How Do I Mix Colors for Fall Aspen Foliage in Shadow?

"Autumn in Bloom" Oil on Linen Canvas 14x11
“Autumn in Bloom”
Oil on Linen Canvas

In order to make the center of interest aspen stand out, I made its foliage the brightest, and this meant that the foliage of the other aspens had to be dulled down a little, or put partially in shadow. I hate using the word “dull” or “gray” when it applies to yellow aspen leaves, so how do I keep them bright and clean while dulling them? First I take a color I use in the bright yellows, for instance cadmium yellow medium, and add touches of the other two primaries – in this case, alizarin crimson for the red, and either cerulean or cobalt blue for the blue. Using touches of the last two primaries darkens the yellow while keeping it clear and doesn’t muddy it. (Click on the image to enlarge it).

Notice that I left something out...
Notice that I left something out…

When I dull down the aspen foliage, notice that I didn’t use any white! I want to keep it in shadow. If it gets too dark, I add more yellow. Some people seem to stick white in everything, thereby cooling the mixture and sometimes making it chalky looking. Use as little white as possible!

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“Autumn in Bloom” will be on display at the Panhandle-Plains Invitational Western Art Show and Sale at the Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum in Canyon, TX, from March 7th – 28th, 2015.