Greens in the Landscape

by Armand Cabrera

Green seems to be one of those colors that thoroughly baffles most artists. They tend to overstate their greens or paint them too similar, killing any chance for interest and a sense of light. I thought with spring slowly coming back to most of the country I would offer some tips on tackling green in your landscapes.

First get rid of any green pigment on your palette. The best way to make a green is to mix it. Second forget about approaches that add red or some other color as an undertone to your canvas. Its just sloppy, formulaic and heavy handed like using a chainsaw to prune your flowers. With three blues, two reds and two yellows and white on my palette I can mix any color I need.

If you’ve read this blog for awhile you know I hate formulas and any formulaic approach to painting. It is the same with greens, but there are some real world observations I can offer that might help you to see the variety and interest in your greens when painting the landscape.

Take the time to observe how things grow. As plants and trees produce new foliage the old stuff wilts and eventually dies and falls to the ground. As it does this it goes through hue changes that are observable. New growth tends to be lighter and brighter than mature leaves. It also has the greatest hue shift for the greens except in fall. Some trees and plants actually have new growth that is pink orange, red, yellow or violet and this color is slowly replaced by the green of the mature leaves.

There is a point where the leaves no longer produce green and they start towards the color they will be in fall. This gradual change happens for weeks before the big fall color change that takes place in a matter of days as the tree or plant prepares for winter. Most of this change takes place at the outer edges of the trees or plants and the cores are usually made of limbs and trunks.

Look for opportunities to design compliments and other colors in a natural way into the green landscape. This is important because more than anything what causes a paintings failure is a lack of thoughtful design.

Good design starts with good selection of the elements to create the image. Follow this with intense observation of those elements and careful simplification of them, removing extraneous information that detracts from idea behind the painting.

Pay close attention to the abstract geometric planes of the forms for value and temperature shifts. Note the different hues of the various species you are observing. Use edges to describe the character and line of action all things have that give them individuality.

A thoughtful approach trumps a formula any day of the week. Use observation and design to control your greens and stop them from controlling you.

Mixing Greens part 1

By Armand Cabrera

People always ask me about mixing greens for my landscape paintings. Some people have trouble with the color green. The biggest problems are inappropriate saturation and hue.  Many times artists get their green too blue shifted for landscape painting. There is this old myth that green paintings don’t sell. I know this to be untrue because I sell them all the time. I would change the old myth to this “bad green paintings don’t sell. “

Here are some things you can do to keep your greens lively and believable.

Mix your greens from yellow and blue and don’t squeeze it from a tube. This is the fastest way to learn how to mix pleasing greens especially if you use a limited palette like the three primary colors or a warm and cool of each primary only. These palette restrictions will force you to make choices about how to depict the greens you see in the landscape. What you will quickly discover is how to make colors that appear green relative to your other color choices in the painting.

Think of green as a color key for the whole landscape that way you will paint variations on a theme of green with some being darker, some  lighter, and some shifted all along the spectrum of color but still effectively green. Side by side they would appear more red, yellow, blue, orange, or purple in comparison to each other but when isolated way from other greens they would still retain their green hue relative to other hues.

Look for opportunities to introduce color harmonies into your painting in the appropriate places to help add interest to your greens.  If used in a thoughtful, deliberate way this can be very effective and increase the sense of complexity to your color masses.
All images by Armand Cabrera