Bird & Sunrise photo

Bird & Sunrise photo
Because "someday" is today!

Friday, December 28, 2018

Red and Green Only

Surrounded with the beautiful colors of red and green during the holiday season, I wondered what would happen if I mixed them. Could I make a whole painting with just the limited colors of red and green? Here is what I discovered.

Napthol Red and Pthalogreen Poinsettia leaves, ©2018 Tina M. Welter
"Red and Green Only" poinsettia

First I looked for some tips on the Golden Acrylics website. I found a whole page on the topic of mixing colors which was really helpful. Here is the link: Golden paints mix guide

The guide said that Napthol Red Light mixed with Pthalo-Green would make black. I was curious. I had those two acrylic colors in my paintbox, plus Napthol Crimson. I mixed them both with the Pthalo-Green to see what the color difference might be. It's subtle, but I could tell the Napthol Crimson was a bit towards the cooler blue side. I decided to use the Napthol Red Light since it's warmer tones were more like the poinsettia leaves I wanted to paint.

Color mixing Napthol Red and Pthalogreen acrylic paint ©2018 Tina M.Welter

I have to admit, it was hard for me to make a painting with just those two colors because I could see yellow and other warm browns in my reference photo. I normally paint what I see, so I had to fight against my instinct to add yellow or white to the mix! I pushed myself to stick with only red and green and the result was the poinsettia leaves painting above. It's kind of an odd painting, but also interesting at the same time. The missing primary yellow color seems to have created a puzzle my brain wants to keep solving. :D

I decided to try exercise number four listed in the mix guide, using the specific "organic" colors suggested of Hansa Yellow, Quinacridone Magenta and Pthalo-Blue. Note: "organic" in this sense means color pigments created in a lab using the principles of organic chemistry. These are not colors derived from minerals or ores found in nature.

I only had the Pthalo-Blue color as acrylic paint, but found the other two colors in an old set of watercolors and they worked just fine. The important part is that these three colors were all organic pigments in a water soluble form.

Color mixing Quinacridone Magenta, Hansa Yellow, and Pthaloblue ©2018 Tina M.Welter

You can see that the result was a gorgeous bright red and vivid green. Great, now what happens when I mix these two colors together plus a little white? The result was an interesting range of dull greens and earth brown tones. What could I make with these?

Red and Green make... ©2018 Tina M.Welter

I arranged them as a christmas tree...

Red and Green dots make a Christmas tree ©2018 Tina M.Welter

...then some holly berries and leaves as I tested out adding more or less of the vivid green to the bright red.

Red and Green make Holly Leaves ©2018 Tina M.Welter

Surprise, when I mixed equal parts of the red and the green I got a gorgeous red brown! A strange color for a holly leaf, but it made me think of the coat on a famous deer.

Red and Green make Rudolf's Coat. ©2018 Tina M.Welter

Well, that was really fun, I love being surprised when mixing colors. I took a look in my acrylic paint box and wondered what would happen if I mixed a generic red and green. These are not my professional paints, but a set given to me that I use in craft projects. The paint tubes were titled "Emerald Green" and "Cadmium Red hue." I mixed them together. The color dot to the left has more red than green and the dot on the right has more green than red. Next I added white to each of these.

Mixing Cadmium Red Hue and Emerald Green  ©2018 Tina M.Welter

Hmmm, what could I paint using these colors? The light purplish grey color made me think of angel wings and the dark red brown would make nice hair. So far, so good, but eventually I realized I had to add yellow to make the fair skin tone I wanted and the halo of course. Close, but not purely red and green only.

Green "Holly Angel" acrylic paint on paper ©2018 Tina M.Welter

What did I learn? It is possible to make a decent painting with only a primary color and it's secondary complement. Even a generic red and green will make a good brown and adding white will provide even more options. I could do a lot with those limitations. Choose your subject wisely though, I feel I got away with painting a poinsettia since it is already mostly green and red. With the angel, I seriously felt compelled to add another primary color, yellow, to give some warmth and enough contrast to balance out a really cold palette. I suppose I could have tried a very pale pink or green for a skin tone, my angel certainly would have looked "unearthly" all right!

After this experiment, I do feel inspired to test out the other primary colors and their complements. What paintings could I make with just yellow and purple or blue and orange? Hmmm...

Extremely basic artist color circle  ©Tina M.Welter

Happy creating!


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