Artist's Drive rises up to the top of an alluvial fan fed by a deep canyon cut into the Black Mountains. Artist's Palette is on the face of the Black Mountains and is noted for having various colors of rock. These colors are caused by the oxidation of different metals (red, pink and yellow is from iron salts, green is from decomposing tuff-derived mica, and manganese produces the purple).
Called the Artist Drive Formation, the rock unit provides evidence for one of the Death Valley area's most violently explosive volcanic periods. The Miocene-aged formation is made up of cemented gravel, playa deposits, and much volcanic debris, perhaps 5,000 feet (1500 m) thick. Chemical weathering and hydrothermal alteration are also responsible for the variety of colors displayed in the Artist Drive Formation and nearby exposures of the Furnace Creek Formation