Artist at Work: Tertiary Colors
Illustration by John Hersey
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Adding texture to the ground


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Artist at Work: Tertiary Colors

with Mary Jane Begin

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Video: Adding texture to the ground

So what I'll do is take some paper towel. And you can remove color in lots of different ways. In this case, I'm just using a dry paper towel across the surface. And it makes this really cool texture. And another issue, it's something that I like to think about is, when you're dealing with color you can never really fully get away from textures. And if you're working digitally, I think you should try to, infuse texture using a variety of tools.
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Watch the Online Video Course Artist at Work: Tertiary Colors
45m 32s Beginner Feb 14, 2014

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Tertiary colors are the neutral browns and grays that, when over used in a palette, are often referred to as "mud." Though sometimes banished from an artist's palette, they play a crucial role. Tertiary colors give more vibrant hues a chance to shine and play a starring role in compositions with more subtle ideas or moods behind them. Follow along with Mary Jane Begin in this installment of Artist at Work as she explores tertiary color, its best uses, and the creative possibilities available with this palette. She paints a landscape based on a reference photo, and provides tips along the way about establishing a ground, adding texture physically or digitally, building depth, and making your focal points pop.

Mary Jane uses the following materials in this course:

  • Arches 140 lb hot press paper
  • Tube watercolors- Winsor & Newton Cotman brand
  • Paper stumps for blending
  • Pastels- a variety of stick and pencil forms (including Conte pastel pencils)
  • Short, fat, fine-bristle Winsor & Newton #2 and #4 brushes (for scrubbing color off)
  • Sceptre Gold II sable/synthetic blend #3, #6, and #10 brushes
  • Winsor & Newton Cotman brand 25 mm/1 in. flat brush (for washes)

Subject:
Design
Author:
Mary Jane Begin

Adding texture to the ground

So what I'll do is take some paper towel. And you can remove color in lots of different ways. In this case, I'm just using a dry paper towel across the surface. And it makes this really cool texture. And another issue, it's something that I like to think about is, when you're dealing with color you can never really fully get away from textures. And if you're working digitally, I think you should try to, infuse texture using a variety of tools. Like there are a variety of paint brushes I'll show you in a minute, the different shapes and sizes.

But, if you're in Photoshop you should try to play with different tools to create textures because it creates interest, especially when you're layering. If everything is flat and the same, it creates a kind of monotony to the surface. Now that's a texture created purely from just popping this paper towel on the surface. And I'm just trying to pull off color so that the color is lighter in the sky. I still want some of the umber on there. That's the whole point. I want the picture to have a relationship that's based on one binder color, the ground color.

And as I get closer to the base here, or the bottom of the sky, I want it to be a little bit lighter. So I wet the paper towel, and it pulls more of the color off the surface. It's not a precise tool, because it's so large, as you can see. You know, you can also put a little tip on the, on the paper towel to create a kind of finger. And it's more specific where it takes out the color. And you press harder and it pulls out more color. Now I can't forget about my cloud in the sky, which is one of the lightest things in terms of value on the whole piece.

So, I'm going to just get to that in a minute. I'm still thinking about the value of this area down here, which is dark, it's not as dark as the tree but it's quite dark. So I'm going to pull out a little bit more of this and I have to find that cloud again. I might pull a little more color off this sky, so that I don't have to deal with too dark a value for the sky. I want it to be fairly light. Now you might not be able to see this but there is a cloud. I'll channel Bob Ross, a happy little cloud in the sky.

A happy little tree. It's in there somewhere. And I'll have to find it. So, when you're trying to get color off a surface, you know, you might use a different tool. In traditional painting you'd use a different tool than something large and sort of unwieldy as a paper towel or a tissue. So, what I'll use is what's called the scrub brush and it's basically a stiff bristle brush that will pull more color off this surface. And I'll find my cloud, which is right in here. What I want is to make this cloud fairly white, because it's white in the scene.

It's lighter than the value of the sky. And again, this is all still one tertiary color. All that I'm working in here is the ground, as a value. And I haven't put any other colors in this yet, but here's my cloud. And I'll have to pull a fresh piece of paper towel here to blot it further. I'll press the paper towel on top of that wet area, and you can start to see that the cloud is emerging.

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