Holbein have curated four palettes of their Irodori Gouache based around the seasonal nature of Japan, and this is the second one I have tried. This time round, I will be thoroughly testing the colour mixing capabilities of the Holbein Artists Gouache Irodori Autumn palette, as I have already looked at the formulation in more detail here, and was very impressed.
Having tried out the Holbein Irodori Summer Gouache Palette, I had high hopes for this curation. The palettes are based on the seasonal colours of Japan, and the Summer Palette made for a lovely mix of primary colours that most painters would use. However, at first glance, the autumn palette felt less varied. There are some beautiful shades in there – the Amur Cork Yellow stood out to me straight away – but as a first impression, it felt a bit traditional. The colours, barring the cork yellow and the indigo, all appeared to lean warm, and as a whole it looked to be a fairly conventional take on the autumn season’s colour palette.
There weren’t any unusual pops of colour, like the bamboo green in the summer palette, and there looked to be colours that were very similar to each other. Who would need two non-primary yellows, and three slightly different but overall warmish greens? In this review, I investigated how I was wrong to make these assumptions, and you can in fact create a beautiful, soft palette that’s appropriate for shortening days and soft light.
Having mixed, swatched and played extensively with this palette, I am happy to report that my first impressions were not to be entirely trusted. I still maintain there are some colours I would personally like to swap out for an alternative, but each painter has their own preferences, and this palette is certainly more varied than I first gave it credit for.
The Individual Colours of the Holbein Artists Gouache Irodori Autumn Palette
Breaking down the colours initially, I was unsure. Safflower Red is a slightly cool leaning red to my eyes – bright enough, but deeper and not as warm as a vermillion that I would have originally thought appropriate. Orange as a name is slightly misleading, as this colour is by no means a traditional orange, and in my eyes closer to a slightly muted Burnt Sienna. Gardenia Yellow is a bright yellow, with a slightly cool ochre lean to it on closer inspection, and Amur Cork Yellow is a fractionally cooler yellow with a green lean. When both these yellows are diluted with water, there is minimal difference to the naked eye. Amber is as I would have hoped – a beautiful rich warm ochre tone. Bark Brown is perhaps warmer than I personally would have expected from the name, but still a colour I actually used a lot, and Smoked Bamboo is a cool brown, with a soft granulation when washed out.
I was very skeptical about the three warm leaning greens. Leek Green is what I would consider a ‘grass green’ – a colour that often appears in a mixed palette, but I rarely use without mixing another colour into it. Pine Tree Green, although lovely, for my tastes would be darker and Elm Green is a soft olive green. Therefore, there was a lot of pressure on Indigo, as the only blue in the palette. Indigo, as one of my most used and favourite colours, was a good choice for me. It provides a much needed cooling effect amongst the other colours. This indigo is a brighter colour than I might have expected when diluted with water and compared to some of its counterparts (Winsor & Newton Indigo gouache is a little more muted), but within the context of this palette, I was pleased to see it.
There are colours I would like to swap out for an alternative. The two yellows, in my opinion, aren’t justifiable unless used in their pure form, without mixing. I mixed both of them in turn with Indigo to see if I could create a different green to the ones already pre-mixed in the palette, and the difference in results were minimal. I ended up creating greens that were similar to Leek Green, and when mixing Amber with Indigo I created a colour that was close to Elm Green.
The final addition in the Holbein Autumn Palette is Antique Rich Gold. Personally, I don’t often use iridescent or metallic colours in my work, but for those that do, this is exactly as it is described, and could make an interesting addition when used in conjunction with the other colours. I did enjoy the incredibly subtle shimmer coming through when I mixed a tiny amount of diluted gold with white Gouache.
Adding White to the Autumn Palette
One thing that is missing for me from this palette is white. I understand why Holbein has left it out. The Seasonal Palettes of Japan feature each colour from the Irodori Gouache range once, meaning white is lacking from all but the summer palette, which for me is something I like to have. That said, most gouache users will have their own white, so I took the liberty of using my own when I began to experiment with this palette.
Using Limited Colour Palettes
I made two more limited colour palettes, using just five colours from the Autumn palette.
The first palette, I leant towards the more cool colours. I used Indigo, Amur Cork Yellow, Elm Green, Pine tree green and Smoked Bamboo, with additional white to create a swatch page. The Amur Cork Yellow, pure, diluted and mixed with white created a real pop of bright green yellow amongst soft, earthy blue greys, dark umbers and olives. For the second palette I used Bark Brown, Leek Green, Gardenia Yellow, Safflower Red and Orange, with additional white. The Leek Green, when mixed with white, gave an otherwise overall soft peach and burnt sienna colour way, that pop of something different I was looking for.
This is when the Autumn Palette began to shine, and does its namesake justice. For me, Autumn is my favourite season to paint because of the subtlety of the colours the natural world has to offer. The cooler air, soft mists and gentle decay of nature creates a muted feel, with a slight golden light that begins to close off the year. After mixing the colours together I began to understand how this could be relatively easily achieved with the Autumn Palette.
It was easy to make the soft golden browns, ochres and umbers that felt more Autumnal to me. Mixing Safflower Red with Indigo and a tiny bit of bark brown made a gorgeous dark aubergine colour, which when mixed with white, created that soft cool lilac brown I see so often in the landscape.
I don’t usually use just gouache in my work, choosing to use paint alongside other media to create the overall effect I’m looking for. However, creating a small, Autumnal themed illustration using just these paints, was not as challenging as I first thought it might be. I was able to get light washes effectively. The high quality of the Holbein Irodori Gouache paints meant they were very easy to use, creating fine washes as easily as layering impasto textures on top of each other. (If you do do this, I would recommend allowing plenty of drying time before adding the next layer).
The Holbein Artists Gouache Irodori Autumn Palette can be supplemented by other colours to curate an even wider palette. I would love to add an alternative blue in place of Elm Green to help create the cooler atmosphere I love to make, and a white. I’d also like to add a true orange, or a brighter, warm yellow alongside Gardenia Yellow. But you can create a large variety of colour with this palette as it stands, and the warmth lends itself to those sunlit early evening walks over crunching leaves we so often associate with autumn.