Red meets Green (Complementary Colours)

This exercise is specifically designed for some of my art students in spring (using spring willows). It includes parts they can do on their own, and parts that we will do together using video conferencing. You  can try this on your own if you want.  It’s a good idea to do the exercises in Making a Colour Wheel first as a way of warming up and preparing for these exercises. If it isn’t spring, or you don’t have willows nearby, exploring red and green as complementary colours can work with rhubarb leaves and stalks, apples (especially those with red and green colouring), rainbow swiss chard, as well as holly and berries. (If you are interested in doing the video conferencing with me, please let me know.)

Part One – Field Trip to Find Willows (on Your Own)

Materials Needed: Clippers, sketchbook and pencil, vase

Willow bushes grow in wet areas, in ditches, at the edges of fields, sloughs or rivers. Very young bushes are a few branches growing close to the ground while very old willows are like small trees. There are many willow bushes somewhere in between these. Your first assignment is to find some willows, and to look at the colours in the branches very carefully. How many colours do you see? If it’s warm outside, and you feel like it, you could do a quick pencil sketch of the willows – are their lines straight or curvy or both? How do new branches form? What are the buds like? Do you see pussy willows (catkins) or leaves or both? Using  clippers like the ones pictured here, or strong scissors or a knife, collect a few stalks of pussy willows of different colours. Notice which colours draw you. Thank the willow bush, and head home.

When you bring the willows home put the branches in water and you may be able to (eventually) watch them leaf out. If you have branches with catkins on them,  you can watch them form pollen or seeds if you put them in water. If you don’t put them in water, your pussy willows will stay as pussy willows and not develop further.

Part Two – Online with Sue (contact me if you would like to do this part)

  • Together we will explore as many combinations as possible with the reds and greens that you have in your palette. (We may also make green from yellow and blue and see where that takes us.)
  • Let’s take a close look at the willows you have collected. What are the colours that you see? Make a list of the colours. Make up your own descriptive names – for example, olive green is a green that looks like an olive.
  • Let’s use our mixing abilities and see how close we can get to the colours of the willow branches.  (You can paint the willow branches on your own).
  • If we have time and you were able to collect pussy willows,  together we will paint a wet-on-wet watercolour of the pussy willows.

Part Three (On Your Own)

Think about your experience being outside with the willows, noticing their special qualities, bringing them inside and trying to get as close to their colour as you can. Can you paint yourself into your picture of willows and/or pussywillows?  You could paint willows close up or from a distance. Please send me your painting!!

Are there other mediums which lend themselves  to the beauty of willows?

Check out my post on the magic of pussy willows!

Red Complements Green – This is True

  • If you want your green to seem even greener, tuck some red in nearby. The reverse is also true. If you want your red rose to be be super red, make sure some green leaves can be seen.
  • If your green is too bright, and you need to dull it, add a little red. And vice versa.
  • Red and green make brown.
  • Sometimes you don’t have to go exactly opposite on the colour wheel – for example in a painting that has a lot of green, you might add orange with a red tinge.
  • The painting to the right uses lots of red and green, but other colours as well – yellow, aqua, even blue.