To start, muddy color is usually a description of color mixing gone wrong. The results being boring grays or browns THAT ARE BLAH. Muddy colors are to be avoided for the most part and a huge mistake.
But, I love mixing muddy color on purpose. I think the muddy base painting makes my final layer colors pop. I like muddy brushstrokes as neutral mysterious shapes in the backgrounds, behind the people. This isn’t strictly mixing colors on opposite sides of the color wheel. It’s about using all the dirty color from the pallet all at once with a wet on wet painting style.
I’ve started calling this mega mud color, the perfect shade of mud. It’s the fun of accidentally creating a deep tonal base of opposite colors that I don’t even try to think up in my head. The best way to get them is to just start applying color. I’m not after weak color, I want saturation. Eventually things will start to lean a certain way. Red, blue, or purple mud will start to dominate. I blend it all together to get rich darks, shades, and shadows that fill my subjects.
I use one brush till the end, mixing color directly on the canvas. Today I finished three different base paintings and didn’t rinse the brush once; I only wiped it with paper towels when needed. I could never mix a particular custom color on purpose and it wouldn’t be as fun anyway. Through the years I’ve learned how to make good mud most of the time. If all I’m getting is bad it’s helpful to let the canvas dry and start again with it later. This is usually a good time to start adding translucent paint colors.
Translucent paint colors are great for working over dried layers that have mismatching high contrast. They tone the whole thing a cohesive color and will look different depending on which colors are underneath them. So it’s a great combination of bringing things together, but also changing each individual color. The translucency also adds depth to the brushstrokes.
Neon color is a great very first color to use on a white canvas. It doesn’t show too much or at all in the final painting, but gives a zing. Especially if while working with the paint you use some dry brushing to pick up excess color and leave some bright spots.
For a long time now I’ve been mixing muddy colors with muddy memories and I like the results.