Using Red

August 16, 2007 at 3:11 pm 2 comments

Red Hills “Red Hills”, 2007, 14×11″. See more California landscapes.

(See my previous post for a discussion of the two red colors I use in my paintings: alizarin crimson and cadmium red.)

When I was in New England, I used alizarin crimson as my background color for my landscape paintings. It seemed appropriate for the New England landscape, with its cool mauve-blue skies and earthy red undertones.

When I moved back to California and began painting the California hills, cool alizarin no longer seemed like such a good choice. The light here is warm, even brassy, and the land has a hot, almost scorched feel. At first I tried using a bright orange color as my background, but I found I was fighting against it rather than with it. Maybe it was just a little TOO brassy. So I turned to cadmium red, and immediately it felt right. It has the warmer tone appropriate for my California landscape paintings, but still retains the general “redness” that give my paintings their distinctive quality.

I’m still using alizarin crimson for the background of the November Sun series. These paintings are based on the New England landscape, so they require the cooler red.

November Sun 12 “November Sun 12″, 2007, 16×20”. See more November Sun paintings.

Of course, I use red for more than just the background of my paintings. I don’t use red for my pointillist dots – they would just disappear against the background! Instead I mix it with white, yellow, and blue to make some truly luscious colors which stand out nicely against the background.

Cadmium red mixes with yellow to make an orange that isn’t too saturated. Mixed with white it creates some fantastic warm pinks. Adding just a little yellow to the pink yields some beautiful salmon and apricot hues. Mixing cadmium red with blue makes a dull brownish violet useful for offsetting brighter colors in the painting.

Alizarin crimson mixed with blue makes a wide range of useful shades, from the most delicate pale violet to a deep almost-black purple. Alizarin mixed with yellow creates some very interesting terra-cotta colors.

Warm Field - detail “Warm Field” detail, 2005.

For examples of all of these colors, see my paintings.


Entry filed under: Color, Painting, Palette, Pointillism.

My Palette: Red My Palette: Blue


  • 1. mongoose1  |  August 17, 2007 at 12:19 pm

    I like your painting, Warm Hills. It’s beautiful

  • 2. barbarajcarter  |  August 17, 2007 at 1:01 pm

    Thanks! I really appreciate hearing from people who enjoy my work. It gives me a little extra boost of energy to keep working.


Barbara J Carter

I'm an artist. I make paintings with dots.

I work in acrylic paint, in a couple of distinct styles: landscapes and abstracts.

Native to California, I've lived elsewhere and only recently returned to my home state. I now live in Los Angeles.

I mostly show my art in outdoor festivals in California. I also occasionally show my work in art galleries or open studio events. You can see an up-to-date list of upcoming shows on my website (click here).

I invite you to sign up to receive my free email newsletter, in which I list my upcoming shows and talk about my latest work. I send it irregularly, a few times a year.

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Why I call my landscapes neo-Pointillist landscape paintings

A bunch of my abstract dot paintings

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