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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:
So now I'm going to grab some color that relates to the sky color that I see, and what I chose before was a kind of blue-green color. I could use more blue-green or I could push it a little further with a vibrant color that's a little less green. It almost has a little more purple in it. And see how that works on top of this. And sometimes, you can test the color to see if it looks good. And in this case, I like it. I may also do a gradation here, so that there is a variation as I already have established of dark to light.
And again, I don't want to completely cover up what's under there. So I'm really trying to rub the color into the surface. And we start to have bands of color. You can see it gets really brown through here. I'm going to grab a slightly lighter tone, and blend that in. So there's still a gradation. And you can still see some of that warm neutral tone underneath. This would be by no means a vibrant piece, but we're adding some more vibrant color, this pure blue.
It's neutralized with white but that's it. It's, it's not a brown, it's not a gray. This is adding a kick to the neutral color that's there. And again I'm going to gradate from darker color to a kind of lighter color, from deeper blue to a whiter blue. I'm going to avoid using white though at this base of, along the landscape line, because the cloud should have that brightest, whitest tonality. I use two fingers to make this color work.
because I'm really just trying to get this surface down. And right along the edge, I want those dark trees to pop a little bit more. So I'm going to take this color. And I'm just going to really press down on the surface, to make sure it's the brightest kind of coloration to make sure the tree is visible. Again, not as bright or as light as the cloud, because the cloud is more important in this edge, the skyline. Then I'll take my finger and I'll do something that may seem odd, I'm going to spin this completely around, upside down, so that I can get to this area more easily.
And I highly recommend that, it doesn't matter how you work, if you can't see something and you know something isn't quite working, spin it around or look at in reverse, flop it. You could do it in Photoshop, you can flop an image. You can pick up an image and look at in the mirror, and you will find your mistake. You will find the thing that just doesn't work because when you mirror something, it never lies. So I recommend doing that, and I also recommend flipping an image over upside down, because suddenly you're not just looking at it as a landscape you've been looking at you know, for a little while.
You're looking at it purely as shades of color and that's just the smart thing to do. So I do it whenever I can and in this case, it's really for practical reasons. Because I can get to this color in this direction more easily. I'm crooking my arm to get to it. So, here you can see I've, I've made a lighter sort of ground. I'm trying to connect it to the color above it. I'm leaving some of that beautiful tertiary color underneath to work with the blue. And the only thing really left to do here is maybe build up the color of the sky with a blue that's, again, a little deeper still.
Than the other two blues. Pick this, and then again, blend it at the top. Now, if I feel it's too dark, I can always use my paper towel to pull some of that color away. Now, this is a great tool for that. It's also a great blending tool. What I also want to do is just pull some of the color that happened because there's board underneath this paper.
I don't like these little stripes of blue, so I'm just going to erase them out. Because it's dry media, I can do that. That's the wonderful part about dry media. If you're using wet media, you cannot just erase. You might be able to pull some of it off but not as easily as with an eraser. So I'm going to do this and then I'll add a little bit of the blue from before. And soon you're near to completion. We have to pop that cloud because, again, we have two voices that have to be addressed and that is the grass in the front, the cloud, and then maybe pop a little bit of attention on that tree.
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