Monday, 22 February 2010

Why do My Greens Look Artifiicial?

The colour green in landscape painting often poses big problems for the artist, because it is found in abundance within trees, grass and foliage. The beginner may fall into the trap of using just one green to express what should be an abundant variety of greens in nature. The resultant painting may fail to convince the viewer.

How To Mix Greens for Landscape Painting and Botanical Art

The problem with green is that is it often viewed as a colour of convenience for backgrounds, or for when the artist runs out of ideas of what to do with a particular area. The following practices are the culprit of unconvincing greens:
  • Using only one green to paint foliage within a painting, merely lightening the colour with white, and darkening green with black or a dark brown
  • Again, using only one blue and one yellow to mix green and using it throughout the painting
  • Failing to observe the subtle varieties of green which may contain reds, violets and earth colours, resulting in a harsh representation of chlorophyll on flower paintings and landscapes
  • Using a thin brush to illustrate every leaf and twig within a painting, resulting in highly illustrated and harsh feel to foliage
  • Forgetting to look at greens of real life, painting what is imagined rather than what is real
Tips on Mixing Greens for Painting

The following tips will help improve green mixing when painting nature
  • Natural greens are surprisingly muted, containing other colours such as earth colours, crimsons, pinks and violets. Viridian green, for example, is a harsh colour on its own, and will spoil a landscape painting, but when mixed with another colour, beautiful greens will result
  • Including blues and yellows with different colour temperatures within the palette – warm and cool, will add variety to greens in painting
  • Greens also have varying tonal values as well as variations in hue. Green can be darkened by mixing green’s complimentary colour, red, or any colour containing red, such as crimson, violet or an earth colour, which is better than using black. Greens are surprisingly pale in the distance, often muted by an earth colour and white
  • Observe greens in real life. Autumn leaves contain cadmium yellow and burnt sienna; unripe apples contain lemon yellow and pthalo blue, both greens contrasting sharply. Greens can differ as much as the colour spectrum if observed closely, and will raise awareness of how greens actually look.
  • Begin a painting with the green aspect, to avoid falling into the trap of rushing the painting at the end, and not giving proper thought to greens
Essential Art Materials for Painting Greens

Painting natural looking greens can be achieved by widending the green palette. This can be achieved by including two yellows, two blues, viridian and white within the colour selection. Ultramarine blue is a warm blue, and can often be seen on shadows on lawns. Pthalo blue is a cool blue, and can be seen in pine trees. Cadmium yellow is a warm yellow, which can be seen on autumn leaves. Lemon yellow is a cool yellow and can be seen on young willow trees. Viridian adds punchiness to a green mixture, but in nature, green is often surprisingly muted.

Burnt sienna, burnt umber, permanent rose and violet are ideal for muting greens to express misty weather or to darken green. Using good quality bristle brushes such as ox hair will help retain an Impressionist representation of green. For detail on foliage, a thin sable brush can be used.

Articles on Mixing Greens

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