Though I begin this garden scene featuring paper birches and forget-me-nots with a spatter of blue and some pink, green will dominate the motif.
The first layer of green is very bright and cheery, achieved with a mix of lots of lemon yellow and minor amounts of what I call “fake green,” which is a green pigment that’s artificial in appearance, like Winsor Green, Thalo Green or Viridian. This color is added as negative space to the birches, and to the forget-me-not flowers suggested by the blue.
Cobalt now added to the bright green suggests the dull green hue of daffodil foliage. A bit of Raw Umber with lemon yellow added behind the daffodil foliage shape and a couple of tree trunks is the first wash of a tree peony in the background.
Now the palest (midvalue) local color of dark green rhododendron that serves as the backdrop to this view is painted quickly as negative space to the grass, the peony plant, and the birches.
Finally, lots of negative space painting of some midvalue green in front and around the forget-me-nots, and dark value green behind the peony, shrub at left, and even the rhododendron leaves help differentiate the various cultivars in this garden view. When painting green objects like this, varying color temperature, saturation, and value makes all the difference! Start with a bright, pale mix of yellow with a bright pale blue, and then alter elements to change it: Add more (bright) paint for greater saturation (or an opposite color to dull its chroma); more blue or more yellow to change the temperature; and more paint, less water, to create darker value. This will help distinguish one green from another, but experimenting with your pigments is advised. This is further elaborated in my upcoming book, “White! Light! Bright! How to Make Your Backgrounds Support and Enhance Your Watercolor Paintings,” which is now available for pre-order on Amazon.com: