Green foundation in figure oil painting

After using green foundation technique for pastel portrait drawing, I wanted to try it with oil paint. Cuong Nguyen has 3 videos for an oil painting portrait.

I tried with his palette using burnt umber, ivory black, yellow oxide and titanium white. However, mine is not as “green” as his on canvas. Mine was more like regular grey shades. So for my male torso figure painting, I glazed a layer of sap green in order to make it “green”. From there I started to add warm color into the skin. Well although I didn’t have the luxury of time to sit down and add color one by one, layer by layer as he did in the video, I still enjoyed the benefit of a green foundation. As shown in the picture below, it made the skin tone painting so easy to identify during the process.

After I finished this male torso painting I finally figured out what was going on. I made a little swatch here to explain.

Green foundation swatch example

Row A. The green shades can be mixed by ivory black, yellow oxide and titanium white only. Burnt umber will reduce the green tint as greying the color (Row B). However, if there is not enough yellow oxide, the color will be more like regular cool grey as Row A1. So every time you add titanium white, you also need to add more yellow oxide in there to maintain the greenish tint.

Row C shows the results of mixing only burnt umber, yellow oxide and titanium white. All blue tint comes from ivory black.

I switch the yellow oxide to cadmium yellow pale hue for an experiment. As in Row D, mixing only ivory black, cadmium yellow pale and titanium white can create more saturated and vibrant green tone. Again, if more white is added, then more yellow is needed. Here burnt umber is more useful as greying color as shown in Row E. It is very close to Row A.

In conclusion, for a greenish underpainting, only 3 colors are necessary. Ivory black, yellow oxide and titanium white. If you want more flexibility then you can use the combination of ivory black, cadmium yellow, burnt umber and titanium white. These four colors can create more green to grey shades as needed.

Hope you would find this green swatch helpful. O(∩_∩)O

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My paintings are an outlet to express the imagination I have inside my head that I can not put into words. After trying many mediums, I always find myself coming back to paint and brushes. In my current artistic practice, I use oil paint and mainly create portraits of mythical creatures and animals transfixed in the shifting colours of seascapes and landscapes. There is a natural spirit and magic to these creatures and their energy draws me in. Choosing to paint these creatures as real living wildlife rather than abstractions, I use bold and vivid colours to express the imaginary intertwined with reality, finding magic between the seams. Using a saturated colour palette, I create bold and striking imagery, contrasted between foreground and background, subject and landscape, and light and darkness. Weaving their bodies and the surface of the landscape into each other through organic forms and flowing brush strokes, I find beauty, strength and innocence in these creatures that reflect my inner world.

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