed, newbie to “auto sketching”, I find it a very confining space in which to sketch. I have not tried sitting in the passenger seat, but wonder if you would find it a more comfortable place to sit while sketching? Thank you for sharing.


    • HI Maria,
      Thanks so much for writing. For years I have sat in the driver’s seat to sketch because I’m also right handed and so my palette was on my right on the seat. But with this new palette I can actually move to the passenger seat since the palette will be right on my leg. Much less confining and probably a better view too without the rear view mirror. Happy car sketching to you too.


  6. toddpop1 says:

    Looking forward to seeing more artworks created with this new setup!


  7. joantav says:

    Love the soft pinks in the magnolias and how it seems so filled with light! I have a Portable Painter but rarely use it. I never thought about how good it would work when painting in the car and trying to balance over the gear shift and the seats that aren’t flat.


  8. James Hancock says:

    Hello Shari,
    Just wondered what pen or pencil you used to create the original line drawing for the painting?


  9. tylaraduncan says:

    Super inspirational seeing how you add those magnificent greens after the fact. Now to get the courage to try it!


  10. MaryBeth Hinrichs says:

    Very cool and very informative. I must be a bit slow: what is the difference between the neutral swatches in the bottom row?


    • MaryBeth, sorry for taking so long to get back to you. The neutral swatches on the bottom row are just different version of the three pigments mixed together. Sometimes with more water and sometimes with less. I hope that helps to clarify.


  11. Julia says:

    Lovely style! I’ve recently started using colour palettes when planning even simple paintings and it’s totally changed my process, so I’m always interested to see other people’s!


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