Green, Malachite, etc.

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Green, Malachite, etc.

From Virgil Elliott

Published before 2005

Richard wrote:

In any case, I am quite ready to look at other issues and am wondering if I might elict a few comments from the group about something more mundame and practical, namely, green.

I have alwsys found green to be a rather troublesome color as it comes out of the tube. As far as I can tell, the old masters has at their disposal very few green pigments - primarily verdegris which has nasty interactions with other pigments, malachite which doesn't work as well in oil as in tempera, and terra verte which is a rather weak color reasonably good for scumbling. Terra verte is sill readily available, but I have never seen a commercially perpared verdegris or malachite. The modern greens phthalo, viridian and so forth have never pleased me, either for mixing or for basic green.

My guess is that a better traditional approach to green was simply to mix a blue like ultramarine with various yellow and brown earths. Any comment? Do others find prepared greens as problematic? and does anyone know of a commeercially prepared malachite?



I recently did some testing of malachite for George O'Hanlon, proprietor of Natural Pigments, in the development of his Rublev line of historic oil paints. I also used a bit of it in a painting I did using mostly Rublev oil paints, along with other historic pigments such as cinnabar, azurite, lazurite, and, of course, white lead. Contact George if you're interested in working with oil paints that are more like those used in centuries past than modern oil paints. Natural Pigments is his company name. He has a web site.

Green is a color that must be used with discipline and with a thorough understanding of the psychological effects of color, in order to use it effectively in a painting. Hospital walls are not painted green, because it can cause nausea. Test this for yourself if you doubt it, by watching the movie, "The Exorcist" in a large-screen theatre. In particular, the scenes in which the possessed little girl spews green goo from her mouth.

Green generally works best when muted to a fairly low chroma range, or limited to small accents, which can be employed at higher chroma in colorful paintings with a dominant hue other than green. Too much green in a painting, especially too much of a too-strong green, can tend to "turn off" the viewer. There are ways to get by with using these, but it requires expert orchestration of the overall color scheme in order to create a masterly, harmonious composition that avoids the nausea response.

Greens mixed from yellows and black are easier to harmonize with other colors than are the stronger-chroma tubed greens, but the latter are useful in mixtures with other colors, and in some situations as accents of higher chroma.

Virgil Elliott