Thursday, November 20, 2014

Green, Green, the Grass is Green..

Or is it?

Recently I saw a group of pictures in which the painter had used green colors straight from the tube for his vegetation.  The work was actually charming and the artist shows promise, but one of the marks of a beginning painter is tube-greens.  I have  friend who often judges paintings at our state fair and he can spot a green straight out of the tube from a mile away.  Really!  

As children, many of us got beautiful new boxes of crayons with their sharp tips and bright colors now and then.  I don't know about you, but the variations of green were wasted on me.  For trees, grass, bushes and leaves in my pictures, I wanted the truest, brightest green in the box.  I think when we approach painting, at times we  automatically think vegetation = green.  Period.  As we learn to "see" the world through painterly eyes however, we begin to understand the subtle shades of green, passing into grays or blues and even with oranges or reds beneath them.

One of the best ways I know to begin to understand the amazing world of greens is to mix them myself.  When one practices mixing colors, the outcome is an increase in the ability to see the world around us in its amazing technicolor wonder.
Using colors found in most painters boxes, I made 132 different mixtures of green.  Some, like Pthalo Blue are strong and make bright colors, while Cobalt or Cerulean are weak mixers and make more grayed greens.  

Most painters have a variety of blues and yellows on their palettes.  What we often don't know, or forget, is that green shades don't always have to be mixed from just yellow and blue.  By mixing each of our yellows with every other color in the palette in turn, we can find many ways to express green.  Even if it doesn't look like "green" on the paper, when applied to a tree or bush shape, or even dropped into a wash as a grassy area, the viewer will still see it as green.  A variety of greens in one piece can give a texture one green hue alone can't match.

Gunnar Widforss is one of my all time favorite watercolor landscape artists.  He is a fabulous example of a painter who used subtle greens to dramatic effect.  
A mixed green will always add a richness to any genre of painting that one straight out of the tube cannot.

Maynard Dixon's paintings of the West are stunning to me.  His ability to reduce fussy detail to simple shapes so effectively is a skill I am trying to incorporate as I learn and practice landscapes.

If you have been following my blog, you will know that I struggle with landscapes.  As I work to develop a landscape style, I look to painters like Widforss and Dixon for knowledge and inspiration, particularly in the ways they handled vegetation and green passages in their work.   

2 comments: said...

Great post. I'm working on a painting with a lot of greens and other than sap green, I've been trying to mix greens. Thanks.

Alice Jo Webb said...

You're welcome, I'm glad it was useful. Thanks for stopping by!