Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Green is a Problem

It wasn't that long after I picked up my brushes and started painting again that I realized that I was having difficulty being satisfied with the colors in my paintings.  I never seemed to obtain the vivid colors that I had desired and had envisioned.  I specifically noticed my frustration with the color green in particular in my compositions. I just felt they lacked the depth of color and usually as I kept attempting to brighten my foliage I would find that the end result was a tree completely overworked, lacking the definition that I desired. Is the problem the actual shade of green that I had purchased? I would stand in front of the paint display, looking at the different names listed. Hooker Green, Permanent green, Chromium Oxide Green, Sap green, phthalo green, and so on and so on... What was the name of this illusive green paint that I really needed on my palette?

I had the occasion last week to ask several artists about what was the green that they used most and I was shocked when I was told by my very accomplished artist friend, Lily Adamsczyk, that she never buys green, but rather she mixes yellow and paynes gray to achieve the green that she desires. I was shocked to say the least. I thought you mixed blue and yellow to make green or at least that was what I was taught in elementary school art class.

The second artist I asked named sap green as her favorite but then immediately she began clarifying the fact that because sap green is a two pigment paint that phthalo green was probably a better choice. I didn't admit this fact to her, but I was lost  back at the "two pigment part."  I realized, that just like composition rules, there is a whole science to paint colors that go far beyond the blobs of paint I squeeze on my palette when I begin preparation to start a new painting.   There is SO much to this painting stuff that I know so little about.

I must not be the only one that has issues with GREEN because in the book, "Color and Light" by James Gurney, there is a whole section dedicated to this problem called "The Green Problem." In this chapter, Mr. Gurney gives the following tips for helping with my GREEN problems.
1. Mix your greens with a variation of blues and yellows so that the color is weaker and varied.
2. Vary that color in your composition from leaf to leaf and tree to tree.
3. Add a mixture of reddish or pink gray on your palette to weave in and out of the greens. This adds depth and interest to the composition and breaks up the green. I have been following this idea for sometime as I use purple as my shadow color in the foliage. I try to steer away from the use of black and have for sometime been substituting dark purple for all my shadows.
4. Prime your canvas with pinks or reds so they show through. This will help make your greens pop on the canvas.

So upon review, I guess I need to remember that if you want your "Green" to pop, trash what you learned in elementary art class and  pull out the tube of red and while you're at it, don't forget that tube of Yellow and Paynes Gray!

Happy Painting!

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