One of the finest bits of advice I’ve ever been given was a moment of silence accompanied by a shrug. That came to mind this week while I’ve been pondering how to show you the wonders of mixing your own amazing greens.
My initial idea was to whip up a bunch of recipes for you. A cool green for distant trees, a warm green for foliage in the foreground, greens for shadows and sunlight and everything in between, multiplied by the number of seasons…
I'd mix glob of this, a dab of that, add a molecule or two of another, and wow you with my amazing-ness.
Have you noticed on Facebook, or the internet in general that there are jillions (at least) of artists of one sort or another who promise you 3 Easy Ways to Get Started! Or 10 Steps to Success! Or How To Make Skies / Water / Bright color / Dull Color / Singing Color / Cows / Chickens / People in Only One Afternoon!!!
And what does that have to do with a shrug??
During the halcyon days of taking workshops and classes and scouring magazine articles that had the answers, I had the pleasure of visiting with an artist I admired so very much.
Something Much Admired Artist said stopped me in my tracks. What he was doing, whatever it was, differed from what the workshop/magazine/class gurus assured me would lead to certain success.
Armed with deep knowledge gleaned from the pages of a how-to art magazine, I stated: "So-and-So says to do it this way."
He smiled thoughtfully and shrugged his shoulders. Which surprised me. It took a day or two before I recognized the power of that shrug. In a kind, knowing way, Much Admired Artist was giving me space to learn on my own. To learn there is no recipe, no 3 easy steps. He left it up to me to figure out what my questions were, and more importantly what the answers might be.
I hope Much Admired Artist’s shrug will inspire you to find your own answers. Cook up your own recipe.
Find some quiet time all by yourself, hours of it. With no other plan in mind except to learn about green, open up some tubes of:
Warm blue, cool blue. Warm yellow. Cool yellow. Warm red, cool red. White.
To get you started, Ultramarine blue with Cad yellow and a bit of Indian red makes a fabulous green. On the other hand, cerulean blue, Naples yellow and transparent orange make an entirely different fabulous green.
Mix a glob of one, a dab of another. Add a molecule of something else …
Recently I posted an image of a painting I’d had in mind for months. It had to be green; deeply, intensely richly green. The feeling of being surrounded by, smelling and hearing the richness of green is what I remembered, and it was what I wanted to share. Concerned about how to accomplish this task - green is notoriously difficult to control - I sat on the idea until the discomfort of not trying was greater than the fear of not doing it well.
First of all, thank you for your kind comments. It’s always really nice to know I hit the mark.
So what’s with green? It should be easy. At last count manufacturers make up to 19 different greens. Greens so dark they appear as black. Some so garish they seem unreal. One can buy greens that are minty, dusty, blue or yellow, muddy, golden or brown-ish. Transparent or opaque. So why is it so hard to find the right one?
It’s a tricky color, green is. The question is, which green do you think you need?
The green of distant hills in the spring? Shadowy summer foliage? The warm verdant tones of fall? Leafy grey-green of elm trees? The blue green of firs, immature cottonwoods, young maples? Grassy meadows in shadow, or in intense light? The worn out grass of October or the energized pastures of spring? Water green from algae or tinged blue with the colors of the sky? Any of the preceding scenes in morning, noon or evening?
The speckled-y green/blue of Handsome Husband’s eyes?
You get the idea. (Plus, my quota of question marks is nearly up.)
To those of you who wondered which greens I used in the painting, the truth is this: none.
Go back to kindergarten, would you? How do we get green? By mixing blue and yellow, that’s how!
And the kicker? A red or two. The addition of a complementary color to a combination of primaries gives richness and depth that cannot be achieved with only 2 hues, especially when it comes to making green.
My palette holds two blues, a warm and a cool. Two or maybe three yellows, again, a warm and a cool, and naples yellow, considered a neutral. A couple of reds. Yep, a warm and a cool. White, of course. Not one pre-mixed-tube-straight-from-the-manufacturer green. By working from the warm and cool side of each hue, and by adjusting the amounts of each pigment added, one can achieve a combination of colors that can only be understood using higher math. Since we don’t do math here, let’s just say it’s a lot of different greens. At least eleventy-nine.
Which is exactly eleventy-eight more than you can get by buying a tube of pre-mixed green.
I've been sharing the odds and ends of my art life for the last 8 years.