‘Greens’ video (new ‘you ask, I answer’ feature) and recent paintings

Rain approaching St Monans. Studio painting.

Recent studio paintings

Had a lovely refreshing walk one day in a gale, and took some photos which the one above was done from.  Below my vantage point there is Pittenweem tidal pool, where there were still some swimmers enjoying the moment.


Kingsbarns beach in February. Studio painting.  (Sold.)

Just down the coast ten minutes from me is Kingsbarns beach, which I’ve discovered is even better than I’d previously realised for this kind of rocky subject.  This was a cold day again, but I was happy with this painting; one of my favourite studio pieces in a while.


Kingsbarns beach in March

Virtually the same spot, a few weeks later, a sunnier day (thought still cold!) and the tide a bit further in with a more lively sea.  It was stunning to be there, hence I was inspired to paint it again when I got home.   I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s a ‘Kingsbarns beach in April’ painting.  Or else May.  Hopefully those will be plein air.


On ‘greens’ – a video

After I asked in my previous blog post about reader questions to be answered on video, I received an email on this familiar subject, and quite apt for the upcoming spring season.  So, ‘Greens’ it is!

You may notice the top painting is mostly subtle shades of ‘grey’.  With any ‘grass’ not being ‘green’, as such.
In the second painting there is a bit of green on/in the rocks.  Seaweed, etc, and this is a slightly less common hue of green among my paintings, being mixed using my second yellow of Winsor Lemon (though any cool, lemony type yellow would do) and Thalo blue (RED shade).  There are areas that utilise Raw Umber with the Thalo, in addition.

The colours in the video seem to my eye not to display quite as they are in reality.  This is inevitable.  Firstly I don’t have very expensive equipment, but even if I did it would then need to be calibrated perfectly, lit perfectly, etc, and even after all efforts might have been made, your own display equipment will still have an influence on the results. It’s worth considering what this tells us about the nature of colour!  Whether or not you see the colours exactly as they appear in reality, or on my own laptop screen, the overall *colour relationships* will have been preserved.  (And who knows if we even percieve each individual colour the same? )
I do touch on this situation – that I believe we should view colours, in general, in terms of their *relativity*, rather than worry about the specific aspects of any particular ‘hue’ in isolation (such as ‘chroma’).  Having used these technical terms, I stress that I steer clear as much as possible from ‘colour theory’ (being a scientific thing to do with light as much as a painter’s pigment issue) in my tuition.
I’m not an expert on colour theory nor pigment, and I don’t think most painters need to be.  Some knowledge helps, but as with all important things in painting, most of it can be picked up organically from observation of the world, the ongoing practice of painting or your own deliberate colour experiments.  Being ignorant may lead to so-called ‘originality’ or distinction as often as being knowledgable – should you aspire to such things.  I know that while a lot of people say they ‘just love colour’ and some artists say their work is ‘all about colour’, to many of us it can be tedious to learn colour theory.  Much of the time, in the way it is taught, it is almost irrelevant.  The biggest issue I’ve always had with it as a tutor of painting is that IT GETS IN THE WAY OF EVERYTHING ELSE!  It can create a huge stumbling block, needless anxiety and far slower development in all the other aspects of learning to paint.  But back to the specific subject of this post; simply ‘green’.

The video is far longer than I’d originally intended (about 30 mins!), but I’ll leave this one as is.  I still haven’t covered everything, in the least, but I hope manage to convey a few useful thougts and some reassurance to people who often are, I think, overly concerned about the whole issue of colour, or concerned with it in an unhelpful way.
One thing I forget to mention is:
I am often asked during tuition or a demonstration how I’ve mixed a particular colour (not uncommonly, a green).
More than once I’ve shown people precisely how I’ve done it on my palette (which is pretty simple) and they’ve gone away and mixed precisely the same colour, from the same brand of paints, only to then not like the colour.  Though they liked it on my palette, or on my painting.  This, I believe, is because it isn’t the actual ‘hue’ that people are liking. They think it is, but this is an illusion.  The truth is we ‘like’ a colour only in the exact context of where we see it used.  A colour creates an effect only in relation to other colours.  This is the point.  The specificness of hue takes the credit, or the blame, for more than it should.   I briefly mention this in the video, so I hope I’ve explained it well enough. It’s a bit tricky to put into words, but I’ll no doubt return to it in future and try to give more clear examples.  Even the quality of the drawing, markmaking or other aspects of the context we are seeing this colour in can influence people to think they ‘like the colour’ being used.

It’s not just colour that we need to view this way, but all other aspects of the painting ecosystem.  Consider individual brush marks (or shapes):  a ‘big’ mark is only big in relation to (or by comparison with) other marks which are smaller.  A ‘soft edge’ is only relatively soft, by comparison with another edge which may be ‘hard’; or more to the point, harder.

A key point I try to get across to anyone who wants to be their own painter, is:  realise that most ‘landscapey’ colours (anything that might be described as a brown, green, grey, bluey-greeny-browny-grey – etc) can be mixed from a huge number of possible colours that you might buy and probably already own.  So you really can stop wanting to buy the exact same colours of other painters that you might admire.

Try out using all the potential combinations of red, yellow & blue triads that you already have.  Discover a combination that you like enough, then practise mixing from them your own version of any colour you see.  You might need at least one or two of the three colours to be fairly ‘earthy’ or muted in nature (as opposed to saturated/bright).  It’s when you mix all three together (to some extent) that you should be able to arrive at ‘greyed’ hues.  Experiment!  And enjoy it!

– Oh, “just one more thing, sir” (good old Columbo) – later that day I did a Zoom demo and used my ‘third blue’, being Cobalt Turquoise, as I sometimes am reminded to do!  This with Raw Umber makes a lovely and much more ‘grassy’ or leaf green, good for spring paintings.   But I stress there’s nothing special about this mix, this colour, this ‘hue’ achieved!  You don’t need it! (it looks like one you can easily mix from what you already own!!)  The point is, it’s just a different green to my others! So it expands the range of greens I can portray.

I’ve not even talked here about the overarching point that *rarely do you need to ‘match’ the colours you see*.   That’ll have to wait for a more general discussion about colour.   You could also see the article linked to from the ‘Materials’ section on my About page (scroll down)   Anyway… Here’s the video on greens!



*SORRY my cursor mysteriously disappears from view once or twice. Plus I’ll make it even bigger next time.*

So, my greens are generally mixed from a base of Raw Umber and my two blues: Thalo/phthalo blue (Red shade) and French Ultramarine.
Into this is often added a touch of one of my reds: Indian Red or Light Red. Or frankly a touch of any ‘grey’ that might be already mixed somewhere on the palette (a mix of all colours).  In other words, there could easily be a touch of all my regular colours in there.   Then there’s occasional use Winsor Lemon and Cobalt Turquoise.  In fact, I’ve started using the turquoise with Raw Umber more often recently, and I this may become a regular thing.

Willow trees near Congresbury. A ‘towards the light’, afternoon painting. Is there a green here? Well, grey-greens, definitely. That’s how it seemed to me at the time. This painting was done just with my triad of Thalo (red shade), Indian Red and Raw Umber.

A final parting comment:  Sometimes I don’t even like my own greens that much!  Certainly not in all situations.
But one thing I’ve learned is that if you want to keep to a limited palette as I do, then there will need to be some compromise.  It’s when you get the whole palette working together that you discover how well it works.  And you’ll learn that if you change one of those colours then the whole ‘team’ may not work as well overall as it did before.  I’ve tried out many alternatives over the years.  For various reasons I come back to my current selection.
I make the point in the video – even if you did love every mix on your palette (for now), the viewer of your work may not. And plenty of people seem to like my greens, so what does it matter if I don’t?
That’s the nature of colour.  When you realise this it can mean you worry much less about it, and then you’ll be able to focus on the many other aspects of painting that matter equally if not more.  Colour is just one of the things that contribute to helping us make our ‘interpretation’ of the world.


Recent plein airs


Farm and Kestrel, near Anstruther. Plein air painting

This farm in inland a couple of miles from Anstruther.  Starting off with pretty good weather, if a bit cold, the beautiful warm afternoon light was touching everthing orange, but it didn’t last long!  After clouding over it got much colder, and when I was 80% done it started raining.  So a hasty pack up and back to the studio, where I completed this one.  I was joined at the scene by a hare, as happened the last time I painted on the edge of a field around here.  There are definitely a lot around.  It gave me a fright, running up to my left side to about ten yards away, where it sat to check me out for a few seconds, before running off up the hedgerow.

The light as it was.

And the light it changed to.

Rain! Painting hastily put inside folder, but almost finished.



Freezing cold in St Monans. Plein air demo painting


The scene at St Monans’ harbour

This painting was a demo for a one-to-one student, and is now sold and to feature as a cover image on a book of poetry by a Taoist shepherd from Wales!  Whilst we worked a couple passed by and we had a jolly chat about how cold it was, yet how nice it still was to be there.  I have a lot of such chats when out plein air painting.

It was a very cold morning, and the painting was approached quite experimentally.  It was a very worthwhile thing, too, as experimenting usually is.  It’s easier sometimes to let go of the unhelpful ‘hope’ or expectation of producing a good result when the conditions are such that from the beginning you know you’re chances are slim.  We chatted a lot about the work, me demonstrating and my student working alongside me, but we weren’t hanging around!

This painting was done with a deliberately ‘out of order’ approach.  To show that, in fact, you can build up a watercolour in a completely different way to the ‘norm’.  We started with the main boat, and put in the background last.  Other bits were added in a very random order.   The background was painted without any pencil guide lines at all, intentionally softened and whacked in very quickly on the basis of “I’ll paint this now and look at it later!”  Although rough I think it had the desired effect as a whole, of giving an impression of the setting while not becoming confused with the foreground.  It was a pretty grey sky and flat light, but the sun (which was out at the beginning) was almost behind us, thus flattening the subject and showing all detail, which did blend the background with the boats, and something needed to be done about that.  The subject and composition has good shapes, and this is usually vital in a situation where light and shade is less than ideal.  I also boosted the tonal contrast in places for stronger counterchange (dark against light and light against dark).


Roome Bay, Crail, March afternoon

This was the first time in a few weeks that it was both mild and not raining, so I got out at last.  Actually it rained at the end, but I’d done 95% of it (as with the farm scene!) so just added literally a few finishing bits at home.  Didn’t get a photo of the scene this time, though I recorded a bit of video (viewable on Instagram)…. Had to get the picture into the folder sharpish on the arrival of the rain.


And finally…..

Peaceful afternoon, Dedham vale


Dedham Hall course

This willow tree painting was from my course last year at Dedham Hall.  This year’s course is coming up – from April 8th – 15th.  I’d be delighted if you’d like to join me in becoming one with the landscape of Dedham vale (and coastal and village locations).  For full details please see my Courses page, HERE.  To book a place please contact Dedham Hall directly; details HERE.


New Beginner’s weekly class

For anyone local to me, I’ve got a 5 week course at the Forgan Arts Centre in Newport-on-Tay, starting April 17th.
There are just two spaces still available, currently.  Full details can be found here:



For next time

I hope you found the feature on greens useful.  It’s not at all exhaustive and even though I’ve also written a bit of extra here on the subject I’ve since thought of even more things I’d say….   I’ve clearly got too much to say, but anyway do ask away if you have questions.  And feel free to leave a suggestion for what I should cover next time.  You can email me if you prefer.

Spring is here, I reckon.   I hope you’ll enjoy it.



Comments On This Post

Marian 9 months ago. Reply

Thank you so much for your blog and your video. Your generosity is very much noted and appreciated! I have 1 question. Your Ken Bromley Thalo Blue is not as harsh and saturated as the Winsor Blue ( red shade) that I have. I rarely use it because it is so intense and completely takes over. I can’t find the Ken Bromley brand anywhere here in the US. Is there another brand (such as Daniel Smith perhaps?) that might more closely approximate the Ken Bromley? By the way, I am loving looking at your painting every day!

    Jem Bowden 9 months ago. Reply

    Hi Marian, and thank you for your appreciation! I’m’very pleased you’re enjoying the painting, too.
    Are you making the judgement about the relative harshness of the thalo/Winsor Blues based on seeing the colour as used in my paintings? (including the one you have?)
    I ask because I used to use the W&N Winsor Blue red shade for years, before finding the Ken Bromley one – which I only use because it is cheaper. I didn’t find them to be very different at all in terms of saturation or harshness or anything else, including (importantly) when mixing with my other colours. Mind you, I don’t think I literally compared them scientifically, side by side. But I think I’d have noticed any difference just in use, if it was much at all. Thalo (which is what the Winsor is) is certainly powerful pigment and colour. But it won’t take over if you just use a very small amount of it. I find I’m adding a very small amount to a larger amount of Raw Umber for my greens, for example. I’m afraid I don’t know if D Smith does a similar colour, and in fact I don’t know about any other brands either. I think the KB was the first alternative I tried to the W&N Winsor Blue.
    Another thing re using the colour: In most cases for blue skies I add just a (very, very) tiny amount of either of my two reds to it, to grey it down very slightly. That’s if it’s a ‘towards the light’ view. If just a very light tone is used I sometimes use it completely unmixed and find it to be fine. Maybe it’s partly getting used to seeing the hue, if you’re quite new to it.
    Oh – another thought – in fact I do still have a (almost gone!) tube on the go of Winsor Blue red shade, and I occasionally top up the relevant space on my palette with it instead of the KB thalo. Literally add it to the pile. i don’t think I ever notice any difference between them.
    Hope this is helpful! Cheers

Caroline Dumuys 9 months ago. Reply

Thank you very much, Jem, for this long post which answers my query about green (and surely that of many others). What a privilege to express wishes and to have the corresponding advice in the blog with a video ! It’s a lot of work and it’s very generous of you.
And now in addition, I know the 3 colors with which my “St Monans mill” was made 🙂
It really makes me want to practice with a reduced palette. This is surely a good way to improve on tonal values too.
In all your posts, I greatly appreciate having the photo of the landscape you had in front of you and the watercolor below. We realize the small subtle differences you made from the real colors and the power of suggestion of your touch. We have access to the choices you made, we can see first-hand the talent of the artist!
And the little anecdotes make the process so alive, it’s a true walk in the landscape.
I also particularly appreciate “Rain approaching St Monans”.
Best regards

Joe 9 months ago. Reply

Hi Jem, I’ve now watched the video and found it really very useful. I do like the idea of a “painting ecosystem” where all the parts relate to each other. Makes a lot of sense. Now, even though I understand what you said about how colours can be perceived differently depending on the device on which we view a painting, when I tried my W&N raw umber it did seem a lot less ‘redish’ than the one you used. Do you use the same brand (I know a while ago you mentioned you used the Ken Bromley Burnt Sienna as I think you said it had a richer colour than others). I also know that different manufacturers can use different pigments in what they call the same colour as other makers. So although it is probably not that important I was just curious what brand you use. Thanks

    Jem Bowden 9 months ago. Reply

    Hi Joe,
    I use the W & N Raw Umber. (all my materials info is on my About page, I think.) The Thalo is Ken Bromley. I can’t find any substitute for the R U. No other brand or pigment is the same. The colours I mixed on the paper/palette on the video look quite different on the camera, sadly, to reality, so I would ignore that – it did look redder on the camera. My photos show the reality a lot better, in general. (Not my phone camera on Instagram, though, which is really rubbish and loses all subtlety in colours, greys everything out, loses subtle tonal changes too – I hate it!!!) As I think I said in the video or wrote on the blog, most brands’ Raw Sienna is fairly close to RU by W&N. In terms of HUE, but not in terms of other characteristics. Hence have not found any substitute for it, cheaper or otherwise. Incidentally, on slight tangent, the Raw SIENNA of W&N is very distinct from the RS of any other brand. Because they do use a different pigment for it than most of the others. One significant trait of the W&N RS is that a whole tube can disappear very quickly. It really isn’t a strong/intense pigment, though it is a preferable HUE to all other brands in most people’s view (those people not wanting something that looks like Raw Umber! Another not very good trait of the W&N RS is it dries hard very quickly. In fact this I think was how I ended up using W&N R Umber instead of R Sienna. Can’t afford it…. Now when I see it it almost blinds me with brightness!! (joking). I don’t think I ever mentioned using the Ken Bromley Burnt Sienna, as I don’t use BS and haven’t since I was very young. I think I probably mentioned that I’d tried the KB RAW Sienna. It wasn’t great. I havne’t liked a RS is by any brand. Most seened quite opaque, for one thing…. which at least the W&N one isn’t!… Or they didn’t get along well with some other pigment/s on my palette. Cheers

Elizabeth Ward 9 months ago. Reply

Thank you so much Jem for your clear and very helpful ‘greens’ video. I always love to see and study your beautiful paintings. Your skies are amazing!
As for the greens, I do mix mine so the video was really interesting. Using a test strip helps me a lot.
What I see and like in your paintings is the impact of values/tones relative to each other. I think this is because by contrast to your strong darks e.g. in trees etc, the horizontal planes are kept mostly fairly light in value/tone. I can see I probably make those greens a little stronger in tone than I need. Comes from painting in oil and acrylic! You have given me something to think about and experiment with re mixing the greens, their tones relative to each other, and probably even reducing the colour intensity a bit more than I do. The tones definitely do the work!

    Jem Bowden 9 months ago. Reply

    Thanks, Elizabeth, for your interesting thoughts, and appreciations. I do enhance difference a lot of the time, in the way that you mention (as well as in other ways), if I understand you correctly.
    That is, deliberately lightening some of the mid **tones*** where sunlight is striking (eg on the surface of fields) and also occasionally darkening some of the darks, thus basically reducing the overall amount of mid-tone in a painting. This is because it is actually impossible to convey the full range of tonal values that reality gives us on a sheet of lit paper with pigment. So doing this enables (so I find, in my observation of other people’s work, for a start) a better interpretation of what I perceive in the case of bright sunlight (and some other atmospheric effects, such as when there is dampness on the ground).

    ***and this means ‘value’ or ‘tonal value’ – I’m not certain but I think in the US they say ‘value’ virtually always, whereas in the UK – when I was growing up at least – we used the word tone to mean the precise same thing as value. I don’t think I ever heard a school or college teacher use the word ‘value’ at all! Confusing, I know, considering the word tone has a distinctly different/additional meaning as a noun in oil and opaque media!….)

    Also, I do certainly use a bit of artistic licence to enhance counterchange in a subject.
    But often even before that, I’ve actually chosen a subject because of (partly) the counterchange I’m observing. So no doubt it is a feature of my work.

    I hope this makes some sense.! All the best, Jem

Olga Hammock 9 months ago. Reply

Extemely helpful, Jem, as I find greens very difficult and am never sure about colour mixing. This opens out so many more possibilities. I am excited about trying them out. I love the painting of Rain approcahing St Monans. Wow!

    Jem Bowden 9 months ago. Reply

    Thanks, Olga. That sounds great, and I’m very pleased to hear it.

Zdenko 9 months ago. Reply

Hi Jem,

lovely paintings and great video! Very well prepared and also very understandable. Thx for that.

    Jem Bowden 9 months ago. Reply

    Thanks Zdenko; I’m glad you enjoyed it.

Annie 9 months ago. Reply

Jem: Greetings from Atlanta, USA. I found you by great fortune in the Jackson Art site article. I loved this video and like your painting style, particularly your trees. I never thought painting landscapes interested me, but now you have me so inspired! A new world has opened up. I am looking forward to more videos. Thank you.

    Jem Bowden 9 months ago. Reply

    Thanks, Annie. That’s a very interesting story! Quite an unusual pathway, perhaps. Very glad you feel inspired and nice to hear. All the best

Joe 9 months ago. Reply

Hi Jem
I did a few ink sketches and one or two plein air which didn’t work out terribly well but good learning experiences. Glad to hear that you will be on Patreon I’ll certainly be supporting you when you do. Cheers.

    Jem Bowden 9 months ago. Reply

    Cheers Joe. Glad to hear you’re still working on it all.

David 9 months ago. Reply

Hi Jem, sorry for the repetition! Anyway, found yourvide0 very helpful in demystifying your palette. Great lesson in using a limited palette. Interesting how painters choose their base colour, raw sienna, yellow ochre, or raw umber, not a colour i come across very often in painters palettes. Did a short course om mixing greens with Paul Talbot Greaves. Pretty strident when it comes to greens and generally modifies Sap or Hookers convenience greens. He shares your fearless approach to thick mixes. Hope you keep the videos coming! BTW di i say how much i liked Rain approaching St.Monans

    Jem Bowden 9 months ago. Reply

    Thanks, David. Repetition much appreciated! I’m surprised you’ve not come across the use of those colours much, certainly by landscape painters. R Umber is the least popular. But in many brands, their R Sienna is very like the R Umber of W&N. But in explaining the choice of colour there’s so much more to say… It’s all about the group of colours as a WHOLE. There will be compromise and prioritisation, and especially if you want a limited number.

Chris 9 months ago. Reply

Thanks for the great video on greens, very helpful. I am so impressed by your rocks, simple but so powerful. I enjoy following your painting journey from NZ.

    Jem Bowden 9 months ago. Reply

    Thanks very much, Chris. Glad you approve of the rocks, which I’ve still not been painting long at all.

David 9 months ago. Reply

Rain approaching St Monans. Wonderful!

    Jem Bowden 9 months ago. Reply

    Thanks again! A bit different that one.

David 9 months ago. Reply

Wonderful Jem, wonderful paintings and a wonderful discourse on greens! Lapping it up. Thanks v much.

    Jem Bowden 9 months ago. Reply

    Thanks v much, David; very glad you approve.

Manols 9 months ago. Reply

Excellent video, thanks. Lots to think about now regarding colour relationdhips, restricted palettes, variation of shapes and need to unify colours.

    Jem Bowden 9 months ago. Reply

    Thanks, Manola. There are more things I wish I’d said now!…

June Alexander 9 months ago. Reply

Hi that 30 minute video really explained the use of tones using base colours. Thank you.

    Jem Bowden 9 months ago. Reply

    Thank you, June – Nice to hear from you!

Linda Leatham 9 months ago. Reply

Enjoyed your greens video. Thank you very much you are extremely generous with your knowledge
I am going to practice greens tonight

    Jem Bowden 9 months ago. Reply

    Thank you, Linda. Glad you enjoyed the video.

David Finch 9 months ago. Reply

Thanks Jim,
I’ve just signed up for your blog and have been really encouraged to read/watch your latest. I particularly enjoy your loose style – an area of development for me. I got started in earnest during covid and have developed basic skills following Maria Raczynska ( patreon) and Jane Blundell. I’m off to Australia for 4 months in 4 weeks time and intend to follow from a distance. Thank you for sharing in this way. Hopefully in the Autumn there’ll be some in person opportunities to learn/experiment more.



    Jem Bowden 9 months ago. Reply

    Thanks, David!

Joe 9 months ago. Reply

Nice blog and the video on greens will be interesting to watch. And as it was St Patrick’s day/weekend very appropriate colour for me here in Ireland. I’m just back from 7 weeks travelling around Spain in the campervan, not a lot of green in the south but more in the northern areas! And now home to wet and windy and green all around. Cheers.

    Jem Bowden 9 months ago. Reply

    Thanks, Joe. Did you do some paintings on your travels? By the way, your idea re Patreon is probably going to happen. Cheers

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