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The Way To Happiness The philosophy of these lessons: Look, Learn, Practice

Chapter 17 of "The Way To Happiness" deals with Competence. I've found that too many limit their own progress as an artist with the concept that they "haven't got the talent." 90% of being a good professional artist is about looking for yourself, learning (including good study habits), and practicing what you have learned to become Competent. If you are interested in a free copy of "The Way to Happiness", please email me for one.

Lesson 40

1. Theory: "They'll sell you thousands of greens. Veronese green and emerald green and cadmium green and any sort of green you like; but that particular green, never."
Pablo Picasso, 1966.

"The variety and intensity of greens that occur in nature is quite awesome. When mixing a green, use the fact that green have either a blue or a yellow bias as the starting point in determining the proportions you mix. (But remember the shade of green something is in a landscape does change depending on the time of day and what was a bluish green this morning may well be a yellowish green this evening.)

"Each different blue/yellow combination will give a different green, plus the variations from the proportions of each you mix. With practise it becomes instinctive to mix the shade of green you're after. Take an afternoon to practise mixing your own greens, making a colour chart to record which paints gave you what results. Also experiment mixing with two blues and two yellows; and mixing blue or yellow to a 'ready-made' green." From Top Tips for Landscape Painting, Tips to help you with your landscape paintings, by Marion Boddy-Evans, About.com

2. Word for the week: color wheel
n. A circular diagram in which primary and usually intermediate colors are arranged sequentially so that related colors are next to each other and complementary colors are opposite. From American Heritage Dictionary

3. Practice: "Learning bears fruit when it is applied."

Greens and Landscape Painting

I was talking to an artist friend at a recent art event, and I happened to get onto the subject of greens and landscape painting. "I discourage my students from putting any tube green on their palette in my classes," I said. "Otherwise, they'd paint the entire landscape with tube green."

At this point, another friend came up and asked her where her painting was. She said, "It's the one over there, the landscape painted all in tube green."

Fortunately, she has a good sense of humor and didn't seem upset at my untimely remark. But it set me to thinking about green.

I don't like to have students put green on their palette for the reason given above.

There's another consideration. A painting is a composition. It involves choice. Confronted with a landscape which is all green, you may consider ways to relieve that intense color. Find something straw-colored or sand-colored or find a house painted white-something to relieve that unmitigated green. Blue sky won't do it. (Too close to green.)
For example, look at a color wheel. If you want to work with a green painting, balance it with the other colors in the triad. For example, green, orange and purple are the secondary colors on the color. You wouldn't (probably) want to use all at full intensity. Modify your green, using only some at full intensity and try using accents of dulled or lightened orange and dulled or lightened purple as part of the composition.

Green is a very strong, dominating color. If you look around outside where I live in summer, you are surrounded with green. But if you look closely, you will begin to distinguish subtle differences in shade. I have a strong suspicion that photographs "normalize" color and so lose these subtle differences. So, if you are one of those painters who, by force or choice, works from photos, you may have the impression that there IS only one green to a landscape.

Even so, it's not Phthalo green (which is too "mint" in color). It's not even Viridian Green. Chrome Oxide Green (opaque) and Sap green (a delicate transparent green) used to be two of my favorite colors for landscape.
Shown below is a scan of an exercise I did some time ago, comparing various "tube" greens that were in my studio. You can see that you have considerable choice, and, if you want to use tube green in your painting, go ahead, but use some of the many that you can get from the store, not just one or two. (Note: the exercise shows the color "from the tube" on the far left, and then blended with white to the middle. Then, there is a sample of the color with a glazing medium, showing how it would apply transparently.)

Still, I would prefer that artists and art student use green sparingly, judiciously. Landscape green is often a lighter, more sour green (in areas of light) or a darker, more somber color (in shade).
Another point that I would make: those who use tube green often lighten and darken with white and black. And this dulls the green. It is better, if you use green, to lighten with yellow or yellow ochre and darken with red or brown.

I include here several ways to mix interesting greens. You can come up with more.


Thalo (or Phthalo) Blue and Cadmium Yellow light (or Hansa yellow) make a very bright, full intensity green. I wouldn't use much of this in a landscape. It's overpowering.
Thalo blue and yellow ochre make a more subtle green. That's because yellow ochre is yellow with a little red and blue mixed in.
Notice that Thalo green, lightened with white, gives a cool green, but mixed with Cadmium Red and lightened, gives a greyer green. Cadmium red is a complementary color to Thalo.
Ultramarine blue, mixed with Cadmium yellow, will produce a more sour green than Thalo and Yellow because Ultramarine is a cooler blue.
Ultramarine blue mixed with Yellow Ochre produces an almost brown or muddy color
It's interesting that Black mixed with Yellow will produce a sort of green. This would be an interesting green to use in some field of autumn stubble.
Notice the Thalo green with Cadmium yellow produces too minty a green, but mix a little Alizarin Crimson with it and it's more satisfactory for landscape use.
And Permanent Green mixed with Burnt Umber produces those deep shadows in the foliage.
You can also get this effect with green and red. Undiluted with white, they make a good black. Diluted with white, they produce a wonderful range of greys.

Well, these are just some demos. I recommend that you experiment. These are offered from my experience and viewpoint and shouldn't invalidate the use of tube colors, I recently found that an artist I admire, Jeff Hayes, sets out some 72 colors on his palette every time he starts to paint! (Of course, he's not out in the field, but is painting still lifes.)

Pam Coulter Blehert

Last updated: August 1, 2008