Carole Huber Art Blog
Green, the Devil's Color Green, the Devil's Favorite Color When you first try to paint out of doors, you_'re apt to be overwhelmed by the life buzzing around your ears. If it is summer, the season when most of us first venture out, and you live in a verdant spot like Delaware, you_'re apt to feel awash in green. A notion of the demonic nature of 'green' has been around since the Middle Ages, when poets and preachers often made this association. Think of all the demons you_'ve seen represented in green. Any painter will tell you green is the devil_'s color because it is the hardest to control. It also seems to leave the most permanent stain on any article of clothing. You quickly learn that painters have used many methods to exorcise the evil spirit of green. After you return from your first adventure in the field, you will undoubtedly begin pouring over all the art reproductions you have at hand to see what other painters have done with this seemingly ubiquitous color. That all the leaves on your first tree are not the same color and certainly not a color that comes directly out of one of your paint tubes is a real revelation. When you begin to study paintings, you see that the leaves on trees may not even be green, even in the most faithfully representational landscapes. In the traditional landscape of Italian or Dutch Masters, you might see blue trees in the distance. Among the Impressionists, you will see myriad blues, greens, and yellows, even hints of pink or lavender, as they reach for luminescence. Among the Expressionists, you may see red looping boldly on the side of the tree closest to sunlight. In fact, you will understand that even if you are trying to copy exactly the scene before your eyes, you cannot paint all this verdure merely as shades of green. Green was my first preoccupation when painting 'en plein air' and like St. Anthony, I rolled round the floor of the Universe while green howled mightily and tried to snatch my soul. But if your painting doesn't reflect the epic madness of this struggle, it will be a sad lifeless affair. Now when I go out, I'm prepared to use any weapon in my arsenal to slay the demon, especially various shades of red. The most useful bit of instruction I was ever told was that red and green mixed, make the darkest black, even darker than the black that comes pure from the tube. If you want to make green dance to your tune, slap some red beneath it, let it harass it around the edges, bleed through, or drip a gaping wound. But, of course, green is not the only problem that the 'plein air' painter must address. The next hardest thing is what to put in and what to leave out.