Green is a very difficult colour to work with. I worked on two canvasses yesterday with a lot of green to deal with that gave me a few headaches. It’s difficult to combine with other colours successfully, particularly when it’s the predominant colour, and also the properties of certain green oil paints are difficult to handle. Colours such as Terre Verte have a ‘fugitive’ quality, which means they are incredibly mobile and translucent on the surface of the canvas. It was these issues that gave me all sorts of problems.
I don’t usually use terre verte, or any other green paints, as I prefer to mix my own, but I’d bought a tube as I was seeking a particular green for these two paintings. I’d completed one of them several weeks ago, really struggling with the ‘fugitive’ green paint. Finally I completed it, but when drying out the green background had dried in a strange way. I thought that I would therefore re-paint it when I came to do the accompanying painting. I completed my new painting fairly quickly in the morning, with what I thought were pleasing results, and then started to apply the green to the other one. This was a disaster as the paint underneath reacted badly and it all started peeling away. Fed up, I decided to take this one off the stretcher, and re-stretch some new canvas on it, double prime it and then re-paint the painting afresh later that day as I had the colours all mixed. By teatime, I was ready to go and duly re-painted the original painting. This came out great using a darker, richer green than the previous one, after mixing it myself after using all the terre verte, than the one I had done that morning. This then made me look at this painting differently, and I decided to re-paint the green in this with this new colour and in a flatter way than previously. An hour later this looked much better. So much so that I then had a crisis with the new one I had just done before this, thinking it didn’t now look as good as the other one, and re-painted this to look more like the revised version of my morning painting! (are you keeping up? Believe me I was struggling to know where I was at this time with it all).
Often when I’m painting a point arrives when it feels like the ‘chase is on’- a different part of the brain kicks in and I’m just utterly focussed in trying to reach what seems unreachable. I will have set up the ‘scaffolding’, if you like, with my preparatory drawings and studies, transferring these to the canvas etc, but then, hopefully, you reach this point where you find yourself just having to kick the scaffolding away. So often the painting can appear to be within your grasp but then just slips away again. It can be incredibly exciting but also like you’re walking on a tightrope.
Eventually, with my brain spinning, I managed to get to a position with these paintings where I was pleased with both. I cleaned my brushes, and closed the studio door, exhausted. I went to look at them again the next day. This is a moment always filled with great trepidation. It almost feels like you are returning to the scene of the crime. Hopefully, with some perspective, it is now no longer a part of you and has become a thing that now stands on its own. If this has happened and it can stand up to my careful gaze, I turn it to the wall and think about the next one…