Sunday, May 20, 2012

No Greens Please

Recently I had the pleasure of visiting with several artists about our experiences painting landscapes. We all agreed that the quality of green in the vegetation carpeting the fields here in Nebraska was especially rich and varied. Spring and summer arrived  early this year and brought soaking rains with it, ensuring a  delightful lushness we haven’t seen in awhile.

It’s a landscape painter’s dream, all those verdant hues bouncing off each other. It’s a kaleidoscope of raw, youthful chlorophyll-laden vegetation. 

©2012 Patricia Scarborough  11 x 14 oil 
The challenge for all of us was: How to interpret all that green?  Which tube to grab? We’ve got highlights, lowlights, shadows and reflections; old growth,new growth, pine trees and maples; meadows, plowed fields freshened with seedlings, others left fallow …
Phthalo green? Maybe Sap Green would be more appropriate. Or perhaps Viridian, Olive Oxide, Chromium Oxide, Cinnabar, or Permanent Green (as opposed to not-so-permanent green?).  Gee whiz those manufacturers are so helpful!  Maybe Phthalo Yellow-Green, Green Earth to paint the earth green. Green Grey, Winsor, Absinthe, Ash, Bamboo, Cadmium Green (deep, medium or light), Celadon (again, deep, medium or light), Chartreuse, Emerald (not just for Ireland anymore), Green Shadow (for shadows, of course), Green Shell, Imperial, Meadow, Opaline, Phthalo Viridian, St. Remy Green, Tropical, Water Green, Hookers (insert your own joke here), Prussian, Peacock, or Terre Vert?

A veritable suitcase of greens, green yellows, green blues, green browns, green greys, and green greens - yet none of them are quite right.
Perhaps the proper green is - drum roll please - none of the above.

Perhaps the proper green starts with -  keep up that drum roll and add a triumphant trumpet - red. Ta da! Cymbals please!

Tucked right beside a large glob of white, I squeeze out piles of lemon yellow and one of the cadmium yellows, either medium or dark. Sometimes naples yellow. Once in awhile indian yellow. 

Next to those I squirt out prussian and french aquamarine. No green. No St. Remy Green, whoever that was. No Water Green regardless of how much rain we got. No Green Shadow green to balance my sunlit skies.  I can't remember the last time I used a green that came from a tube.

©2011 Patricia Scarborough  Great Day  16 x 20 oil

Cool yellow with cool blue makes cool green. Warm yellow with warm blue makes warm green. Switch that recipe up a bit and add cool to warm for another green altogether.  We all learned it in grade school: yellow and blue make green. But there's something else.

©2011 Patricia Scarborough Song of Spring 30 x 40 oil
The secret is in the reds. Oh, yes, to create gorgeous greens, one must keep on hand alizarin crimson, cadmium orange or a cad red or some variation thereof. It only takes a dab; a tiny knife-tip of alizarin crimson in a soup of prussian blue and lemon yellow; a dot of cad orange in a mix of cad yellow and ultramarine blue. Mix and match for an entire wardrobe of magnificent landscape hues.

Like a bowl full of M&M’s and salty peanuts, that smidgen of complementary color creates a delicious rich flavor that is satisfyingly nuanced to cover all the possibilities. Add a little, or a lot, that tangy enhancement offers a world of sunlight, shade, distance and vegetation. Add white to lighten and cool and you've got every kind of green your corner of the world offers.

Skip the Celadon, don’t bother with the Opaline.  Send your  Peacock Imperial Green Light, Medium and Dark to the attic.  Better yet, don't buy them in the first place.  You and your palette knife can whip up the perfect green for every possibility in your landscape painting.
Yellow and blue – and red – make green.
©2012 Patricia Scarborough  Fullness of Summer 30 x 40 oil


Cathyann said...

Yes. Right on point. Too much choice, too much variety, too bad for a painting. Beautiful springtime in these images, Patty.

Patty said...

Simple recipes are often the best. Thanks for your thoughts Cathyann.