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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 that little tree. Now I will use a good brush for that. Actually I'm going to use a smaller brush. This is the tiny area. And a big mistake that people have when they're, when they're working is they use the tool that's too large for the area they're trying to articulate. And thats just silly you should use a size brush or tool that fits the literal shape and size of the thing you're making. Particularly in traditional work, that's the case. So let me just pull a little bit of violet into the brown.
And now the brown that I'm using is a different brown. This is burnt umber. It's a chocolatey brown. So if you think of milk chocolate, it's sort of like that. Now, what I can do also is use some paper to test. But for now, I'm just using the palette to mix these colors. But it's always good to have something aside to sort of tap on the piece of paper to see what your color is. Okay, so here, I am just going to bleed in a little bit and when I say bleed, I mean, the, the surface of this paper is still a little bit wet. So, when this color hits this paper, it's bleeding, it's spreading out just a little bit.
Especially where this grass is still damp. That's okay, that's the beauty of this medium. You should learn really when you're dealing with color to work with the way that the medium wants to work, instead of fighting it. Watercolor wants to move, it wants to bleed, it wants to create edges, so let it. You know, work with it, don't fight it. if you learn to work with it then you'll really learn to enjoy the medium itself. If you fight it every step of the way, you might as well use a different medium because it's, it's not going to serve you well to work against the natural qualities or characteristics of a medium.
So, you can see here, it's, it's bleeding a little bit at the base. I'll let it do that, and I'll bring that purple kind of color, it's a purple-brown, it's not purely purple, into another area. And I'm wondering if you can tell where I might put it based on, and I'll show you the picture. If you start to look at the photograph I wonder if you can guess where I would consider putting more of that color. If you guessed this area here, you're right because that's where I see a similar tone and color and so I'm going to use a lesser quantity, but a little bit of this purple tone.
In the shadow of the tree, and also a little bit in the foreground where I see a fairly dark shadow, this grass is. And again, that's to give contrast with this neutral color, to keep your eye over here, to move it around. The contrast is coming from both value, which is this is a darker tone, and contrast of complement. You're probably thinking, where's the complementary contrast, this color is a purple-brown, it's not just straight brown. And what's under it is green, so these colors are having a reaction.
And it's waking up this painting to have more vibrancy even in a more neutralized tertiary world. Let me just pop in a little bit more of this color in one more spot over here. And I'll add to this after. I'm not really dealing with the texture of the color I see there yet. I'm just dealing with blocking in bits of color as I see fit. In this case when I say blocking I simply mean creating a shape of color.
A block of color, a section of color. And in composition it's so much better to start with large shapes, than it is to start with little tiny details. It's hard to think about a piece if you just start with all the details. You can't see the whole big picture. And I think, for now, this is just about where we want it to be before we shift to dry media.
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