View Full Version : Palm Tree Color Recipe (!)

01-22-2001, 09:00 AM
I realize that this question is highly influenced by background, lighting conditions, etc. but here goes:

Last year for an art class I was required to copy a painting I admired in oil. I, perhaps foolishly chose a watercolor by the painter Homer,- I believe its called "The Storm", and depicts blowing palm trees along a cove with a lighthouse sitting in the distance. He made it look so easy - and beautiful.

Well, for my painting, I used a black and white underpainting and then painted the sky in shades of violet (ultramarine blue mixed with grays, alzarin crimson, and also a touch of viridian green. I used a rag to apply the color over the underpainting. I actually liked the way it came out. The palm trees are a different story, however. I cant seem to come up with a natural looking color mixture..Intitially, the green i used appeared to cool and one dimensional. The painting sat for year and recently I have been tinkering with it..painting over the foliage with cadmium yellow medium mixed with thalo green, a touch of cad. orange and shadowing by mixing alzarin crmison into the body tone. This seems to help, but it still does not appear "correct" to me

Whew! sorry for the long winded message! Now the question: Does anyone out there know of good color mixtures to get natural looking palm tree foliage? thats all!!!



01-22-2001, 01:59 PM
<IMG SRC="http://www.wetcanvas.com/Critiques/lib/22-Jan-2001/palm.JPG" border=0>

Okay, here goes...


01-22-2001, 09:17 PM
hi vance..about your question on color http://www.wetcanvas.com/ubb/smile.gif mixing the color yoou want takes practice..but may i suggest you try to mix the color you like before putting it to your canvas
the colors you have here really are not bad..but, you have two colors for the same type of tree in the same lighting condition..if i scroll the image on my monitor so i only see the tall tree top, it looks alright...and if i scroll down and see only the trees in the lower part of the painting..they look ok too..
did you just do a redo on the upper tree?? and not the lower ones?? (hard to really see on the monitor) anyway, use a green you like on all of them ..get it done..and---------> start a new painting!!..you have done enough here http://www.wetcanvas.com/ubb/smile.gif get some books from the library if you dont already have some ..and try some simple still-lifes, like a ceramic pot and a few pieces of fruit.. http://www.wetcanvas.com/ubb/biggrin.gif

good luck with it

01-22-2001, 10:41 PM
Thanks Kemshmi,

I should have explained: Only the lower trees have been redone.. I got in the middle of painting over the original color, didnt like what what I was seeing and decided to post on here and see if anyone had any ideas. Neither color looks "right" to me, though, oh well. I think I need more experience : )



01-23-2001, 01:29 AM
Vance, you may want to try to use different colors in those trees along with the greens. There should be some browns at the tips. Some wisps of browns & yellows on the leaves along with the green will give a more natural appearence. I think the lower tree is closer to the actual palm color if realism is what you're going for.


01-23-2001, 08:58 AM
Vance, I don't know if that is the correct name of the painting as I skimmed through my Homer books indices and couldn't find a painting by that name, but then again maybe these books don't include that painting. Anyways, I did see a number of his "palms" in other paintings with stormy themes. You have three different greens in this painting that don't connect. Viridian was a good choice, but I think you should have used viridian instead of thalo for the tree mixtures. My choice, from what I've seen in these Homer paintings, would have been prussian blue and yellow ochre and burnt sienna. I don't think the viridian, which is a clear, fresh green suggests storm unless it is mixed with some alizarin to gray it. But then again, I didn't see the painting and could be wrong. I would use the ideas suggested in this post that you feel might work and use this painting as a learning experience which as it was intended. My guess is the finished painting may look overworked but you have come this far and I'd give it a try at saving it.

01-23-2001, 11:57 AM
Hi Vance, I'm not sure if you have finished this off or not so I thought I would jump in and give you my thoughts. I like the color of the top palm fronds due to the stormy setting but I don't think its the color of the fronds that is giving you the problem. I could live with either of the mixes you have and prob give you a palm type to match it. To answer your question about "How to get natural looking palm foliage" I would suggest the following.
Don't try to finish them with one layer. Work dark to light in as many as four layers. Put your darkest layer on to get your basic shapes, later start to lay in your mid tones. There will be highlights on the lighted areas as well as some darker shadows in the opposite side from the light source. The old growth will turn brownish from the farthest point of the frond and work in toward the tree and the newest growth will be a bright yellowish green. What bothers me are the bases. If they are not finished you might touch them first and then adjust your frond colors. It might be the contrast in values and light source troubling you. Also I get the feeling that the wind is blazing but the straightness of the tree bases do not suggest that the wind is blowing.
Any way I think you have a nice peice going on here and I think you should finish it. Its not as far off as you think. Hope you can find something in my rambling to help. Good luck........Bill

01-23-2001, 01:33 PM
This is going to sound ludicrously weird, but please try it first.

Mix that cad yellow medium with ivory black. In fact, make a whole gradated scale of this on your palette. If you have other yellows in your everyday arsenal, try it with those, too.

You'll find that you can get a beautiful range of lifelike greens, into which you can mix viridian or ultramarine blue or naples yellow or white for certain bright "hits" or variations in hue.

01-23-2001, 02:13 PM
Bill, I didnt find your reply "rambling" at all..In fact, I think youre very perceptive in noticing something that I had failed to look at..In Homer's watercolor, the storm had not yet struck, and the wind appeared to be just kicking up, and his bases were straight..When I did my "copy", I (accidentally, really) ended up with a much stormier looking sky and yet kept my tree trunks, even the thin one, ramrod straight BIG mistake. Thank you for your insight.

I am going to experiment with all of the suggestions I got for color mixing and see what works out - I really appreciate the replys i got.


01-23-2001, 04:44 PM
Windex has a good suggestion. I often get good greens by mixing cad yellow with payne's gray. I also like using sap green, sometimes mixed with cadmium green or, for a nice range of olive greens, sap green mixed with transparent orange.

Barry Katz