I Had the Blues. And the Greens
I started a landscape oil painting last week of some soft green hills and cliffs from a snapshot of a trip to the Inner Hebrides of Scotland. I was excited about the composition: I had captured a small road running over and around the area, and the silhouette of the cliffs cut out some great negative space against the sky. I sketched it out and blocked in some color. Then I walked around my house for almost a week questioning my purpose as an artist and a human being.
When I hadn’t come up with any answers I finally slinked over to the canvas to do something. Anything. I didn’t want to abruptly end my painting renaissance IN THE MIDDLE OF A PAINTING [whisper voice:] like I did last time.
During my week of self-exploration and apathy I read a great article in the Artist’s Magazine all about painting with greens by Michael Chesley Johnson. Coincidentally the subject of his example was in Scotland, too. Aah, the Isle by the Emerald Isle. Landscapes used to be difficult for me, and I realized recently that a big part of that was differentiating masses of green and knowing how to temper the greens with other colors. Green is everywhere, dammit! I mean, the color even has its own movement. So after reading Mr. Johnson’s helpful green color chart and numerous tips, and after an internal “eh, what the hell else am I going to do,” I jumped back into my Scottish scene.
The first greens I mixed were on the dull side, planning to build up lights as needed. This is a scene with a lot of distance from foreground to background, and I’d need to create some dramatic depth with a great range of hue and tone to get all the way to the top of the mountain. It’s also a cloudy day, so my bright greens are few.
I laid down some good colors on the first pass, having mixed my greens with ultramarine blue, cadmium yellow, Hansa yellow light, Alizarin crimson, phthalo blue, and white. This was a really good greens primer for me, as well as a career primer. Everybody gets in a rut, even if you like your job. I think I felt this one hard because I don’t have the routine and interruptions of an office setting. Though my cat comes into the studio and screams at me at least twice a day. I faced it head on. I’m not completely through it, but I think if I schedule a quarterly review with myself I’ll get myself back on track in time for annual bonuses. And I am a generous boss at bonus time.
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