I think that summer is the hardest season to paint outside. It is just way too much green for me. I do some green paintings, but I don't want to make a whole seasons worth of them. One or two in a show is fine, but a whole room full of green paintings is not. I have crashed a lot of paintings in the greenness. I always think I won't do it again and every year I make at least one painting that is nice but too green.
I am not the only landscape painter to feel this way, lots of them have and there are some strategies to avoid the problem. Here are a few that come to mind.
- If you must paint in a green hell, try to vary the greens and tone them down too. A green plus red is called olive, Savor those the more red you can smuggle in their the better often. The violets in the shadows aren't green either so they also serve as a foil. Ask yourself would I wear this color? There are colors in paintings you wouldn't wear, but with the greens the question is more relevant.
- Historically artists have turned their backs to the green. Many of the art colonies of America started in seaside towns. Artists who painted the hills of New England in the fall and winter painted the harbors or surf in the summer. The ocean is a great place to be when it is too green out there.
- Woods and fields can be a nightmare, but in the evening the lengthening light and the gathering darkness begin to drop the saturation of some of the green. In the late hours lots of too green places become paintable.
- Gardens are great place to paint in the summer. They are green but if you have flowers, paths, shadows or evening light, there are endless good garden pictures to be made. Most people who have fine perennial beds are flattered and will to allow an artist to paint their gardens. I have knocked on strangers doors.
- Try to look for big shapes that aren't green, such as a colored house or a yellow field or gray out buildings, any thing that you can use so that at least an important part of the canvas isn't painted green.
- Another solution is to cripple your ability to mix green. Restrict yourself to an earth color palette or at least mix all of your own greens from ultramarine. If you are restrained in the presentation of the greens in a landscape rather than literal, usually better paintings result.
- Beaches with people in swimsuits and lolling indolently under big colorful umbrellas are a great subject. I do not mean take photos there and use those in the studio, no friends, I suggest you set your easel up on the beach in the sunlight.
- Sometimes it helps to stain your canvas with a warm earth color before painting, you might rub it down with burnt sienna and a little solvent, using a paper towel. The influence of that wet layer of sienna particularly if it gets into the notes layed onto it can be a welcome modifier when things go green.