Color Play: Brown

You would think that this time of year would be about green. But it’s not. It’s still so very brown here in upstate New York. Sure, we’ve had a few green shoots and buds, but the palette is overwhelmingly somber. I couldn’t bring myself to focus on any particular subject today, so I went outside and embraced brown in all its muted, worn-out, post-winter shades. The result is as much a useful lesson in nature’s variety as it is in color mixing.  

Tips and Techniques– You can make a wonderful variety of browns with just a few colors in your paint palette. My go-to favorites for dark browns and smoky grays are burnt sienna with ultramarine blue and burnt umber with ultramarine. I also like the subtlety of burnt sienna and cobalt blue. You can get some lovely warm browns with burnt sienna or burnt umber with alizarin crimson or quin gold. I also have both raw sienna and yellow ochre in my paint box. Although they seem very similar, yellow ochre leans yellow, while raw sienna leans brown, resulting in shades of green or gray when mixed with blues. If like me you are waiting for green, try some color play of your own.

10 Comments on “Color Play: Brown

  1. Great idea! Things are pretty much the same in the Toronto area as you.

  2. You magically make brown look so colorful! Great post with tips on making browns. Thank you

    • I do like working with brown, Denise. There is so much variety. Truthfully, I find it easier to mix than green…but I do look forward to getting to practice greens soon!

  3. Lovely, as always, but let us not forget the vibrant yellow burst of forsythia brightening our lives in this grim season twixt winter and full-blown spring…

    • Absolutely Chris…alas, we don’t have any on our property. I’ve only seen a few bright bushes, but I’m not going far, so I haven’t seen it much this year.

  4. thank you for sharing this. I love the mixes that are possible with your palette.

    • Thanks Stacey. I love how many combinations you can get with just a few colors. I didn’t even explore basic red, blue, yellow mixes. So many possibilities!

  5. Make the best of it! I love seeing the phoebe there – they do have a particular shade of gray/brown and I’m sure you nailed it. And the junco – yes, a little purple there! The corn stubble – a favorite color. But they all are – this is actually quite mesmerizing. I could delve into a book of these and dream for days. I love it, Jean. 🙂

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