A Story in Paint


Or perhaps this could be titled, Jen’s Wonky Palette!

Well, one of you asked a simple question: What specific watercolors do you use to paint with? I thought this would be a simple thing to answer. But it actually got me to reminiscing as I painted this wonky drawing of my palette. This is both what I use at home AND what I take with me out and about, to the Ciener Botanical Gardens and any other places I paint downtown Kernersville.  The palette itself simply says “Water Color Palette” on the lid. I know where I got it, as I get all my art supplies from this place. But before I tell you that, there’s a story behind it all.

I grew up in Boone, NC where a man named Joe Miller began to paint and draw and sell his paintings out of the attic of his downtown pharmacy, the infamous Boone Drug.  Our families went to the same church, and I grew up with his kids, though I didn’t know them terribly well, one older and one younger than myself.  When Randy and I got married, we were given a monetary gift with which we purchased one of Joe’s original watercolor paintings. It is gorgeous! At the time, Joe was selling his artwork and a few watercolor supplies out of the “attic” of his pharmacy.

Fast forward about 10 years. We lived in Winston-Salem with our two young children when I began to teach myself to paint and draw. (No, I do not have an art degree. I majored in French with education at Appalachian State University there in my hometown). My mom gave me for a birthday present, a 3-day watercolor workshop with, guess who! Joe Miller! This was my first proper teaching of using the medium, even though I had been playing around on my own for a few months. (And you can learn so very much from simply playing with the medium, looking at art how-to books and trying it out on your own!) Mom took the class with  me. We loved it!!

From his class, I was introduced to the colors he used, and by this time, Joe had created his own art supply business called Cheap Joe’s Art Stuff.  We could purchase so easily everything he used, right there in my hometown.  As the year’s went by and I continued to paint and draw and absorb anything and everything I could from books, I also took a couple of different classes Joe offered in the summer. It was perfect for me to be able to stay at mom & dad’s while attending these workshops:  on two different occasions, Skip Lawrence. And one from Bob Lysiak.  Both were incredible experiences and I would highly recommend you attend a workshop sometime there at Joe’s…he has the very best class set-up and a marvelous setting in the mountains! Through all of these workshops I was exposed to different paints, but all paints that Joe offered in his shop.

And as I’ve painted over the years, I’ve shuffled around what I like and don’t like. I’ve added to the palette and taken some away. I’ve tried colors and kinds of paint that none of the above teachers recommended…some of them I like and have kept, some of them I haven’t gotten attached to.  I can remember thinking, when introduced to each of the amazing artists and their palettes: I will surely be a better painter for just using the same colors they do! Well, maybe some of it is true. But for the most part, just because I had their color on the tip of my brush (or the brush THEY used!! Ha!) it didn’t automatically make me a brilliant painter!! In fact, I’m still learning and working toward that “brilliant painter” status, whatever that is! ;0

So. Here’s my list of colors currently on my palette. I hope this is helpful for you. Please know that I am not in any way paid by Joe to write this post. (He has no clue!) But the fine folks at Cheap Joe’s Art Stuff will help you with anything…they are a great outfit. And if you ever get a chance to GO to Boone, please do so…it’s worth the trip.  He now has a shop in Charlotte I believe…but the Boone one is prolly so much more fun!:)

**Unless I indicate otherwise, all paints are Joe’s own American Journey Artist Watercolors. The few that aren’t, are DaVinci (DVP) Opaque Watercolor (Gouache). The opaque watercolors have made their way onto my palette for their vibrancy. They seem to oozle and wazzle just like the others do! 🙂 From left to right around the palette above!

Ultramarine Blue–the best dark blue! Pthalo blue is just too dark for me.

Cobalt Blue–so lovely and royal!

DVP Cerulean–my go-to sky color!

Andrew’s Turqoise–delicious color!

Skip’s Green–my all-time favoritest color!!!!!!!!!!!

Sap Green–a lovely nature green!

Burnt Sienna–yummy brown. A good brown is hard to find (in my humble opinion).

Lamp Black–some don’t like black (it can make holes in your paper like the pthalo’s do) but used sparingly and watery, it is lovely and I can’t go without it.

Joe’s Green–I don’t use it a ton, being such a saturated pthalo, but i do like it in some cases. I like it enough to keep it on my palette.

Quinacridone Violet–another gorgeous color I couldn’t live without (the perfect pairing to Skip’s Green)

DVP Red Rose–oh the vibrancy of this pink! Delish!

DVP Cad Red Deep–love me some reds…all these reds are used all the time.

Cad Scarlet–rich orangey red!

Halloween Orange–bright cheery orange! When you need it burnt, add in burnt sienna.:)

Yellow Ochre–not my favorite color right out of the tube (sorta baby poop looking), but it is SO useful for SO many passages and combos.

Gamboge (Hue)–lovely rich gold…perfect this time of year (Autumn here:)

Cad Yellow Light–thick, deep pure yellow!

Sour Lemon (Hansa)–a light canary yellow, lovely transparency!

***it is quite possible that names of some of these have changed over the years. These tubes last you a good long while!

So there you have it! I wish I could tell you if you buy all these colors, you’ll be a brilliant painter! But since I’m still waiting for that myself, we’ll just keep learning together!

Oh, and BTW…my brush: I use a size 12 Loew-Cornell 7020 Ultra Round and a size 10 in my travel paint bag. Laura Frankstone got me onto these several years ago and I loooovee them. They aren’t too expensive and they do a marvelous job holding pigment and water! I like big brushes!  No teensy fiddly brushes for me! Joe taught me that so many years ago! Enjoy!


*****And you also might like to know: I do not have a proper purple because I mix  Red Rose with Cobalt to make my purples. And for coral colors and certain flesh tones, I mix the Red Rose with either Cad Yellow Light or Sour Lemon. I may also add a touch of Halloween Orange or Burnt Sienna.   Just in case you were wondering about the left and right side of the mixing area up there!

0 thoughts on “A Story in Paint

  1. Rosemary says:

    Love this post Jennifer! I have my students — novice to beginner sketch their palettes too! (I teach Watercolor Journaling Workshops) – It’s good way to get them to try out their drawing skills, to learn about the colors in their palette and have a reference for later. They are always so fun to see. Yours is wonderful! Thanks for sharing.

  2. Timaree says:

    I have been wanting a better turquoise than the one I have so I may give this a try. What a great story! I had no idea “Joe” was a real person! And how lucky and fun for you to know him before and after.

  3. Katie Metheny says:

    I used to live in Asheville, NC and the trips to Boone to see in-laws who lived near Boone (in Wautauga Co.) always included a trip to Cheap Joe’s, a great art supply store. Thanks for the walk down memory lane!

    • jenpedwards says:

      Oh, what a lovely comment! Thank ou for that Cathy! I hope you are enjoying your watercolors and colored pencils these days!

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