My palette

I prefer a classical palette composed of earth colors. David Rourke in his weblog All The Strange Hours wrote an informative post on the classical palette, if you’re a little more curious. My wood palette itself is one designed by artist William Whitaker and manufactured by Real Gesso (who also make great traditional gesso panels).


In the color listing below, I don’t use all of the following colors at the same time. Those with an asterisk (*) are my mainstay colors. Yes, there are some “duplicates” but I get different results from using Williamsburg’s Italian Raw Sienna (grainier and shimmery) versus Michael Harding’s Raw Sienna (smoother consistency); and between Williamsburg’s Italian Raw Umber (greener) and Michael Harding’s Raw Umber (browner). These are subtle differences indeed but important enough to use both versions of these colors.

As evident in the photo above, I don’t premix any colors but mix directly on the canvas/panel. I also don’t use solvent but use M. Graham Walnut Alkyd – not to thin paints (which I never do)  but to serve as a “couch” and “drier” or to seal the very absorbent traditional gesso ground or Ampersand Claybord. I like solvent free putty mediums. My painting method is fairly intuitive and changes daily it seems like. It’s an ongoing learning process, so I’ve stopped posting demos as what I write on any given day can change the next. So in general, here’s my palette:

La Dolce Vita – oil painting demonstration

I work in a manner I’ve developed over the years which may be best described as somewhat similar to a Venetian manner of painting. That is I glaze a LOT. I also use impasto and scumble. I am a solvent free painter and use just walnut oil and M. Graham walnut alkyd medium. I often mix it with Williamsburg impasto medium. I use mostly earth colors but I always sign my name in cadmium red.

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Learning humility through the art of painting – studio process

The more I paint, the more humbled I become. There are times when I paint and all the elements fit in perfectly and it seems as if I’ve finally gained mastery. I go through the day feeling victorious, thinking, “haha…am genius after all….” Only to come crashing down like Icarus on the very next painting. To tell the truth, more paintings than I care to admit have been borne out of violence in the studio. So much frustration and seemingly endless adjustments ensue to create a vision of beauty and calmness. So today I decided to show the process for “O Brave New World.” Artists are always loathe to reveal all the work that goes on in the studio. There is a fear of ruining the magic. But I get asked by other artists about my process, so I am going to share this bit of studio madness. I took a detour in the background landscape for this painting, going from immense panorama illustrating a vast ‘new world’ to an intimate island sheltered under the umbrella of an enormous tree. There is a struggle, but the reward is a painting that is closer to what I want to say.

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O Brave New World – the artist’s statement

“O Wonder!
How many goodly creatures are there here!
How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world,
That has such people in’t.”

-William Shakespeare, “The Tempest”

O Brave New World
O Brave New World

The above quote from Shakespeare is perhaps a fitting artist’s statement. To be an artist is to see everything with fresh eyes. One always hopes to preserve the wonderment of childhood. The adult questions too much and hesitates at her work. Each painting for me is a personal journey. So the painting “O Brave New World” was conceived from this idea of embarkation and arrival. It is a painting as much inspired by the museum (my eternal muse) as by childhood nostalgia. But I believe I’ve gone beyond nostalgia and painted my artist’s statement. Perhaps in this painting I’ve finally dared to declare my arrival. “Here I am, the artist, and welcome to my world.”

Fatima graduating from kindergarten in 1982

As a classical idealist rather than a classical realist, I create my own version of Arcadia. I draw much inspiration from the pastoral tradition in the works of Shakespeare, Watteau and Giorgione, to name but a few. Pastoral allows me to set metaphors for personal journeys where my own memories merge with mythmaking. I am not an intellectual painter. I paint instinctively, preferring to let the story and characters unfold. In this way, I preserve the romance and magic of ideas coming alive through paint. There is beauty and wonderment everywhere.
– Fatima Ronquillo

“In the Moonlight”

In the Moonlight
In the Moonlight

My inspiration for this is a small copper painting by Adam Elsheimer, “The Flight into Egypt.” Painted in 1609, it was the first painting of its kind which showed the biblical scene in a nocturnal forest, as described by Matthew (2:13). His contemporaries marveled at his rendering of the Milky Way, which has never been depicted before. I was struck by the lush quietness permeating this nocturnal scene. The moon in the picture reminded me of the many full moons which have taken my breath away. Few scenes elicit a mysterious mood as beautifully as a nocturne.

"The Flight into Egypt" by Adam Elsheimer
"The Flight into Egypt" by Adam Elsheimer (1578-1610), 1609. Oil on copper, 12 1/4 x 16 1/8 in. Alte Pinakothek, Munich

Here is a preliminary sketch. When I have an idea for a painting, I quickly scribble in the composition. Sometimes I go straight to the panel in oils with only a cursory plan, as I did with “In the Moonlight.”

"In the Moonlight" compositional sketch
"In the Moonlight" compositional sketch