Australian Olive Green | Matisse acrylic paint
Chemical Description: Phthalocyanine green, Diarylide yellow, synthetic Iron oxide & amorphous carbon
Pigment Numbers: PG7 PY83 PR101 PBk7
Lightfastness Rating: ASTM I
Pigment Opacity: Transparent
Paint Opacity: Transparent
Olive Green has been a color that was very much needed by artists for centuries but the artist had to make do with colors that tended to bluer like malachite or very unreliable mixtures of blue and fugitive yellows such as gamboge. Today there is still no reliable single pigment that has this color but artist paint manufacturers are now able to blend the color from permanent pigments.
Artists like the color because it resembles a lot of the colors found in bushland but that is also the reason that many militaries have used the color over the years. There was a time when uniforms were bright colors like blue or red. British soldiers wore red, it is often said, so that blood from wounds would not show on the uniform thus depriving the enemy of the satisfaction of seeing that they had made a hit. It also made it easier for soldiers to know who to shoot at and avoiding shooting their own men, In the 18th century, however, some special units started using drab colors for special operations, and in the 1850’s soldiers in India started dying their uniforms khaki to make them less of a target, but it wasn’t until the 1890’s that protective coloration became an accepted idea amongst the military elites. An artist named Abbott Handerson Thayer had been studying camouflage in nature and he convinced the American authorities to experiment with camouflage patterns during the Spanish-American War. At first he was using grays but later adopted olive green. Thayer’s book on the theory of camouflage was published in 1909 and is the basis of all modern military camouflage theories. Using solid olive green proved to be less effective than the broken colors of modern camouflage, but olive green is retained by some armies including the US for certain situations. The official name for the color in the American Army is “Olive Green 107” usually shortened to OG107.
Australian Olive Green is darker than its american equivalent not because our forests are darker, but because it is more useful for an artist to have a drab forest color that is darker since it is generally better and easier to lighten a color than to darken it. To get a color more like the military olive simply add a little Yellow Oxide to the Australian Olive Green.
Australian Olive Green is best suited to the coastal forests which tend to be greener than the more grayish and more blueish colors of the arid inland. Australia is a vast continent and there are huge expanses of rainforest and wet sclerophyll forests. Sclerophyll are hardy mixtures of forest and savannah very common in Australia but also found in the Mediterranean, California, Chile, and South Africa. Eucalypts and Acacia are typical species. Australian Olive Green is the perfect green for mixing the colors found in these environments. It is worth experimenting with yellows to get just the right color. Yellow Oxide makes a great mid olive color, while mixing with Aureolin makes a richer mid green. Australian Sienna, on the other hand is great for giving the Australian Olive Green an earthy quality in darker leaves, and leaves in shadow. For the darkest shadow greens mix the Australian Olive Green with Transparent Red Oxide. For the soft gray greens of many eucalyptus leaves, Ash Pink, Australian Sky Blue, and Australian Blue Gum each mix with the Australian Olive Green to give beautiful variations on gum tree colors.
A completely different problem that artists sometimes have to solve is iridescence in bird plumage and in butterfly wings. There are many color variations to consider, but Australian Olive Green can be used to create one of the more common ones. There are some birds that have light olive colors, presumably for camouflage, and sometimes there is iridescence present. Experiment with Australian Olive Green in Metallic Bronze and then add whichever other color to get just the right shade. These bronze greens can also be very effective in imaginative and abstract artworks.
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