Jervis McEntee courtesy of artrenewal.org
I was asked in an e-mail to discuss how I mix greens , so I will write about that tonight. For many years I had viridian on my palette as my standard green. I began using it when I was studying with Ives Gammell and it was the standard landscape painters green. However in the last few years the price of viridian as risen tremendously as its quality has fallen. I have been working without it for this year, I don't know that I will continue as RGH still makes a reasonably priced viridian that is of good quality. There is a link in my sidebar for them. I use them for all my colors except white. They make a good white too but I am fond of the LeFranc.
Instead of the viridian I have been using a pthalo green deep by RGH. It is not there because it is just like viridian , because it's not, but because it is a green that will work, and its not too yellow. Many of the proprietary greens made of pthalo are too high key, electric spring green, Salem menthol for my taste. This RGH pthalo deep is cooler, but it has a lot of pigmenting strength still like any other pthalo. I can deal with that but it took a bit of getting used to.
I have experimented with other solutions in recent years too. I have used both Prussian and pthalo blue. Both of those worked about the same as using the pthalo green. The Prussian is a controversial color with some defending it, and others saying it is impermanent. So I am not advising that you adopt it on your palette, you will probably want to use pthalo. The Pthalo colors give a range of strong, clean greens. They need to be "stepped" on much of the time by adding various other colors. Emile Gruppe used a pthalo on his palette with a full quiver of cadmiums to influence what he made from it.
The three color guys from out west, pack ultramarine and cadmium yellow, and taking a cue from them I have made a lot of greens in recent years from those. That has the advantage of not yielding greens that are too assertive. In the summer particularly the landscape can be VERY green. If you want that very green look, you can get it with viridian and cadmium yellow light. I was taught to make greens that way, but I came to feel later that although they looked like what was in front of me, they were to assertive and monotonous. In have tried in recent years to keep my greens well in check. I sometimes have joked in this blog about painting in the color of 500 dollar suits. You don't see those loud green suits on the racks at Brooks! You do see some green nylon parkas out there that are the colors I am talking down, they come from the discount stores though.
We are making paintings to go into peoples homes and be lived with, at least I am,. Some artists are making paintings to impress other artists or to go into museums or whatever, but I expect people to live with mine as decorative objects. I therefore don't want them to be the color of a granny Smith apple.
The painting at the top of the page is a good example of a restrained green, they are grayed or reddened until they are a neutral color that doesn't scream at you from the painting. Green is sort of the landscape painters enemy, there is so much of it and it is not always the most attractive color I can place on a canvas. The more I can push it towards gray often the better it is.
Here is a John Constable, look how restrained his greens are. Whenever I walk into a museum I always feel like the color in my paintings should be more subdued. We have such powerful pigments today, but I am not convinced that more color is better color. I have been painting graver paintings of late and I think I will head more that way.
Tomorrow I will talk about mixing less assertive greens.