Frank Eber | Changes to My Color Palette: Adding Wisteria and Burnt Sienna Light

Recently I added two new DANIEL SMITH colors to my palette, Burnt Sienna Light and Wisteria. I would like to show you why these two colors are important additions for me in a few step by step photos I took while painting a landscape, “Tablas Creek Sunset”.

DANIEL SMITH Burnt Sienna Light is the Burnt Sienna that many of us are used to as painters: a reddish brown (a bit warmer and redder than DS Burnt Sienna) that also mixes well with other pigments. The classic dark color combination would be Ultramarine Blue and Burnt Sienna, a great mix for darks, used by many painters. I am no different as it works well and has many different uses.

I also use Burnt Sienna Light like a red. Earth tones are just reds, yellows and neutrals to me. So, we can think of it as a mix of blue and red that gets real dark when we use lots of pigment. That is the primary use. I also used it in the trees both distant and the close ones on the right in this painting.

Trees during sunset are really no longer green but often turn more yellow and red. So, Burnt Sienna Light is excellent for landscape painting where we deal with earth tones of all kinds, it just mixes well with other colors.

Wisteria, Cobalt Blue and Chinese White watercolor, Frank Eber

DANIEL SMITH Wisteria and Cobalt Blue on Frank Eber’s palette

Wisteria is an interesting color. It is pretty much a violet with lots of white in it. When mixed with Cobalt Blue and adding even more white, i.e. Chinese White, it works well for those distant shadows in a scene like this. For me, it is very important to use lots of water, so the mix stays somewhat transparent despite the white paint. It takes practice to get it just right for my landscapes.

1 Burnt Sienna Light watercolor mix, Frank Eber, 800w

1 Burnt Sienna Light mix.

After putting an initial light wash over the entire paper, really only finishing the sky, I start painting the back hills with the last light on them. You can see that the shadow side is purplish blue, so that’s where the Wisteria comes in. I mix it with Cobalt Blue and also a tiny bit of German Greenish Raw Umber. Rather than making a real mix, I drop the colors in on the paper while the mix is wet. Otherwise I might get too neutral, which equals mud.

Wisteria Watercolor mix and Burnt Sienna Light Watercolor mix, Frank Eber

2. Wisteria Watercolor mix and Burnt Sienna Light Watercolor mix, Frank Eber

The problem painting these hills is, I have to paint the light side and shadow side at the same time, going back and forth to get a somewhat soft transition. It’s a little unnerving but when it works, it’s just magic. I enjoy this sort of high risk painting….

3 Underpainting finished, Frank Eber, 800w

3. “The Wisteria in the mix on the valley floor!”

You can practically see the Wisteria in the mix on the valley floor! Picture #3

Finished watercolor background, Frank Eber

4. Finished watercolor background, Frank Eber

5. Trees going in, Frank Eber

5. Trees going in, Frank Eber

6. Detail with cows, Frank Eber

6. Detail with cows, Frank Eber

For me, all color mixes are based on primary colors, based on the fact that there are only three colors in nature. Even if we use secondary’s and mix it with something else, it always comes back to primaries. In painting, it is not so important what exact color you use, but ‘how’ you use it!
—Frank Eber

Tablas Creek Sunset by Frank Eber, watercolor, 14by20

Tablas Creek Sunset by Frank Eber, watercolor, 14by20

Frank Eber is an award winning artist who lives in California, USA. He grew up in Europe and was mentored by Italian master painter Renato Casaro. He is a signature member of the American Watercolor Society, the National Watercolor Society, the Transparent Watercolor Society and Watercolor West. He is also a juried artist member of the California Art Club.
Known for paintings that capture the mood and character of a location, he often adds atmospheric effects. He works en plein air as well as in his studio but prefers a direct interaction with the subject matter. His background is in Illustration and commercial art.
For more painting tips, please visit his blog:


DANIEL SMITH Watercolors in Frank’s article:

Burnt Sienna Light
Ultramarine Blue
Burnt Sienna
Cobalt Blue
Chinese White
German Greenish Raw Umber

“DANIEL SMITH paints are highly pigmented and versatile. Preferring to work with a limited palette, I am able to find pigments that suit my needs perfectly. My washes can be smooth and soothing or granulating and exciting, whichever I prefer for certain subjects in my work! I am fond of the fact that DANIEL SMITH has created environmentally friendly Cadmium Hues.”
—Frank Eber