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Summer Greens - Perspectives No. 411

Summer Greens

Perspectives No. 411

Interior of a Forest, 1880-90, Paul Cezanne
Interior of a Forest     1880-90     Paul Cézanne

   We’ve been mixing a lot of greens for our Impressionism Workshop. Of all the color mixes, greens can be the most troublesome to mix accurately. We’re not sure why, but we understand the challenges. Greens vary widely in perceived temperature—cool or warm, with the value measurement to be dealt with on top of that. We use a limited palette of split primaries: a warm and cool of yellow, blue and red, plus white and black.

   It is crucial to select the correct primaries, either warm or cool, to mix and match a subject’s greens. We use Cadmium Yellow Medium or Cadmium Yellow Light mixed with Ultramarine Blue or Cobalt Blue to make our greens, generally. There is a also an interesting range of greens which can be made from yellow and black. See: Mixing Beautiful Greens from Black.

   Since there are 4 possible combinations of primaries in this palette, cool/cool, cool/warm, warm/cool and warm/warm, knowing them by heart can greatly speed one’s plein air or studio efforts. To illustrate, we created a set of short color strings from these combinations which show a part of their ranges of temperature and value. From these mixes, one might choose to add white, black, or in the case of Impressionism, complementary mixes to temper the greens into a set of ‘colorful grays’. Colorful grays, rather than pure primaries, make up the lion’s share of color masses in works of Impressionism, since black was generally eschewed in the impressionist palette.

Mixing Greens in Oil Paint


   Knowing one’s palette mixes well is a huge benefit when analyzing a landscape subject or floral still life. Either may contain a myriad of greens of different temperatures, values and textures. However, as we learned, perception and reality can often be two different things.

   We found this out when we conducted an interesting and highly unusual experiment in landscape painting. Some years ago, we were tasked to hide a large brown patch of damaged foliage in a yew hedge—never mind the reasons why—it’s a long story! We perceived that the foliage of the shrub was a cool-ish green, especially when compared with the warm green lawn next to it. We bought all the different cool green spray paint colors we could find, certain that we could mix and match. We were completely surprised when none of them came even close! The foliage was, upon further comparison, a warm yellow green hue, which now seemed obvious. We did finally get the color right, and our paint job made the damage disappear at a little distance. We learned a valuable lesson that day long ago about the importance of careful observation and comparison which still serves us well in our palettes today.




Copyright Hulsey Trusty Designs, L.L.C. (except where noted). All rights reserved.
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A Primer on Night Painting - Nocturnes

Nocturnes - A Primer on Night Painting

Filled with inspirational examples by the masters of nightime painting, this little book is sure to fire up your creative energies. Never tried painting at night? We show you how it's done with a step-by-step-oil demo and a tale of night painting in the wilds of Rocky Mountain National Park. The Primer on Night Painting - Nocturnes is a 7 x 7" PDF download with 40 pages of text and images. It includes a gallery of paintings by masters of the nocturne, information to inspire and encourage you in your plein air nocturne painting, an illustrated step-by-step demo and tips for working in pastel and oil. Also available in a softcover edition. Check out the tools and other products that we use in our own art and travels in The Artist's Road Store. We only offer things for sale that we enthusiastically believe in.

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About Us

Photograph of John Hulsey and Ann Trusty in Glacier National Park
We are artists, authors and teachers with over 40 years of experience in painting the world's beautiful places. We created The Artist's Road in order to share our knowledge and experiences with you, and create a community of like-minded individuals.  You can learn more about us and see our original paintings by clicking on the links below.
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