Sunday, December 20, 2009

Learning--Romanticized Creek Painting--Color Mixing and a Cerulean Blue Palette

Looking back, I realized that I had never posted this painting for you. Creek Bend Fantasy, painted several years ago, is a personal favorite--not completely sure why--just like it, that's all. As with many of my landscapes, the reference scene is a humble place that many people would pass without giving it much notice. We look from a small bridge over Hogan Road toward a bend in Little Pottsburg Creek, not far from our home. The piece is 18" X 24", acrylic on gallery wrap canvas.
The painting developed in an interesting way. The original intention was for something more direct and realistic. The resulting composition still builds on the actual scene, but is romanticized somewhat. As the painting developed in early stages, through block-in and then the truly ugly stage many pieces experience, I somewhat wildly stroked in what were intended as base colors and movement in the creek and then didn't want to completely cover them. The dark woodsy area on the left seemed sort of mysterious and fairy-like, and I also hated to lose that feeling with too much detailed development. So the result blends realism and fantasy.
The palette was based on cerulean blue and cadmium red deep, an unlikely pairing that produces some very interesting neutral purply tones. The rest of the palette consists of sap green, burnt sienna, white, and black, with very minor touches of yellow ochre and ultramarine blue. Except for brilliant flowers, I seldom use the intense colors of acrylic paints straight out of the tube. They are especially unsuitable for landscapes without some modification. Besides, mixing colors is such fun and can produce such gorgeous and surprising results. I have a number of pieces of paper and card stock on which I have played with color mixing in a whole range of palettes. Here in North Florida, we have an amazing range of colors and tones in the sky, the ocean, marshes, creeks, rivers, forests, and meadows, constantly changing with the seasons and our changeable weather. So, as long as I remember to label the paint colors I used for each set of mixes, they form a valuable reference bank for a variety of paintings.
Question of the day: Where would we be without color?


  1. Love the color choices Mary!! Cerulean blue and cadmium red deep give you beautiful neutral purples! Great work!!
    Happy holidays to you and your family!!

  2. Thank you, Manon. I have used the same or a similar palette for a wide range of paintings, from dune & ocean scapes to storms building over the salt marshes--and I always love the results. Thank you for your good wishes; I pray for a wonderful holiday season for you and yours as well.

  3. Beautiful painting, Mary.. And you are right---what would we do without COLOR???? All of my wedding pictures from my first wedding in 1962 are in black and white... Even though they were professionally done, it's just not the same as color.

    Have a blessed Christmas--and enjoy that beautiful weather in Florida!!!

  4. I can't imagine a world without color; we get it in so many forms - not just hues. This is a beautiful painting, another in which I can almost feel the humidity (and skeeters!)...Question about your color cards...How can you ever replicate the colors again? I keep thinking on this one, and while you can get close, without using a specific means of measuring and the exact same tube, wouldn't there always be a slight variation? I really do wonder about this as sometimes I don't mix enough color (though usually I end up wasting paint...sigh...) and have to try to replicate it! Not always easy!!

  5. To a non-painter, you're speaking a different language here, but I'm enjoying the lesson. I do love that painting too. Hope you have a wonderful holiday!

  6. Thank you, Betsy--for your kind comments and especially for the HUGS! I'm with you; I just can't get enough of color.

    Autumn, you are exactly right about the difficulty of duplicating a color mix. Although there are exceptions, most of the time, I don't really need to get an exact color match in landscapes. In fact, to me, the slight variations in different mixes add interest and depth to the piece. I have been complimented on my depiction of mud, for instance (!!!), because of the way a number of colors and shades shimmer through.

    I know that in some of the subjects you paint, it would be more important to match a color mix. I have no solution except to try to mix plenty of paint, which, truthfully, I am too cheap to do most of the time. I have found that acrylic mixes will last awhile in a well-closed jar (I keep small ones from lotion, etc. for that purpose).

    W2W, given what a fine photographer you are--even though writing is your primary art form--I am sure you have a keen awareness of color and an appreciation for it. Thank you for stopping in and for your sweet holiday wishes. I hope you have a lovely Christmas, too.