Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Here come the Girls!

I painted this sweet puppy patrol using the Richard Schmid approach that I have previously described: picking a place to start and completing it exactly before moving on, so that the whole painting takes on shape and form rather like a jigsaw puzzle if you started with one piece and added only adjacent pieces until the entire puzzle was complete. I started with the eyes of the girl on the left and worked from left to right. Unusually, I left all of the background until last. Commonly I would do that first or at least concurrently.
The problem of course is the dreaded grass. In the original photo (courtesy of Janina Suronen) the grass was a bright and vivid green as you would commonly expect to see in a photo. And it looked fine. But just because it looks fine in a photo does not mean it will look fine in a painting. I started to do some research into how famous artists of the past have handled the vexed problem of green. The more you look the more you realise that they rarely paint green at all in the commonly accepted use of the term. Here are some examples:
Thomas Verner Moore White, American, born 1863. Two red Setters in the grass. Lots of lovely colours, but only very small amounts of green. Looks like Pthalo Green, blue shade and cut with lots of white.
Van Gogh, 1889 - Olive Orchard. A bit more green on this one, but only in the mid-ground (the trees) hardly any in the foreground so the painting is balanced by three bands of colour - sky (blue) treetops (green) and ground (mainly yellow). His greens are blocks of warm green - looks like ultramarine and cad yellow light - for leaves in the light and cool greens (looks like pthalo and white) for leaves in the shadow.
Frederick Morgan, born 1850-ish I don't know the date of this painting, it is called Ring o'Roses. You can see from the clothing and hats of the girls as well as the sharp shadows cast by the children that this is clearly high summer. If you close your eyes and try and recall this painting I bet you will see children playing on the grass. I know I did. Can't see anything much in the way of green paint, though, can you?
Pissarro, Kew Green 1892. There are some green treetops here. The grass, if you squint at it and try to imagine re-painting it, is chiefly yellow with blue shadows. Difficult to say much more about this from a small reproduction as Pissarro will have used pointillist type techniques (lots and lots of dots of colour mixed optically when you view the painting) so I am unsure what colours he has used.
and, finally, the acknowledged Master of Green - John Constable, Fen Lane 1817. Note how very muted his greens are and how dulled down yet how magical and convincing the effect. I have no idea how he mixed these colours.  I do know that using red is very important - the complementary of green - as it dulls and greys the chroma. Constable must have "smuggled in red" (to quote Stapeleton Kearns) but which red, how much - just how? I am still learning.

1 comment:

  1. Love this painting, Karen. Re the greens - yes, a challenge! I have heard of a couple of approaches that help: 1. mix black with all the different yellows you have and see how many greens you can get. mute with red or burnt sienna. alter with purple.
    2. Kingslan and Gibilisco site recommends making color charts of warm greens and cool greens using various mixtures of black/yellow and then adding more yellows and reds to the warm lineup, and blues to the cool side.