Some painters claim they don’t know how to paint green. It must be why paintings of this hue are generally absent in the art galleries. In this post I’ll show how to paint green. With oil paint, the trick is to change your base color.
I love green. “Banyan in the Park” and “White Ginger,” two of my most recent paintings, are predominantly green. Looking at them gives me a feeling of calm, coolness, and serenity. More so, I can recall the satisfying experience of choosing the images and transferring them to canvas. I can smell the sweet scent of the ginger patch.
Banyan in the Park
Painting green is no secret, it’s a technique. As mentioned, it’s all about changing your base, your base being a yellow or a blue because yellow plus blue equals green. In the field, I still use a color chart I made when I took my first painting classes. Someday I’ll paint a new one!
My green color chart on canvas paper, a bit ragged but still useful!
You can make a chart like this too. Use a palette knife. Put a swatch of each of your yellows in the top row. Down the left column, dab a swatch of each of your blues, including black if you use black. The greens in the body of the chart are the result of mixing a blue with a yellow. For each combination of the two colors, I have added white two times to get a “light,” “middle tone,” and “dark” of the same hue. See how many different greens there are!
When I am on location, I literally walk up to the object—e.g., a leaf—and find the swatch on my color chart that most closely matches it, eliminating any guess-work. If the object is in the distance, I hold up my palette knife—with paint on it—in the air in front the object and squint to see if the hue and value (lightness or darkness) match. When you paint a green scene, step back for a moment now and then. If it’s starting to look all the same, maybe it’s time to change your base to “find” another green.
Going a step further beyond the colors on the chart:
To lighten, “warm it in the light,” that is, add the next lighter yellow from your palette plus a little white. To darken, “cool it in the shade,” that is, add the next darker blue from your palette.
This technique of warming it in the light and cooling it in the shade is known as “analogous,” meaning to use the next color on the color wheel. In the way I paint, I prefer analogous to “complementary.” Adding the complement—the color opposite on the color wheel—to a color will also darken, but it will also appear comparatively chalky. Put another way, if I want to darken green, I add blue, not red.
If you are still with me , here are a couple of exceptions. When painting a landscape, colors become muted and lighter in value in the distance. In this case the painter would choose complements. Realize, also, that whenever you see gray, use the complement.
I learned these tips from my teachers Gloria Foss, Vicky Kula, and Peter Hayward who taught us how to turn the form and about the logic of light.
Copyright 2010 Rebekah Luke