Bob Rohm explains how to move past local color to add vibrancy to the greens in a landscape in the August 2009 of The Pastel Journal. Click here for a free download of the entire article.
What Color Goes with Green | Using the Color Wheel to Mix Different Colors with the Color Green
I don’t know who first said, “I’ve never seen a good green without some red in it,” but I heard it back when I first started painting landscapes many years ago, and it’s a sentiment that I often recall when considering color for my paintings. There are times when the mood of a scene can be expressed by painting within the family of greens—from warm to cool and dark to light. Many times, however, one color family is simply not enough to communicate your feeling for a scene.
When using the color wheel, notice how the color green represents nearly one-third of the area from yellow to blue. You may encounter landscapes that are virtually all green—the grass, hills and trees—with the sky representing the only part of the scene with a different color; and even the color of the sky is close to the color green on the color wheel. Painting with just this one color family is limiting. There’s no reason that a warm green area in sunlight can’t have color variations moving into the red to orange range, as long as it still reads as a warm green area. Similarly, on the cool side, you can push the color accents toward cool violets and still have an area read as a cool, green mass. It’s a matter of balance. As long as you keep the color value and color temperature consistent within the mass, you’ll be amazed how far you can stretch the colors around the color wheel, bringing life to an otherwise lackluster scene.
Step 1: Begin with a Warm Color Temperature
I started the picture by indicating the placement and rhythm of the vertical trees. I used a warm color, usually a brownish red, to do this. I never use cool hues such as green, blue or violet because they can create a muddy look if they show through the strokes in the finished painting.
Step 2: Apply Color
I used hard pastels for the initial color. Often a dark object against a light one will create a transitional glow of color, so I chose pastels that expressed the extreme contrast of warm and cool light. In this late afternoon scene, the green trees against the dark sky created a red-violet glow. I underpainted the trees with red-violet to emphasize this effect. The underpainting captured this glow through the layers of color and expanded the color family within the scene.
Step 3: Brush on Mineral Spirits
I brushed mineral spirits over the pastel to form simple masses of color and color value. As the mineral spirits evaporated, the color lightened to the original color, modified by the hue of adjacent colors mixed with it. I kept the edges between shapes soft to avoid hard separations or white paper showing between them.
Step 4: Establish the Extremes
I established the extremes of the scene in the soft undertones. In this case, the trees were the darkest dark, the sky was the lightest light, and the edge between them the most dynamic area. The most intense color was in the sunlit grasses.
Step 5: Develop the Light
With the extremes established, I began adding the blue-violet radiant light to bridge the strong light of the sky and the darks of the trees.
Step 6: Paint the Sky
I painted the sky area by working the negative shapes into the violet masses of the trees.
Step 7: Adjust Color, and Add Expressive Strokes
Here you can see I’ve added warm and cool hues to the trees. Then I added texture and color variations as well as expressive strokes of pastel.
Step 8: Finish with Transforming Greens
When selecting color, I was careful to make choices that stayed within the correct color value and color temperature relationships. Although I still used mostly the color green, the exaggerated color created an interesting vibration of warm and cool color, and captured the excitement I felt for the dynamic afternoon light. Notice how many different colors I paired with the color green. When wondering what color goes with green, don’t be afraid to add other colors with different values and temperatures.
If you think you’re ready to move on from green grass to blue skies, then this tutorial on painting the sky by Richard McKinley is the one for you! Try applying what you learned about using the color wheel from Bob Rohm to your skies.
Or you can further your understanding of how to paint light in the landscape with this tutorial by Kim Lordier.
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