Neutral colors don’t get enough respect, often tagged for being dull and boring. But I find transcendent beauty in these colors—the ones you can’t really name—the pearly grays and muted browns that resonate with rich undertones.

Neutral colors are the very backbone of urban scenes, and definitely enjoy pride of place in my sketches, which include lots of stone buildings and are often painted on cloudy days. My preferred technique for obtaining luminous grays is to mix them rather than use pigments straight from the tube. This marriage of hues allows me to vary the color temperature of my grays—more blue in the mix if I want a cool neutral, more yellow for a warm one. The variety of grays I’m able to create is almost limitless. ...

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