Tuesday, June 4, 2013


Diane Mannion, GREEN, 6x6" oil on Gessobord.

It's Not Easy Painting Green!

Created this painting to help illustrate the agony of mixing GREEN to my students!  There are natural greens found in nature... then there are the PLASTIC greens such as those found in toys, and the ghastly greens of garbage and recycling bins found in our neighborhood.  Some ready made tube greens would look perfect on a tourist's tropical shirt but screech like a nightmare in a landscape painting.  Once had to hide a tube of viridian from a student.  And I've often warned, "Beware of thalos!"  I've included a Handy-Dandy Green Tip Sheet at the bottom of this post.  Hopefully, it will help a few artists create more naturally green and environmentally pleasing landscape paintings.

Thumbnail sketch to visualize lights and darks and overall design pattern.

Sketched design on Gessobord with ultramarine blue, 
then indicated darks with mixture of red, blue, and yellow.

Blocked colors using transparent Indian yellow, alizarin crimson, and ultramarine blue.
  Decided I didn't like it.  Placed paper towel on the thick paint and pressed it off.

Finished painting again:
Worked with ultramarine blue, thalo blue, cad yellow, alizarin, and white.
Froggy was emerald green, thalo green, and cad red, cad yellow.  
Notice how the "plastic" green stands out!

Some Green Tips

A few favorite quotes:

"It's not easy being green."  -Kermit the Frog

"The secret of green is orange and violet is the friend." - Richard McKinley

"Balance greens with mauves."  -Albert Handell

*  Mix your own greens with the yellow and blue you're using in your painting to keep the colors harmonious.  

*  Tone down greens with a touch of red, rose, orange, burnt sienna, or purple.

*  Avoid darkening greens with black, use blue or red instead.

*  Black and yellow, or black and yellow ochre make a nice green.  Opposite of above tip, but depends on the painting.   This might work better for a tonalist painting (dark and light) and the above tip might work better for an impressionist style.

*  Use viridian, emerald, and thalo greens carefully!  Adjust with other colors such as the compliments.  If you want to use tube greens in landscape painting, sap green and olive green are more natural.

*  An underpainting of red, rose, orange, transparent red oxide looks fabulous under greens.  Leave specks showing here and there.

*  Get wild and silly with party colors like permanent rose for the underpainting.  Try permanent rose
with Indian yellow.  Then allow bits of this underpainting to show through foliage.  Adds lots of zip and vibrancy under greens!

*  Cerulean or thalo blue and yellow ochre for distant trees.

*  Cerulean or thalo blue and cad yellow for green grass.  

*  Thalo blue and lemon yellow for sun lit leaves... used as accents.

*  Ultramarine blue and cad yellow for vibrant green.  Darken with a touch of cad red.

*  Warm green... cad yellow and ultramarine blue.  For "Autumn" effect.

*  Cool green... cerulean or thalo blue and lemon yellow.  For "Spring" effect.

*  Tree shadows.  Introduce green's compliment... any red spectrum color.

*  Viridian and other tube greens look fine when mixed with other colors... pepper flake bits,
not huge globs.


Maria Bennett Hock said...

I love this blogpost!!! Love reading about all the greens...so much good information and you used all the green so well in your piece. Thanks so much!

Diane Mannion said...

Thank you, Maria! Funny how there are so many different colors of green and recipes to mix them.

Kathleen Eve Kelly said...

Isn't it funny how you and I are both working on "green" paintings, and they're so different? You will be happy to know I have not used any thalo green or viridian! Unlike yours, mine is in acrylic, which in general, in my opinion, tend to be more garish in hues.

If you would like to "lift" my painting to use as another example of greens, be my guest! Remember though, I'm trying to match the unique green color of a sports car that was altered and meant to be that color, not a color found in nature, that's for sure! Funny thing is the green of your frog (plastic green) is about the color of the car I'm doing! Yours is plastic, mine is metal.

The lesson here is definitely NATURE has the most softest greens that thalo and viridian just won't cut it!

Love your apple in this painting, love the leaves, and the pitcher is amazing. (And I mean pitcher, not picture.)

Keep painting, don't let those brushes gather dust!

Diane Mannion said...

Thanks Kathleen! Just want to clear something up here... I don't want folks to stop using viridian or thalo or emerald or any tube green... just learn how to control the strength of those colors. So many of my students are absolute beginners that I wrote this more as a warning, not rule. Anyway, happy green!

Anne Winthrop Cordin said...

Thank you Diane for your treatise on green, it can be overwhelming to be confronted with so many variations! I want to copy your notes!

Diane Mannion said...

Feel free you copy my notes, Anne! I put them online for my students and others that have trouble with green, including myself! Thank you for visiting my blog.