I'm not going to list lots of colour mixes here because that not very helpful when you consider how many variables there are in the ratios. My approach is aimed at understanding the basics of colour mixing, so that you can easily work out yourself what to use. Here's my method, it's not intended to be a hard and fast rule but more of a method for guidance..... There are, of course, lots of other ways.
An approach to colour mixing: I mix all greens from primary colours, blue, yellow and usually a small amount of red. A few years ago I developed a simple system based on the light value of the blue as the predominant factor when deciding on the green mix.
Below is a chart for greens and browns that I made using 3 primaries of varying light values. The blue is the colour to choose first for a green mix because it's the dominant colour. The light value and saturation of that blue is all important. If you start painting a very light green leaf with a darker value blue, such as French Ultramarine, you may well run into problems with the leaf becoming too dark. Any single colour reaches saturation after around 4 washes, so it will become fully saturated quite quickly, adding subsequent layers of the same mix just makes paint thicker but not darker. So, if you bear in mind the light value of the blue first, you can avoid this problem. It sounds obvious but it's a surprisingly common problem, especially with beginners. Then choose the yellow and finally most greens mixes have a small amount of red, so choose this colour last. The same rule of light value applies with all three colours When you mix in so much red that it turns brown the red becomes the dominant colour instead of the blue.
If you don't understand the light values or saturation of your paints, try this exercise below, it's one Ruskin used to ask students complete. Fill the brush with each of the blues and paint down the page observing how dark each colour is as it progresses down the page, you will see the saturation of the darker colours allow you to keep going much longer, whereas the light value of cerulean has already disappeared. You can easily see the tonal difference between the colours.
Finally, I think we all struggle with leaves and if you know that they are a weak point for you, the best approach is to work extra hard at improving them. If you plan to enter a painting for a juried exhibition, bear in mind that judges are drawn to leaves like radar!...... they will notice poorly executed leaves or those treated as an afterthought.
- Observe first - look for underlying colours and key features, such as widest point, tip, base and leaf margin.
- Make an accurate drawing observing key features and taking measurements
- Light the subject using directional light from a lamp or window. A lamp is often better for beginners because its consistent.
- Work out the palette, is it a light medium or dark leaf? If it's a green leaf, whats the most appropriate blue to start with, test the combinations.
- Work out the approach and techniques, underlying colour, graded or blended washes and dry brush.
A Few Things to Avoid!
- 'Tram line' veins - check the width of your veins against the actual subject, if too wide use a synthetic short brush to 'push' them in
- Go easy with the eraser! I hear a lot of people blaming the paper for ragged edges and yes there are a few issues with some papers but nothing wrecks the surface like an eraser.
- Stylised appearance– lack of detail or inaccurate venation pattern. Close observation required!
- Over-painted edges, an absolute no no! be careful not to let washes run over the edge. if this happens its usually because you use too much water. Use a magnifier to help avoid this.
- Poor lighting - results in flat lifeless leaves, interesting paintings always have good lighting. So light from upper front left or right and play with the light until you get it right.
- Poor tonal values - usually caused by 1: poor lighting 2: bad colour with lack of sufficient variation in tonal values, and/or painting multiple layers of the same colour 3. Painting over the highlights. Light well, start with a slightly larger highlight than needed and check the range of tones and saturation of colour in the subject.
- Compensatory washes over the top, using colours such as green gold. Unless used carefully and selectively, these can often look like they've been used to compensate for poorly painted leave and can make all of your leaves look the same.
|One the second day at Barlow, we painted brown leaves, will discuss browns and reds in more depth later.|
Work on Leaves, paint lots of them, paint different types – paint them over and over don't be in a rush to finish your next piece…. have patience…. It doesn't matter if you didn't post on social media for a while, concentrate on the job in hand and enjoy the process.