Bring on the blue

Years ago I took Phthalo Blue out of my regular palette because I have difficulty with it. It’s a personal thing. Doesn’t mean it’s a bad colour to use — it just means I’m not good with it. I guess I’m more comfortable using the cooler blues like Ultramarine and Cobalt. But sometimes it’s good to switch things around, use a different range of colours and see how things go. I haven’t been entirely happy with my mixed greens either lately so today for my tulip experiments, I used mostly Winsor Yellow and Phthalo Blue (and red of course) but no Sap Green. I was much happier with the results. I always find tulip foliage hard to match. The stems are pale yellowish/green but the rest of the foliage can veer towards the blue. You can see from the little test strip that I did that these greens will be perfect for the spring landscape too.


There’s some Cerulean Blue as well in this one…


…but in this one I just used Phthalo.

21 Comments on “Bring on the blue”

  1. Susan says:

    Just beautiful! I prefer the one with that cerulean blue; however, I love the ‘tangled’ look of the foliage in both.


  2. They’re both amazing…you’re so talented.


  3. Paula says:

    I’m a phthalo blue fan, myself…I love the way it makes deep, dark colors. Love your tulips too!


  4. Linda Daily says:

    We all need as much help as we can get mixing greens! I will give Phtalo blue a try. I never use it. I have always loved this quote by Picasso: “They’ll sell you thousands of greens. Veronese green and emerald green and cadmium green and any sort of green you like; but that particular green, never.”


  5. Carol says:

    I share your experiences with Pthalo blue. It can be so consuming and I think it’s hard to control. I love these paintings, especially being able to compare the different blues. Awesome.


  6. Garry Hamilton says:

    Hi Shari, I usually avoid Pthalo blue too because it is so staining. And never in en plein air. For me the problem is I have to wash my brush with soap before I can use it on a warm colour.

    Sent from my iPad



    • We seem to have a consensus in the comments area Garry. Everyone has tried it we all have difficulties. And so true with the brushes. I have some Escoda Perla white synthetic brushes that are completely stained from this.


  7. Monique says:

    LOVE that middle one.. and thanks for your thoughts..


  8. karen Kubovchick says:

    i was taught and read that ultramarine blue was warm. Am I wrong?


  9. sandidureice says:

    Thankyou for the colour lesson. Both paintings are beautiful.


  10. Sue says:

    There’s a British botanical water colorist, Billy Showell , who mixes in Phthalo blue to make some great greens. Love your tulips Shari.


  11. Always so helpful these hints about your own experience, for someone who has just begun


  12. rebecca says:

    Interesting post, thanks for sharing….I really need to experiment more with mixing instead of premixed secondary colors…


  13. Katy Evans says:

    I always think of ultramarine and cobalt as being cold blues, although I know technically they are warm because they vere towards red on the spectrum and in my head prussian blue and other greenish blues are warm although again technically they are ‘cold’. I’ve always found that confusing, I know I’d rather dive into a greenish blue swimming pool than an ultramarine one….


  14. I love Phthalo Blue, but it must be mixed and tone down most of the time. There’s no brighter blue than that.


  15. Joy Makon says:

    I love Pthalo blue, but it does give a socko punch if used full strength. I often reserve it for deep shadows. I recently added in a new gamboge yellow to my palette, and find that mixing it with ultramarine blue makes a less-intense green that I like for foliage. When I want a yellow-chartreuse hue, I’ll use Hansa Yellow instead.


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