Quick Study in Red and Green

While I’ll be the first to admit that today’s “quick study” — part of my 100-day creative journey — is no work of art, I’ll also admit to liking it, simply because it was a bit out of the ordinary for me. This exercise — using a complementary color scheme of red and green — took me in a different direction. Rather than painting a somewhat traditional landscape scene, this brought me up close to lots of leaves and a single, contrasting red flower.

This — almost a still life of sorts — is nothing like what I normally paint, so just figuring out how I wanted to approach it was an interesting art exercise in itself.  Here’s the study, for what it’s worth:

I wasn’t going for any detail here other than as mere suggestions. The study probably took no more than ten minutes, and my attention was focused on the color scheme. My intentions were:

  • To create a number of shapes that would suggest leaves
  • To mix and use a variety of greens
  • To have a focal point created by the contrast of red
  • To give some suggestion of light and shadow

I felt that I accomplished each of these intentions, and yes, just for the fun of it, I used viridian. I still had that tube of viridian setting out from my recent practice exercises with green, so I decided to make it the dominant color for this quick study.

After roughly drawing out a few shapes and indicating where I would place the contrasting red flower, I began by mixing viridian with black to create a very dark shade. I painted around the leafy shapes with this dark color.

I then used viridian itself to begin filling in the shapes of the leaves. To add variations in color, I added a touch of cadmium yellow to create a yellow-green. Working with viridian, cadmium yellow, and ivory  black, I mixed several variations of green. Since the ivory black is a blue-based chromatic black — remember my studies of gray — the addition of cadmium yellow produced a deep yellow-green. I played with the paints, used darks and lights to suggest sunlight.

Next came the focal point — the use of cadmium red for the flower. I touched the ends of the petals with a bit of white, and I added a little white to the leaves to suggest light.

At this point, I wasn’t happy with what I’d done. I felt the leaves were too distinct. I wanted them to look a bit “out of focus”, so I used a mop brush to blend the colors a bit.

My final step was to use a script brush to add a few vague details — those little black lines here and there. Stems? Shadows? Details on the leaves? I wasn’t too successful with this, so call them whatever you want, or just call them messy. Since this was only a quick study, I shrugged, and made no attempt to “fix” the problems.

Overall, I was satisfied with what I’d done because it was so very different from my typical landscape paintings. I was satisfied, too, that I’d set out with specific intentions and had accomplished each. To me, that’s one of the most important aspects of art. If we accomplish what we set out to do, no matter what the result we achieve we should consider our work successful.

At some point in the future, I’ll focus more on detail. On another day, I’ll take more time. I’ll sketch out my objects more carefully. I’ll work more slowly and finish a more “complete” painting. For a quick study, none of that was needed, so overall, yes, I’m very happy with what I did today.



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