Monday, November 06, 2006


No colour has given me as much trouble over the years as green. It seems to be an arch nemesis. That being said, I know that at least some other painters struggle with this particular hue as well. The question is, beyond my own limitations, why? Basic green, if such a colour exists, is pretty much dead center in terms of value. Note the position in the colour wheel, in relation to the black & white scale. In other words, there are as many bright/light greens as there are dark greens. Compare this to yellow, where you can only add so much white before it loses its identity (yellow is the closest to white in the first place). In theory, green should be the easiest colour to use.

The only time I seem to be able to control green is when I tone it down to near earth tones, as in this older landscape, oil on canvas, 16 by 20". An obvious explanation is that green simply isn't for me, and I'm not meant to ever use it. However, what if green's center position on the colour wheel also leads to its difficult application. Since green is middle toned right off the bat, it perhaps lacks an initial punch. Yellow is bright and charged; it needs to be handled carefully. Blue is dark and cold; it needs to be adjusted to surrounding colours. Green is less dramatic; it's just green.


Allan said...

I am a musician and have no experience as a painter although my wife is a formally trained visual artist. One of her books mentions that it is often the case that oil painters cover the canvas with green before starting the work.

I remember seeing Ian Tyson of the folk music duo, Ian and Sylvia, interrupt the performance at the Bishop's University Centennial Theatre to object to a green gel. He commented on how ghastly anyone looks in a green spot.

Sören Dawson said...

That's an excellent point, Allan, regarding how some painters start with a green undercoat. This could relate to green's middle value; it's not too bright or dark. The best colour right off the wheel to build on, although I still avoid it even at this stage. Calling green less dramatic, as I did, can also be said of earth tones, also used as undercoats.

Thanks for the Ian Tyson anecdote. Green certainly can be a problematic colour for people.