With summer upon us, many artists are beguiled by the verdant vistas of forest and field, gardens of flowers and limbs hanging low with fruit and leaves.
Painting this lush extravagance of nature’s beauty seems a perfect way to idle away a warm afternoon.
Choosing the correct color palette for a summer landscape or floral still life does not mean grabbing every green hue in your paint box. Compare the tube colors with any green you see in nature and your hand may recoil in sudden disbelief. The green shades you carefully purchased and lovingly hoarded are not any of the hues one sees on leaves, plants or grasses. You may find a use for them au natural in abstract compositions or for still life objects, but there are few instances that you will use them directly from the tube to paint foliage or landscapes.
Making Your Own Green Colors
A basic student art lesson is the color wheel and blending colors to create new hues, shades and tones. With so many shades of yellow and blue available, there are an infinite number of green hues just waiting to be painted. The addition of other colors such as browns and reds adds to the diversity of hues.
However, until you have specific formulas memorized or written down, recreating a particular green shade can be a real challenge. This comes with practice and experimentation. Many books are published that give formulas and tips to creating greens, as well as any other color. A color formula book is a great addition to any artist’s library.
In cooking, a recipe becomes easier to prepare with practice. Soon you may not need the cookbook and make it from memory. The same holds true of mixing colors. An artist will soon learn which blue and yellow make a particular shade, and the addition of a third color will result in a variation of that hue. He starts to build up his repertoire of color formulas and develops an internal library of colors he uses or avoids.
Using Manufactured Green Colors
There is a huge array of green tube paints, ranging from lemon-green to almost black-greens. Purchasing greens is very tempting, as students think it will eliminate a lot of color mixing.
A selection of green hues is nice to have in one’s paint box, and a knowledgeable artist can use these as a basis for many fine shades of green. The key here is that these paints are merely a basis for creating shades of green. The addition of other colors will produce the tints found in nature, giving them credibility for use in landscapes and floral still life compositions.
Some greens are almost impossible to create with primary colors an artist has in his paint box. Terre Verde is an unusual shade that is not easily reproduced using primary colors. Sap Green and Cobalt Green are other colors that require a lot of experimenting to replicate.
Generally, green tube colors need the addition of other hues to give them the organic look found in nature. Experimenting and developing your own color chart with formulas is the best way to build up skill in blending colors.
Painting the colors of nature is a combination of many shades and hues. Study the green appearance to see what colors are used to make up the tones of leaves, grasses and trees. Observe what role light, shadow and reflected light have on the local color, and set your palette up accordingly. You may be quite surprised at how little genuine green your lush landscape really uses.