This morning we took a hike at the Seal Bay Nature Park. The trails meander through a beautiful second growth forest (I estimate about 70 years) to a rocky beach inhabited by bald eagles and herons. Along the way we saw pileated woodpeckers and western tanagers. (images not ours)
However, the predominant color is green. Of course not just one green, but multitudes of hues. It got me to thinking how many shades of green could there be? As an artist I know that I can mix a variety of blues and yellows to get a seemingly endless number of greens. In fact many artists will tell you to mix lots of the green you want before you begin because you will never duplicate it if you run out in the middle of your painting. (At least that is my experience.) According to Wikipedia, green occupies the color spectrum between 495 and 570 nanometers. If your eyes can distinguish a nanometer difference in hue that would mean you could see 75 greens. Tests have demonstrated that some people (yes, we each have different abilities) can see far more hues of colors than others. Each of the greens in this chart is unique, but very few people can see the differences. Can you?
When one begins to discuss shades you are adding either black or white to a green hue and the number of variations increases accordingly. We are talking millions of possible greens. Walking through a lush forest as we did this morning my senses are overwhelmed by the greens.
How can I possibly represent that in a painting? We don’t really have to paint all the hues of green. Context matters. A little red adds much to the green: like my hat, the cedar trails, and red leaves. A lighter shade of green next to a darker one creates a contrast that our eyes and brain interpret with many hues. One artist I read some time ago recommended using green as little as possible in a painting. As I recall that painter felt it had no life and made the work boring. How could you possibly paint the forest without green?