Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Learning to love green

Untitled Study in Green
Oil on Panel
15 x 30"

"Green how I want you green. Green wind. Green branches."

Federico García Lorca
Spanish Poet and Playwright, 1898-1936
"Romance Sonámbulo"

"Green is the prime color of the world, and that from which its loveliness arises."
Pedro Calderon de la Barca
Spanish Poet and Playwright, 1600-1681

"He had that curious love of green, which in individuals is always the sig of a subtle artistic temperament, and in nations is said to denote a laxity, if not a decadence of morals."
Oscar Wilde
Irish Playwright, Novelist, Poet, Short Story Writer and Freemason, 1854-1900
"Pen, Pencil and Poison," Fortnightly Review (London, January 1889)

"Absolute green is the most restful color, lacking any undertone of joy, grief, or passion. On exhausted men this restfulness has a beneficial effect, but after a time it becomes tedious."
Wassily Kandinsky
Russian-born French Expressionist Painter, 1866-1944

"Green represents the dead image of life."
Rudolf Steiner
Austrian Philosopher, Literary Scholar, Architect, Playwright, Educator, Social Thinker and Esotericist, 1861-1925

This was a study I did in Phyllis Shafer's figure painting class, and was an exercise in colour. We were looking at Secondary Colours, that is two primary colours mixed together - green, violet and orange. Now, I would never usually use such a revolting combination to paint a human being, or anything else for that matter - which just goes to show how much I understood the properties of colour. I had visions of lurid fauves - type imagery, which is fine if that's what you want to create, but I don't, so I was slightly appalled at the task in hand.

Then Phyllis demonstrated the colours when mixed and desaturated (mixed with white, black or grey) - and my horror subsided into curiosity and wonder. A new visual world was opening up to me, which I had resisted partly due to my arrogance (I know what I like, and I don't like that!) and partly because I had no idea about how to use these colours in a naturalistic way.

"There are no "beautiful" or "ugly" colours. Those words describe our feelings about colours, not their intrinsic properties. "Wrong" or "muddy" colours are simply mixtures that are the inappropriate relative temperature for the area in which they are placed."

Richard Schmid, Everything I Know About Painting.

The model was posed on emerald green velvet, and despite my initial, "oh god, I actually have to use that Viridian with the cobwebs on it", I really enjoyed painting this. I took my time, used every ounce of observation skill at my disposal, and pieced together this study from all the tiny shifts in colour I now saw in the models' flesh tones - as reflected by the green velvet and the light I now understand a little better.

So now I understand a little more about the properties of green, and how it affects the colours around it, I'm learning to love it.

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