Greens without green

Greens without green

Watercolour painting tips from Barry Herniman

First attempts

When I first took up painting in watercolour I purchased an array of books and art videos and followed them to the letter believing this was the way forward. The colour palette you used was  also ‘fixed’ and always seemed to include all the earth colours and tube greens, so I went along with it and all my paintings were rather flat and stilted.

Barry teaching a plein air workshop on the Stroudwater Canal near Pegasus Art
A bucolic scene on the canal
The resulting painting using a mixture of greens. “I set up on a small barge moored up on the side to get this view!”

A eureka moment

For my greens I used a lot of Viridian , along with a whole plethora of other greens. It’s a lovely colour but one which seemed to dominate my paintings no matter how I modified it. Then I purchased a book by an American artist who mixed all her greens and that for me was an eureka moment. So now in my palette I don’t have a single green, rather mixing my own depending on the scene in front of me.

Lessons in mixing

In my new book ‘Painting mood and atmosphere in watercolour,’ (buy online at Pegasus Art for £12.99) I explain how I mix the myriad of wonderful greens together with painting exercises. I have held painting workshops under the heading ‘green without green’ and after their initial scepticism my students have gone on to produce some really good and exciting work. So the proof of the pudding …!

Just as aside, I have since dropped ALL my earth colours from my palette and now use transparent and semi transparent pigments almost exclusively and am pleased with the results from it.

Step-by-step watercolour scene

Step One
Step Two
Step Three
Step Four

Barry Herniman is an ambassador for Schmincke Watercolours, which we can highly recommend. Shop their range online here.

Find out more about Barry by visiting his website here.

Learn how to paint plein air with Barry Herniman

Book a place on his Travelling Sketchbook Plein Air painting workshops here:

Travelling Sketchbook, 3rd July, 10am – 4pm on the Stroudwater Canal and Attic Studio at Pegasus Art £80.


31st July, 10am – 4pm on the Stroudwater Canal and Attic Studio at Pegasus Art £80.

Attendees on this workshop will have the opportunity to buy a signed copy of Travelling Sketchbook for £20 which normally retails at £35.