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Artist Community
Written by Caroline Jasper

Why paint on red?
With the canvas already coloured, there is no need to cover every centimeter of it. colours are less likely to become muddied by mixing as they touch. Ground colour can separate different colours painted wet next to wet, avoiding unwanted mixing. Red which is medium in value provides contrast with whites/highlight colours as well as contrast with darker shadow colours. Red is especially suitable in landscape and water scenes. It contrasts opposing greens and cerulean blues creating visual vibration effects, most effective in foreground areas. The colour ground, allowed to consistently show through between painted brush marks, gives an overall sense of unity to the finished painting.

Step 1 - Sky and lighter background

Sky: White mixed with a little Cerulean Blue; gradually lighter down toward horizon

Lightest background areas: Sunlit midground - White with Cerulean Blue and Cadmium Lemon Yellow in varied proportion mixtures of blue/yellow; areas painted separately.

Tip: Follow the "fat over lean" rule... add little (preferably no) linseed oil to the first paint applied in all areas.

step2 Step 2 - Distant background

Distant trees: White mixed with small amounts of Ultramarine Blue, Viridian and Permanent Violet

Tip: Paint lighter areas first leaving the slightly darker/closer trees blank (still red). Paint remaining tree shapes using less white.
Tip: Cover all of the red canvas to eliminate any hint of colour intensity or warmth in the background. Cool and low contrast/dull colours force the background to visually recede.
Step 3 - Foreground/background contrast

Backlit tree foliage: Cadmium Yellow Lemon both unmixed and mixed with Sap Green

Transition between light midground and foreground shadow: Mixtures of Cadmium Yellow Lemon and Sap Green, increasing Sap Green toward the front.

Tip: Visually project the foreground by allowing red canvas to show through. Repeatedly skip little spaces between leaf and grass shapes creating strong colour contrasts and visual vibration effects.

Step 4 - Foreground density

Darker foreground areas: Viridian and mixtures of Viridian with Sap Green, Ultramarine Blue and/or Indigo to create the darkest foliage and land masses in the foreground.

Tree trunks and branches: Ultramarine Blue mixed with Burnt Umber and/or Burnt Sienna

Tip: Continue to leave bits of unpainted red canvas increasing brightness and visual projection of the foreground.

Step 5 - Foreground detail and contrast

Tree and grass dark/light detail: Add Indigo shadows to tree trunk/branch sections to suggest dimensionality. Using Sap Green and Cadmium Yellow, both straight from the tube and mixed, add lighter leaf clumps over dark foliage masses. Add dashes of Cadmium Yellow as well as Indigo to foreground grass plus a few touches of white for increased brightness contrast.
Tip: Unmixed colours remain true producing the strongest version of whatever their character. colours straight from the tube are therefore most effective in the foreground.

Step 6 - Enhance depth

Foreground darkness: Apply glazes of Ultramarine blue and/or Indigo to strengthen ground shadows.

Background haze: Apply glazes of White, or with a little Ultramarine Blue added, over distant trees thus dimming the background and softening any line separations between horizon and sky.

Tip: Glazing works ONLY over paint that is dry to the touch.

Make sure to check out this new book all about the power of colour by Caroline Jasper…
No one ever learned to ride a bike by reading an instruction manual. Art similarly is not 'by the book'. In coming to terms with colour, artists must bridge the gap between wheel colour (theory) and real colour (actual pigments). Perceiving colour in life, reacting to it in a certain context, then finding a way to respond to it with colour material is an indefinably personal process. This book is a comprehensive artists’ resource for finding your own way with colour.

“By the end you'll be equipped with all you need to choose a palette to best express your artistic vision.”
- Artist’s Magazine

“…the first colour theory book I read that didn't make me feel like a complete idiot! I highly recommend it!”

“…wealth of information
- for artists seeking the perfect guide to color and its many theories, attributes and
-The Avenue News

“This finest in-depth color theory manual for public libraries is highly recommended”
-Library Journal

Watson-Guptill Publications, 2005 ISBN# 082304260X

  Coming Soon:
In the near future, Caroline will also be producing an instructional video regarding colour and painting landscape on red ground via Creative Catalyst Productions (