I’ve been doing a lot of commission paintings lately of wonderful, verdant landscapes. Forests, mountainsides covered with pines, flowering grassy meadows, homes set in expanses of green, green lawns surrounded by stately trees.
It’s just not that easy to paint a subject with such a lot of green. You can fill the canvas or paper with swathes of lush shades of green – your trees can look just like trees, the grasses fresh and bright but somehow it just fails to look natural. Why is that when nature is so full of greens and they all look very natural???
I don’t really know the answer to that but I do know that there are ways to help avoid the “unnatural” greens.
Never use a green straight out of the tube – it’s a real killer
- mix your greens from blues and yellows
- add a very little red, sienna , umber or ochre for a more natural green
- don’t over mix on the palette – let the colours mix on the paper/canvas
- here’s a good video on mixing greens
Underpaint with red or orange
- adds a bit of a zing where the complimentary colour shows through the green
- if you’re painting with pastels choose a red or sienna coloured paper
Break up the green area
- use wildflowers and weeds to add splashes of colour to meadows and lawns
- use different textures with brushes, fingers, palette knife – more interesting that flat expanses of green
- use several different greens to paint a single area
Don’t use green at all!
- as long as you use the right tonal value it will read as “green”
- mix it up with blues, yellows, oranges, ochres, reds all making up the impression of vegetation that you would normally think of as green
Use interesting darks in the shadow areas
- try blues, purples ,violets, dark browns and deep reds instead of dark green
- this is your opportunity to inject a bit of extra contrasting colour to break up the expanse of green so go for it!
Next time you’re faced with an expanse of green try a few of these techniques.