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Tuesday, 9 February 2010



If you're going to paint the landscape, it is hard to avoid Nature's green. This is definitely the problem color, yet so lovely to look at in nature. Some artists have no green on their palette. Several of my teachers used that dreaded Pthalocyanine, also known as Thalo or Winsor Green and handled it beautifully. I believe whatever the name on the tube, it will work as long as you keep variety in mind. Keep changing your mixture. Don't pre-mix a well for the sunny grass and another well for a certain kind of tree. Let the mixing and mingling happen on the paper instead.
I find it helpful to remember that even in the spring, the yellows, oranges and reds are in the foliage. Chlorophyl however is, like Phthalocyanine, so powerful, that it overpowers these colors. Only in the fall, when chlorophyl no longer reaches the leaves, have the other colors a chance to display their beauty. In mixing therefore, I start with an orange, because it consists of yellow and red, which will to a certain extent, neutralize the green I add to that mixture. For the darker greens, I start with a dark orange, which on my palette is Burnt Sienna. I then add the green to it.
I try to never lose the warm feeling of that foliage and on location, keep checking the greens surrounding my palette. Those greens may not be exact, but they do belong to the family of foliage greens. It is also helpful to sneak in some red whenever you can. You can find it in the form of dark purples in branches, mauves in tree trunks, etc. Yes, I do add some dark blue once in a while, but don't over do this, since you may lose the warm feeling of nature's green. Don't be afraid, go out and try to mix some greens on location. For additional help, take a look at my video titled "How to mix greens and paint foliage".

This is a commonly asked question. My answers are based on observation of nature and apply to a representational painting approach, although the same theory works in a more decorative manner.
Basically, shadows are a darker form of the local color. A yellow house does not become a blue house just because it is in shadow. It becomes a darker yellow, influenced by its surrounding colors. Above all, shadow values must be convincingly dark, especially at their edges. Do not hesitatingly "whisper" a shadow shape.
Cast shadows falling across horizontal planes, are a darker version of the local color of road or grass, but are influenced by the sky color reflecting into it. Therefore, you can assume that ground shadows are basically cool. Shadows on vertical planes on the other hand are often warm, because the sunlight reflecting from the ground, has a chance to bounce into these areas.
A white house in shadow gives a great opportunity to see reflected light at work. Looking at a shaded porch for instance, you can see how the shadow is influenced by the color of the floor or ceiling paint. Look at how a red porch roof will bounce into and affect the shadow color above it. Learn to look for the very warm, often orange tint right under the roof's edge.
Avoid reaching automatically for Payne's grey for all your shadows. Instead, let those areas be a celebration of color. Start with some basic color wash and then, while that shadow area is still wet, drop in some orange, pink or mauve. Let those colors mix on the paper instead of premixing everything on your palette and then testing the color on another piece of paper. That test swatch is worthless because it is surrounded by white paper instead of the colors and values that will actually be surrounding that color on your painting. Next time, have fun with colorful shadows. Enjoy!


Colors that are opposite from each other on the color wheel, when placed side by side, enhance or complement each other. Yet when they are mixed together, they dull or grey each other. Since this is such an important color characteristic to use while painting, you need to know what those opposite colors are. Can't visualize the color wheel? Here is my simple way to find that elusive complementary color.
In paint, there are only three primary colors: red, yellow and blue. Let's call them the "three musketeers". To find the complementary color, just see which one or two missing primaries complete that trio. To find the opposite of the blue musketeer, for instance, you know that the missing ones are red and yellow. These two colors mixed together become orange, hence it is the complement of blue. If you need the opposite of green, you know that it is a mixture of yellow and blue, hence the missing member of the trio is red. It is that simple.
Now you give it a try. Which primary musketeer is needed to complete the trio if you have violet? Have fun!

Here is a bit of advice handed down through the ages. The artist Hogarth shares with us that anything alive is best expressed with a curved, "s" shaped line, while the straight line is best used for anything "dead". This photo for instance, shows some live trees as well as a "dead" telephone pole. Note the slight "s" curve in the foreground tree. Even the one further back has a slight curve and both have interesting angles.
This same "s" curve can be found in the human form, in animals, plants, flowers, in anything alive. Keep the straight lines for structures, created from "dead" materials. This advice is a great help in thinking of dominance and accent. When painting an architectural scene for instance, you'll encounter a dominance of straight lines and need the accent of the curves and angles given to us by tree forms. Next time, think about angling and curving those trees, even if in actuality, they are ramrod straight. They will form a needed relief, an accent for all the straight lines

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