Society of
Children's Book Writers
and Illustrators

February 2020 Meeting: Mark Mitchell

Author-Illustrator and Instructor Mark Mitchell designed his talk around color palettes at February’s vibrant meeting. 

Mark wrote and illustrated the award-winning RAISING ‘LA BELLE’: THE STORY OF THE LA SALLE SHIPWRECK, Eakin Press, 2002. He is also a contributor to children’s magazines such as Cobblestone, AppleSeeds, and Cricket. Mark teaches classes in children’s book illustration and watercolor at The Contemporary Austin Art School. 

Art History Highlights: 

  • •Isaac Newton created his “Circle of Colors”—today, we call it The Color Wheel.
  • •From Goethe, to Monet, to Kandinsky—the study of complementary colors is key.
  • •A recommended must-read: Joseph Alber’s THE INTERACTION OF COLOR
  • •Jasper Johns’ painting entitled Flag, 1969 is a great example of color theory—Google it; then stare at the white dot and see for yourself! 

Color Theory Highlights:

  • •Mark Mitchell calls it the “pizza slice” palette in his watercolor class at The Contemporary.
  • •Using a limited palette can produce illustrations that are visually satisfying and marketable.
  • •Just as a melody is musically satisfying to the listener, a strategic color palette is visually satisfying to the viewer.
  • •Illustrator Wil Clay (LITTLE EIGHT JOHN, Dutton Juvenile, 1992) inspired Mitchell’s illustration style and limited palette, which helped Mark succeed in publishing.

To Create a Limited Palette:

  • •Choose one dominant color from The Color Wheel
  • •Then choose it’s complimentary color—located directly opposite—across the color wheel
  • •Add accent colors: use the two analogous colors located on either side of the selected complimentary color
  • •This “pizza slice” recipe makes the painting “sing”
  • •Using this method, there are 10 possibilities of dominant colors
  • •Artist Marc Chagall put it this way: “All colors are the friends of their neighbors and the lovers of their opposites.”

Find more resources on Mark’s website: