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Sunday, 23 November 2014

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Mixing greens in watercolour

Colour mixing in water-colour can be both fascinating and frustrating. Sometimes magical things happen, other times a colour will turn to mud for no apparent reason.

The lush greens of a landscape in high summer are inspiration to any artist. But the sheer number of different greens to be found in grass and foliage can be quite overwhelming, for a beginner.

In the painting shown here I have used a more subtle and varied range of greens in the grass and foliage. Notice how I have introduced positive contrasts of light and dark greens that enliven the picture and make the eye to explore the composition.

The lush greens of a landscape

The sheer number of different shades of green found in the grass and foliage brings depth to the scene. Not the tree on the left with wide spread foliage giving a shade to the cow resting and our eye is automatically drawn to it, thus it forms the focal point of the picture. Remember when mixing your colours, don't think just "green". Is that a warm green or a cool green? Study the pattern of warm and cool colour throughout to composition.

Here the pattern of shadows cast by the tree activates the composition and creates a buoyant, spring-like feel. Learn how to mix your own green, using yellows and blues, so that you can vary them from light to dark, bright to muted and warm to cool.

Observe the tree trunk given a transparent effect adding burnt sienna and Prussian blue with a light wash.

The cow under the huge tree gives life to the picture. It's always a huge decision as to whether to put figures or animals you do put in is an integral part of the picture and not just a small afterthought. They can be used in different ways to give life, movement and scale to a scene.

These are of course some splendid greens available in tubes. But these used alone may not be enough to give you the flexibility required to capture the subtle nuances that are found in nature's green.

To obtain livelier and more expressive colours, it's often better to vary your tube greens, by mixing them with blues, reds and orange.

It's amazing how the greens such as Vindian and Windsor green, which are unnatural in appearance in their pure state, become much more lifelike when mixed with other colours.

The tiniest drop of Vindian, for instance, when mixed with chrome yellow produces a luminous transparent green that is ideal for painting sunlight foliage.

There is always a lot to consider, but the more you account or all these elements, the more usually satisfying your painting will be. A sound painting is made up of beautiful arrangements of values and colour.

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