Monday, April 29, 2013

GREEN: 10 Things Every Watercolorist Should Know About This Color

Absolute green is the most restful color, lacking any undertone of joy, grief, or passion.
                                                                                                              - Wassily Kandinsky

"Water Lilies on Lake Eileen", watercolor by Pat Howard

Green is the pervasive color in nature -- we see it everywhere.  The natural greens, from forest to lime, are seen as tranquil and refreshing.  Green is the color of peace and ecology -- in fact, it is synonymous with ecology.

Here are 10 things that I think every watercolorist should know about Green, along with some quotes by others and some "green" paintings of mine:

1.  The Greens in nature are extremely varied, ranging from yellowish green of a fresh Boston lettuce, to the khaki green of a late summer tree, to the blue-green of a Colorado Blue Spruce.
When you encounter a forest landscape, your first impression is that it is entirely green.  But, if you really look -- really see it -- you will find that it contains many other color jewels, hidden within.

The color harmonies of green mostly mark two of the seasons -- spring and summer.  Think of spring's bright greens and yellow-greens, and summer's lush deep greens and blue-greens.  The color of grass and leaves are constantly transformed by light and shadow, too. 


Green is the prime color of the world, and that from which its loveliness arises.
                                                                                                   - Pedro Calderon de la Barca

"White Lilies", watercolor by Pat Howard

2 - Natural greens are predominantly warm, so yellows and reds need to be included in your green mixtures.  Greens are challenging, but they can be beautiful, can look natural, and can even be transparent.  

Don't be afraid to use greens, and don't use the same boring green everywhere.  Try to use a colorful blend of green mixtures and tube greens.  For colorful greens, mix yellow and green together first, then naturalize the mix with a small amount of rose.

He had that curious love of green, which in individuals is always the sign of a subtle artistic temperament, and in nations, is said to denote a laxity, if not a decadence, of morals.
                                                                                                                              - Oscar Wilde

3 -  Use both tube Greens and mixed Greens, but always add another color to your tube greens. Many artists mix their greens instead of finding the correct color in a tube for convenience.  And, certain pigments, like Winsor (Phthalo) Green, is way too bright, overpowering, and unnatural to use alone.  You may be better off mingling yellows and blues to get the greens you want; however, you can also use tube greens, like Sap Green, and add other colors to it.  

A helpful exercise for you to do is a mixing exercise.  Make a grid on watercolor paper.  Label and put all your yellows across the top (including Quinacridone Gold and Raw Sienna).  Then, put all your blues and your tube greens down the side.  Paint the yellows first, and when those strips are dry, paint the blues and greens, keeping those strips transparent, so you can see what greens your paints will produce.


There are colors that seem impossible.  The color of the grass that moves and the bottom of the water, for example."          - Claude Monet

4 -- Winsor Green (Phthalo/Thalo Green) is an unnatural color with a strange, blue tinge, but it can still be a useful color for your palette.  Phthalo Green is a cool, staining, transparent color, primarily used for mixing darks. Use Phthalo (Winsor) Green + Alizarin Crimson for your darkest greens.  If you add equal parts Winsor Green and Alizarin Crimson, it becomes a beautiful black.

For rich, dark greens, start with Phthalo Green, and add a yellow to it, to get a very transparent dark.  If this green mixture is too vibrant and unnatural, it can be tamed with a bit of Quinacridone Rose or Quinacridone Burnt Orange (either added to the mixture, or glazed on top).  So, a nice yellow-green can be made with Phthalo Green + Aureolin Yellow, and a touch of Quinacridone Rose, to make it more natural.  Mix the Phthalo Green and the Aureolin Yellow together first (you'll need more yellow than green in this mix); then, add the Rose.

Try creating different dark greens, starting with Winsor Green, and adding various yellows.  These mixed greens will be less harsh and more varied than using Winsor/Phthalo Green right out of the tube.


The greens of these trees these leaves
The many shades of green.    
            - Shalom Freedman

"Butchart Gardens", watercolor by Pat Howard

5 -- Permanent Sap Green  -- warm and transparent, nongranulating and nonstaining -- is a good choice of green for your palette.  A basic transparent green mixture is Sap Green + Aureolin Yellow.  Then add a touch of Rose for a natural landscape green which stays transparent.  You can neutralize Sap Green with a Rose or a Red, for a bronzy green.  Sap Green + Quinacridone Rose makes a nice gray-green.


Artificial green in the brain, but so green in ideas . . . . 
                                                                                    - Nyein Way

6 - Some suggestions for mixing Greens for landscapes:

     - Mingle Sap Green with Ultramarine Blue for middle value foliage or foliage in shadows.
     - Mingle Sap Green with Quinacridone Rose to gray down foliage a little.
     - Mingle Sap Green with Cobalt Blue and Quinacridone Gold for grass in sunlight.
     - Mingle Sap Green with Quin. Burnt Orange and Phthalo Blue for an intense dark green.
     - Mix Sap Green + Raw Sienna + Cobalt Blue for a gray-green.
     - Don't use Yellow Ochre in a green mixture -- too opaque, so it's not luminous.
     - Don't add a 4th pigment to any mixture -- that's when your greens will get muddy and opaque.
     - Whenever your green mixture is too vibrant or unnatural for a landscape, it can be tamed with a bit of Rose or Burnt Sienna, (either added to the mixture, or glazed on top).


The first colors that made a strong impression on me were bright, juicy Green, White, Carmine Red, Black, and Yellow Ochre.  These memories go back to the third year of my life.
                                                                                                                   - Wassily Kandinsky

7 - Remember that your warm greens will come forward, visually.  Try making your distant greens slightly grayer and cooler (bluer). 

To make your foreground foliage brighter and warmer, mix some yellow and burnt orange into your greens.  Distant trees should be cooler and a little grayer, so add more blue into the mix.

 In fact, underpaint the foreground with a warm yellow and the background with a light blue, before painting any greens.


Green, Green, you are so glorious green.
An abundance of beautiful green,
not coloured, but just natural and kind.
Makes me wonder how your creation
of green came to life . . . 
- Premila Patel

8 - Green and Red are the warmest of the complements, and so, the most cheerful!  Evenly matched partners (since they are both warm and both of a middle value) -- setting up a vibration when they touch, like optical glitter.  

In even the most abstract art, Green reminds us of nature's greenery, and Red reminds us of its flowers.  

If your green is overly bright, use a transparent glaze of Quinacridone Rose over it, to cut the intensity.

If you have a bright red in the background that needs to be calmed down -- use a very, very light glaze of Winsor Green over it.

Make your tree trunks reddish brown to make the leaves of the trees look brighter.


Of Greens seen in the country, that of trees and shrubs will appear darker than the Green of the fields or meadows.                - Leonardo Da Vinci

"The Three Graces", watercolor by Pat Howard

9 - Using an analogous color scheme in a nature painting breaks up the monotony of green and creates excitement in your painting.  Start with the main object's local color (green) and build an analogous color scheme around that.  (Remember that analogous colors are next to each other on the color wheel.  

Since the local color of leaves is green, use more yellow in the areas closest to the light source and more blues in the shadows.

Use analogous greens and yellows to dominate in a nature painting, with a touch of reddish brown added for contrast.  (That is a foolproof color combo!)


Yosemite Valley, to me, is always a sunrise, a glitter of Green and golden wonder in a vast edifice of stone and space.               - Ansel Adams

10 - Try some "Optical Mixing", with yellow and blue -- where juxtaposed colors are blended by the viewer's eye.  This is called Pointillism, and was used by Georges Seurat, a Post-Impressionist artist.  To paint a large grassy area, he painted an undertone of green, and then built up areas of light and shadow, using dots of yellow, orange, violet, and blue.  This would be a good way to add some variety to a big area of green in your painting.


Monday, April 15, 2013

SKETCHBOOK ASSIGNMENT: Buildings, Houses, & Churches -- 10 Exercises to Try

Get your sketchbooks, pens & pencils, charcoal, and even some watercolor paints and a brush, and head outside for some drawing of buildings -- both rural and urban.  We'll be drawing houses, barns, old ruins, city blocks, churches, and other public buildings.  We'll even be drawing boxes and building blocks -- any kind of structure will do.  On days that you can't get outside, just look at photos for your reference.

Besides examples from my own sketchbooks, I have also included ten of my finished paintings of buildings -- some of which came directly from my sketches.

So, try a few, or all, of these exercises, and maybe get inspired to do your own paintings of buildings. 


1 - Draw a house, or a part of a house, in pencil.  Draw your own home, or someone else's, from life, adding shading with your pencil.  Date it, and write a sentence about where you are . . . 


"Fourth of July", watercolor by Pat Howard

2 - Using a black, ballpoint pen, draw a public building, or part of a building -- from life, if possible.  Use cross-hatching to build up the values. . . 


"The Old Post Office", watercolor by Pat Howard

3 - With pencil, draw a building from the front, and include some of the surrounding environment.  This could be a church, a lighthouse, a public building -- and try to draw from life, but if this is not possible, use a photo as reference.  Be sure to write a note on your page, just indicating where it is . . .


"The Light of Loretto", watercolor by Pat Howard

4 - Do a monochromatic value study of an adobe or stucco building, part of a building, or church.    First, do a pencil drawing, and then paint the values (the lights and darks), with one color, like burnt sienna.  Use watercolor, or colored pencils, and try to simplify it into 4 values -- 1) lightest value is the white of the paper, 2) light value, 3) medium value, and 4) darkest value.


"Sunday in Sedona", watercolor by Pat Howard

5 - With a felt pen, draw an old rural building, like a barn, shed, or cabin.  Or, draw a block of old buildings in a little town.  Try to draw from life, if possible -- and write a sentence at the bottom of your page, indicating something about where you were, the date, and what the weather was like. . .


"The Blue Barn", watercolor by Pat Howard

6 - Pile up a bunch of boxes, and do a contour drawing of them, with a felt pen.  If you have kids around, you could use their building blocks.  This is a little like drawing city buildings.


"Phantom of Times Square", watercolor by Pat Howard

7 -- In pencil, draw a city block of buildings, from above.  Add shading with pencil . . .


"New York City Lights", watercolor by Pat Howard

8 -- Now, try some perspective exercises, with charcoal pencil or graphite pencil.  For these, just look at my sketches. . .

(V.P. stands for Vanishing Point)


"The Gable House B&B", watercolor by Pat Howard

9 - Paint a close-up color study of a stone wall.  First, do a wet-in-wet underpainting, using Raw Sienna, Quinacridone Rose, and Cerulean Blue.  When it is still pretty damp (shiny), sprinkle salt all over.  When it is dry, brush off the salt, and draw the cracks in pencil.  Then paint the cracks (the shapes between the rocks), using Burnt Sienna and Cerulean Blue. . .


"Aztec Ruins Triptych", watercolor by Pat Howard

10 - Using charcoal (pencil or stick), draw a close-up of a building, a deck, or a porch.  Smudge the lines for shading.  This will be an abstract drawing, so concentrate on geometric shapes and lines, rather than any details. . .


"New Hampshire Village", watercolor by Pat Howard

Friday, April 12, 2013

WATERCOLOR WORKSHOP: Painting an Abstract Landscape

For this abstract landscape, we're going for a suggestion of a landscape, rather than a painting of a particular place.  So, try not to overthink this -- just enjoy experimenting with the colors and some different "tools". . . 

For this project, gather the following materials:  A rectangular sheet of watercolor paper, already stretched onto a board.  Watercolor paints -- I used Aureolin Yellow, New Gamboge, Quinacridone Gold, Raw Sienna, Quinacridone Burnt Orange, and Sap Green.  Liquid Acrylics that you can squeeze or apply with an eye dropper -- I used Daler-Rowney Acrylic Ink (Indian Yellow) and Lumiere Liquid Acrylic (Pearlescent Emerald).  If you don't have any liquid acrylic on hand, make an intense mixture of orange, and another one of bright green, in little containers, to apply with an eye dropper.  You can use watercolors for this.  A paper towel or two.  A palette knife.  And, your brushes and water, of course.

Prep all your "yellows", for your first wash . . . 

Wet the entire paper with clear water, and then apply the different watercolor yellows, in horizontal strokes . . . 

While this is still fairly wet, using an eye dropper, drop in some of the orange acrylic (or your intense orange mixture) . . . 

Now, to get this to move horizontally, you may have to brush clear water across it, and then hold your paper up (sideways), so the paint and water drip onto your palette . . . 

While this is all still wet, add some more horizontal "lines" of your different yellows, to make it more intense.  Hold your board sideways above your palette, to let the excess paint/water drip off. . . 

Now, tear some strips of paper towels . . . 

Lay these strips on the wet paint, and lightly tap them down with your fingertip.  Don't overthink this, either (whether these are going to be clouds or bushes or mountains?).  We're just doing this to add some texture and interest . . . 

After the paper is dry, peel off the paper towel strips.  If any pieces stick, scratch them off with your fingernail . . . 


In order to make the texture and contrast more subtle, wet the paper again, and paint a wash of the "yellows" . . .

While this dries, mix a wash of green -- I just added sap green to the yellows that were already on my palette.  Also, get your "emerald green" ready (or your equivalent) . . . 

First, decide which end of your paper that you want to be the top of your painting.  Then, starting about a third of the way down, wet the paper, from there down to the bottom.  Paint some horizontal "stripes" with the green wash.  Let some of the yellow show through.

While this is still wet, squirt out some of the green onto your painting . . . 

Take your palette knife and drag it through the paint, horizontally . . . 

Paint some more horizontal "stripes", using clear water and also the green watercolor wash.  Be sure to NOT cover up all of the yellow underneath . . . 

While this is still wet, tear some more paper towel strips and lay them on the green wash, tapping them down lightly with your fingertip . . . 

After the paint is dry, peel off the paper towel strips, carefully . . . 

Prep two different mixtures:  1) Quinacridone Gold + Quinacridone Burnt Orange; and 2) Sap Green + Quinacridone Gold.  Starting near the top of the green wash, paint a very wet shape, from the left side of the paper, over to the right side -- using both of these mixtures.  Vary the top edge of this shape, so it gives the impression of trees or bushes in the background.

While this shape is still damp, sweep across the bottom edge of that shape with clear water, in order to soften that edge.  A few inches down from that, do the same thing, across the paper . . . 

At the bottom of the painting, paint a few horizontal strokes with Quinacridone Burnt Orange (or Burnt Sienna) . . . 

To finish the painting, mix up a dark, using Sap Green + Quinacridone Burnt Orange, and paint a few horizontal stripes, below the middle of the painting.  And add some dark horizontal strokes at the very bottom . . . 

Now, sit back and admire your painting.  Don't expect it to look exactly like mine.  In fact, if you do another painting, following these instructions exactly,  your 2nd painting will look different than your first one.  Hopefully, you can enjoy the process -- painting a little differently than you normally do.