Part 2: Frustrated to Fabulous Green Pigments

11:04 AM

Information does not become knowledge nor does it become powerful until we after we apply it and make it our own.” 

Think about it…how often have you heard a piece of information that seemed helpful, but had no relevance to your life because you had no use for it or didn't put it into use right away?

It is much the same with learning new information with art. Unless it is applied and we make the information our own, it will continue to be just that, information.

However, when we apply it and grasp what it means to us, even if we only get an inkling, then it gains in power and it truly becomes knowledge!

So it is with color charts.

You've created color charts and you've begun to "see"  that icky frustrating green pigment may not be quite so frustrating after all. It's still kinda icky by itself, but we now know there's hope for it.

Without applying what we learn from some of those super-cool mixes we came up with from the first part of this tutorial, well, it's kind of a waste of time. The color charts don't really help us to take a step away from frustrated and towards fabulous. Sure, we have a hint, but we don't have any application.

Welcome To Part 2: Applying Color Mixing To Simple Subjects
If you're like me, there were a few mixes that really caught my eye and appealed to my color sense. (Color sense or preference is as individual as our fingerprints!)

Look back over the color mixes you created and evaluate which ones sparked your interest. They don't have to be "traditional" leaf colors. If you like some of the zanier color combos, play with those as that indicates where your interest lies.

Begin With Simple Shapes
Draw out a few leaves on a piece of watercolor paper or in your sketchbook. The leaf shape can be quite simple, as the focus of this exercise is color mixing rather than rendering a perfect copy of the leaf. If you happen to live somewhere in the world where the only green leaves at the moment are on the artificial arrangement sitting on your table, it's quite acceptable to use leaves from the arrangement.
Draw a simple leaf shape.
Someone got the munchies
and this add interest to the shape.

I have also taken a photo of some leaves I picked up on my way out to the mailbox today. Click this link to download a high-res copy of the leaves I used. (I specifically chose leaves with interesting color combinations to help with the learning process.)

**If you are new to watercolor, don't worry about making the leaves look like specific leaves. Remember, this is about color mixing. If you become so focused on making the leaf look like an exact leaf, you often miss the other learning opportunities like, say, color mixing!**

Mixing on the paper
Once you're ready to paint, choose a two-color combination from your prior mixing exercises. If you have not created any color mixes, take a look at this post to learn more.

Try painting both colors on the paper and let them mix rather than mixing the two paints on the palette and then applying it to the paper. On a different leaf shape try mixing the colors together on the palette before applying the paint to the paper to see which you like best.
Adding the third and fourth color
to the combo

Once you're happy with the results of the first two-color leaf, choose a different combination and paint the leaf shapes again.
Note the legend at
the bottom of the art.

Remember to keep color notes (legend) at the bottom of the shapes so you can refer back to the color you used to create a specific result. See example on the right.

After you've exhausted the two-color combos, move on to three- or four-color combinations and repeat the process of mixing the paints on the paper as well as mixing them on the palette before applying the paint to the paper.
In these last few images, I have added the color mix I created in the first exercise in the corners of the art to show where I started. In the example on the right, I started with a mix of yellow and the palette green. To get the darker spots, I add a hint of brown at the end.

In the next example, I used a mix of yellow and blue on the paper. I then added in touches of the palette green as well as brown at the very top of the stem.

Whether you mix on the paper or the palette, there is no right or wrong way. There are different uses for each method for various subjects, but it mostly comes down to which style you like best.
In the last example, I used yellow and the palette green for the leaf on the palette. I then added violet and brown for the darks as well as a hint of orange. I allowed the violet and brown to mix on the paper. You can combine techniques in one subject.

While I'm sharing only three of the leaves I created, I have many more. I highly, strongly recommend you play and paint as many leaves as you can stand! Why? Because the more we do, the more we understand. As the information is used and understood, it becomes knowledge and with repetitive use, it becomes reliable. That's where the power lies. It is only with constant use that our knowledge can begin to help us create consistent results that are predictable and remove the guess work!

Next we're going to tackle foliage in the shape of bushes to build on what we've learned from our leaves.

Did you do the first part of the tutorial and come up with lots of great mixes? Are you going to try your hand at the leaves? If so, send me a link in the comments or via email—I'd love to see what you've come up with and even more important if this series is helping you to turn your greens from frustrating to fabulous!!

Even better, come and join me at Selby Gardens in March for a two-day workshop and put your knowledge into action! Click here for more information.

Part three of this series is here.

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2 Creative Thought(s)

  1. Great suggestions for getting more comfortable and familiar with your colors. I'd like to try this out.


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