Back to green

My journey into green with Paul Talbot Greaves continues with the second of our five assignments.

The focus of this assignment is tube greens or basically pre-mixed greens. Ahead of the course starting Paul indicated the colours that we’d be using on this course and, for the tube greens, they were Winsor and Newton Sap Green, Hookers Green and Viridian Green (or their nearest equivalent by other manufacturers)

I was fortunate that I already had all of these greens, though I only tend to use one of them, which is Viridian green which I carry in my sketching palette.

On the whole, I like to think that I should be able to mix all the greens I’ll ever need – but that’s why I also need this course, to help me to understand how I do that! Paul too acknowledged that tube greens can be a valuable shortcut, but they’re not an answer to all our greens! What the tube greens can be, however, is a really good base with which we can mix other colours from our palette to create the array of greens that we might see in nature.

As with last week’s session, the first part was dedicated to some colour theory, looking at where each of the greens falls on the colour wheel and what their properties are. Here’s a little test sheet that I did showing, on the left, the three different greens on their own, then moving down, mixed with Winsor Yellow, Cobalt Blue and French Ultramarine.

I rarely do this type of exercise but there’s no doubting its value (no pun intended!) and it’s a great way of making use of the backs of failed paintings!

Tube greens swatch test

After the theory came a demonstration before we were let loose on this week’s assignment. The view that Paul demonstrated was based on a landscape format image of a path in some woods. Here’s how I got on with my first attempt:

Session 2 attempt No. 1

I can only blame being tired when I sketched this out because the source image was landscape in format! It could also have been that psychologically, I felt overwhelmed by the complexity of the image that I thought doing a portrait version might be easier!

Either way, I quite liked some elements of this but also felt that with this effort under my belt, I could probably do better. Here’s my second attempt:

Session 2, attempt No. 2

I think I managed to right a few of the wrongs of the first painting but, even so, I still think some of the foreground shadows and darks are perhaps a little too heavy. We have until the 14th of February to submit our works back for a critique so I’m hopeful that I’ll have the time to do this again and hopefully move it along even further.

In the process of working on these paintings and playing around with colours that we can use to modify the tube greens, I took a little diversion to look at my yellows.

In addition to yellow ochre, the staples in my palette tend to be Cadmium Yellow and Transparent Yellow. For this course, I’ve been using some Winsor Yellow (from the Winsor and Newton Professional range) and have been enjoying the results.

Here’s a quick swatch test that I did. The first column on the left shows the various yellows and then, moving right, the results when mixed with cerulean blue, cobalt blue, ultramarine, alizarin crimson, neutral tint and light red.

Because the Winsor yellow is a purer yellow, and transparent, the colours, especially when mixed on the paper (second row down) are much more luminous and, I think more interesting than the equivalent combinations using cadmium yellow, which appears quite opaque and dead by comparison.

Based on this little test, I’ve decided to swap my cadmium yellow for the winsor yellow and will see how I get on with it. I do still like the qualities of the transparent yellow and will also keep that in my palette too. Using these two yellows I think I can mix a strong variety of greens, including similar colours to the sap, hookers, and viridian greens that I used from the tubes this week.

New Year Resolutions update

Alongside this course, a few other things have been bubbling along too and, just over a month into the New Year, it seems timely to give a quick update on my New Year Resolutions – not least because I’ve made some progress on 5 out of my 7 resolutions!

  1. Revamp my website – this continues to be a big project and, in the short term at least, is likely to become an increasingly time consuming one! Good progress is being made and the structure, look and feel of the site is beginning to come together nicely. The challenge for me now is to populate the gallery/shop part of the site will information about the paintings that are available for sale, along with dimensions, descriptions and shipping information etc. A lot of this is really quite tedious and I’m only at the very beginning of this journey! My aim is to get enough items loaded up so that the site works and looks ok after which I can continue to add images at a more leisurely pace. I don’t have a launch date as such, which is quite a relief, but I’ll continue to provide updates as I go along.
  2. Continue to submit to competitions etc. I have mixed feelings in some ways about this one. The deadline for the Society of Watercolour artists was a few weeks ago. I do usually try to enter this exhibition but this year, I didn’t feel right about it for one reason and another, so I opted not to enter this year. I did however enter the 2022 Fabriano Acquarello exhibition. This annual international event usually takes place in the Italian town of Fabriano in May. This year, it will take place in Bologna and I was delighted to learn this week that my work, alongside that of a range of other artists, has been selected to represent England and Wales at the event. Alongside the usual physical exhibition, this year’s event will also feature a digital display element and, becuase of some current customs and excise issues, the England and Wales entries will only be displayed on the large screens around the exhibition and event centre. Here’s the notification that I received:
It’s official (I’m finally representing England at something!)

It’s nice to see my name alongside that of some artists that I greatly admire and there are also a few names on this list that I’m not familiar with but shall be looking up over the next few days or so. In short, however, in 2022, my work will be shown to an international community of watercolour artists and enthusiasts in Bologna – which is wonderful news!

3. Buy a new pair of glasses – check! I now have a new pair of glasses with completely clear lenses (as opposed to transition lenses that darken in sunlight). This felt particularly important because of resolution number 4.

4. Paint plein-air more often – With my recent outings with the Brighton Painting Group (all two of them so far!) I’ve found that my glasses were playing havoc with my ability to judge values as I was painting. The next outing for the Brighton Painting Group is this Saturday, the 12th of February in Palmeira Square, Hove. This is just around the corner from me so a. I have no excuse for arriving late and b. it’ll be a great opportunity to test out whether the new glasses are of any help or not. Actually, I doubt they’ll be much of help, but at least they shouldn’t be as much of a hindrance as my previous pair! If the weather permits, I’ll definitely be there on Saturday which I think would double my entire plein-air activity from 2021, and it’s only February! This certainly feels like progress!

5. Sketch more – I am still trying to keep the sketchbook work going! I was using it a little more at the start of the year, but not in a way I was finding particularly useful or productive. This past week however I’ve had a little flurry of playing around, mainly taking some of Alvaro Castagnent’s paintings and honing in on an area of detail. These little studies for me are all about trying to keep in loose, play with the paint a little and focus on brushstrokes etc:

Phew! Many congratulations if you actually made it this far in this week’s post, you must be quite shattered, I know I am! How about a nice sit down with a cup of tea to recuperate!

Thoughts on Back to green

15 thoughts on “Back to green”

  1. Pingback: Brighton Painting Group – February meet up

  2. Hi John, I’ve tried two versions of the demo and also a third based on my own reference. Nada. Just wanted to clarify, I wasn’t aware that PTG was using Winsor Yellow but Winsor Lemon. Probably got it wrong. You don’t mention the WL as I think you prefer what you can do with WY. Correct? And yes, mixing on the paper I guess is the main teaching point of this entire workshop. Ringing the changes in the greens. I was looking at other painters this morning, going all the way back to early landscape circa 18th and I guess then they didn’t really have the range we have today. More’s the pity, art was so much simpler then! I may even be tempted to post a painting I did before the course. Is that a cop out, do you think? I mean, feedback is feedback.

    1. I suppose when you say ‘nada’ – you mean you don’t like the results! Maybe these might be the ones were we learn the most! I also think that I’ve confused what yellows PTG is using as I realise that I’ve been using Winsor Yellow, and that I don’t actually have any Winsor lemon so I’m going to have to continue with this for a while a least!) In short, it’s not a conscious decision to use WY instead of W Lemon – just what I’ve got to hand that looks close! I think the mixing on the paper is a really good and important lesson for all of us – even if there may be quite a few disasters along the way! I personally think that you should submit something that’s at lease been painted following the principles of what PTG is advocating would be most valuable, and perhaps lead to the most constructive feedback. Not too late for a 4th version!?

  3. Good morning John,
    I read it and I am enjoying a hot cup of coffee. Congratulations on being listed at the Fabriano exhibit, mine have made it to the frig.
    I like the shading in the second painting as well as the yellow and orange on the side.
    But the subject done in the portrait style makes the whole path through the woods change and pop for me.

    1. HI David and many thanks for this, much appreciated and very kind of you to read that post to the end! I’m afraid I’m not quite clear on the part where you said ‘mine have made it to the frig’ – I’ve been wracking my brain wondering what ‘frig’ might stand for! Is it an event or exhibition of some sort (or maybe a typo) ?

      1. My guess is that his paintings are posted on the refrigerator. A common practice here in the U.S. with artistic efforts our children bring home from primary school. Magnets you know.

        1. Thanks Mary and yes, this gallery space was confirmed as the Fridge! I should have figured that one out all by myself really but appreciate you pointing me in the right direction!

  4. I love version two. In studying it it’s not just the shadows. I love that pop of orange and yellow way in the background. That bit of plum in the background on the left and blue on the right. All blurry and blending in contrast to the branches and shadows. They give the painting such depth. Love the spatters. I think you will be hard pressed to top this, but I know you will.

    1. Thanks so much for this Mary! I did push the boat out more with the second one and I’m really pleased that you noticed some of the differences that I introduced. I will try another versions as I’d like to try to get a little more light into the foreground shadow areas. If it doesn’t work out however, it’s good to know I’ve got this one as a backup that I can submit for a critique!

  5. Nice, John – I’m finding your exploits in green quite entertaining! Well done on making so much progress with your New Years Resolutions and yes, I do HEAR you about how frustrating it is when your glasses are causing problems with your painting – I am currently using readers on top of bifocal contacts and to be honest, sometimes when I just can’t focus in the right place I feel I would do better if I ripped the contacts out and just peered at my work from 6 inches away with my natural eyesight!!! I feel like I want to ask you some questions on the subject of green and water colours, but, I’ll have to come back later and do it, since I really just popped into blogland for a few minutes to see what’s going on! You know how it is!!!

    1. Thanks so much Hilda and I totally empathise with the glasses/vision situation, it’s so frustrating. By all means let me know if you have any questions on greens! As you know, I’m no expert but happy to share what little I do know!

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