The Color, Green: Fun or Frustrating?!

5:41 AM

Whenever I get into a discussion about color, the perennial favorite pigment to dislike, or downright hate, is almost always green!

It's a mean one, that green (and no, I do not think it's an accident that the Grinch is green!)...

Or is it?

Yes, green can be challenging, it can quickly "kill" a painting if we use the wrong green or a green that looks nothing like what you see expect to see in nature, and it can make avoiding its use seem like the best possible way of handling green.

Making Friends With Green
Have you ever slowed down to try and learn more about the color outside of working on a piece of artwork? If you haven't, then you've learned first hand how ornery green can be!

Depending on the palette of watercolors you are using, it can be even more frustrating because you may not have a "natural-looking" green on your palette. Meet Viridian Green:
Viridian looks like crushed emeralds and when used alone, it is a very obnoxious color that screams, "Hey, look at me!" There are few places in the world where viridian appears in nature but, when we mix it with yellows, ochres and blues on our palette, the color becomes useable, appealing and more natural.

Viridian is an inexpensive pigment so it is most likely to show up on travel palettes that offer 18 or 24 colors for the cost of one tube of watercolor paint.

Green Isn't The Enemy, It's Just Misunderstood!
Not to make light...well, wait a minute...yes, to make light of green being a cantankerous color to use, it really isn't the enemy and it's often misunderstood. A few of the misconceptions about green are:

  • We think there's a lot of green in most landscapes (Hint: It really doesn't take as much green as you might think it would!)
  • Convenience greens are easier to deal with than greens mixed on the palette (Hint: not always!)
  • Green is comes from mixing any yellow and blue (Hint: Yeah, no.)
  • Green is tricky to work with (Hint: It's really not!)
Taking time to learn more about the green(s) on our palettes can help us start to create artwork with the color green that we actually love rather than just tolerate.

Convenience Greens
Many artists resort to "convenience greens" as a way to have a decent, dependable green on their palettes for those occasional spots of unavoidable green. Convenience greens are the paint manufacturers' answer to the struggling artists' woes with green. Most of the single pigment greens on the market either are strong and/or the color is not attractive by itself.

Convenience mixes are a quick way to get a repeatable green that works in small amounts. The trouble comes when you want to create a landscape or your need more than one green. It pays to know what pigments make up each convenience mix so you know what you can add to get the color you want without making mud.

Last But Certainly Not Least
Temperature (warm or cool), value (light or dark) and chroma (bright or dull) all play a big roll in our success with working with green.

If you're interested in learning more about the pigment, green, and making friends with it, join me for An Imaginary Trip to The Classroom: Working With Green! To learn more about the class, please click here. Class starts on Thursday, February 20th.

More Resources
If you would like to learn more about green, the articles below can get you started: 
Part 1: Frustrated Or Fearful Of the Lovely Green Pigment On Your Palette?
Part 2: Frustrated To Fabulous Green Pigments
Part 3: Another Green Tutorial

Whichever way you choose to learn, I do hope you'll work with the green pigments on your palette outside of a piece of artwork so you can develop a level of comfort and excitement when working with green!

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2 Creative Thought(s)

  1. I have found blues more complex than green. Such as cerulean, I have never made friends with cerulean. I guess I have used so many greens over the years that it isn't such a problem now. I like your treatise about green.

    1. I am not surprised to learn you're friends with green considering your gardening background, Lisa! As for cerulean, I LOVE to use cerulean with Indian red for all kinds of subtle grays, but I seldom ever use it for skies. I have also found there is a wide variety of "cerulean" pigment combinations. Some, or maybe many seem to have phthalo blue in them which changes the whole dynamic. Cerulean is suppose to be granulating and non-staining...the opposite of phthalo blue!


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