When I first posted the outline of these ferns, a reader, Sharon, suggested in her comment to fill in just the background. I was going to fill in the stems and leaves, but her idea was intriguing. I had thought of using watercolor with a brush, or watercolor pencils, or even just colored pencils. Instead, I thought brush pens (like Tombow, but not Tombow) might work. So, I ordered them from Amazon. Fun to use, and a lot of colors! And a great excuse to buy some art supplies, don’t you think? I rather like the results. Thanks, Sharon!
This morning I decided to do a free form watercolor of the tree ferns I photographed. I didn’t draw in any lines. As you can see, the stem on the left goes nowhere…amazing how you notice things when you see them in a scan!
The main purpose of the exercise was to use a 1/2 inch flat brush for most of the work. To do the fronds, I used the tip, but in reality such is a better way to express palm fronds. Tree ferns have a softer, more rounded shape at the ends of their leaves.
Consequently, I pulled out a small round. If you know the art of sumi-e, I am sure you can figure out how to make the softer, rounder tip of a tree fern. To do it, start with an upright brush and slow squish it down toward the end. That would be for the stem-t0-end-of-leaf. If you want to begin at the end of the leaf, squish the brush and then lift it as you move inward. Doing either produces better results I think.
I also just wanted to work on colors and shapes, try to get some contrast, too. As I painted, I imagined living in a jungle of tree ferns – looking up, sunshine, contrast, sparkles. At 6:30 in the morning, in a rather dark room (with the only light coming in from the eastern window of the studio, and the glow of the computer monitors), it’s always interesting to see what happens – happened – when you see it in the light of day!
This morning I wanted to work on the tree ferns, but for now, the jury is out on what to do. I ordered some watercolor marker / brushes from Amazon, as I don’t have any and the design element seems to warrant more control than a brush. So, I decided to use this photo I took over the weekend of a Toyon – also called Christmas Berry as it shows up Decemberish – for a quick morning paint. Below are the results using my palette with 5 greens (yay! green!) and a 1/2 inch flat brush. I painted directly, no lines.
I took this photo back in 2014, almost exactly to the date. Tree ferns are amazing plants -they have spores and fronds, and get huge. I wonder what it would be like to wander through a forest of these!
Anyway, I decided to scroll through my years of photos and found this one. I liked the pattern repeats and the shapes. A nice graphic quality. So, this is what I began in my sketchbook.
I may add more fronds. I may not. The big question is what I should use to color it. Something that contains itself seems appropriate, like markers, given how sloppy my painting skills are.
Tired of being indoors, I pulled a bunch of stuff out to the side patio – paints, brushes, water, chrome book, water, palette, head phones, ink, pencil, pen. I played a bit and mixed up some greens using yellows and blues, and phthalo green. I don’t like having only phthalo green on my palette, but that is what I had. I like sap green and Hooker’s. I also like Payne’s Grey.
Being outdoors means being cramped on a really small table, so everything was jumbled up. The goal was to just be outdoors and do something. So, I used some photos of trees I have taken over the years.
The first tree was one I took the other morning when out on a shoot with my friend Tom. Here is the photo:
And here is my rendering in line and colors:
And then a photo from April 2015:
And the results – no lines, only the intention to paint light and dark, contrast, whatever:
I’ll tell ya, this last painting was painful! I noticed that most of my colors tend to be pastel – a lot of water, not a lot of paint. I felt like I was beating up my poor brushes trying to get deep colors with more pigment than water. Wetting the colors a bit before might help.
In my opinion, neither painting is especially sophisticated or elegant. I will say that despite its primitive quality, I am pleased with the lineless painting as I did accomplish something.
Does your head feel totally stirred up when you try something alien to your normal ways of doing things? Mine always does and it takes awhile to return to orbit.
This is the third layer of Village Windows, and the last. It couldn’t go much further from here. The big surprise came when I added water to the sky. Soooooo much purple!
And after that, I added more color pencil and more water, and finally more iron gall ink with my dip pen. I kept to my two things – the ink, the layers of pencils. I added colors as I went, just exploring. I felt that it was a good thing to do as this is really the first picture I have ever done with watercolor pencils. I have the Faber-Castell Albrecht Durer ones, with 60 colors.
Dimension is not something I am really good at – perspective. Things get cattywumpus. In fact, per my eye doctor, I have no depth perception at all, and may have never had it in the normal sense that most people have. Even when I was 18 I was told that. Good? Bad? I manage – I don’t wander around banging off the wall!
And here is the final picture. Parts work, parts don’t. Watercolor pencils are really interesting, just as is the iron gall ink. As an experiment in a new media altogether, I rather enjoyed the experience. I did learn a bit in the process, which was the point – how and what to do with watercolor pencils? I couldn’t write a dissertation on it. I can tell you it was a lot of fun, and I know I will revisit them in the future.
Here is yesterday’s first layer of watercolor pencil, now “watercolored”. I tried to follow the lines of the pencil.
Here is the second layer of watercolor pencil, with a little bit more detail. The sky was done with about 4 or 5 colors, layered down with a blue, some white, some grey. The roofs are an orange and a brown and a black.
As you can see, I also colored in the windows and am trying to add texture to the tiled roofs. Some green, too, for the foliage in front. After this, I then added water. Once more, I followed the lines, such in the roofs. The space on the lower right is a bit of a problem. I think it needs something, but have no idea at this point. Maybe a cafe awning so we can a shot of espresso?
As I have never used watercolor pencils for any complete picture, my cunningly brilliant plan is to simply layer color, then use water. As you can see, there is some bleeding. Most interesting to me is the sky – in the center the little bleeds are rather interesting. In the windows, I also did some lifting of color with a dry brush to lighten the glass, as a reflection or to enhance a shadow. The iron gall ink is beginning to blur into the colors.
I have no idea how many layers I will end up with, but I am going to try to do glazes / layers to represent shadow and form. No idea how successful this will be!
Well, I don’t live in an interesting old village, but I think I could quite happily. Suburbia just doesn’t make it when it comes to interesting lines, stones, and such. Macadam and stucco and neatly cropped lawns are my daily world, so I always have to run off someplace else! Not that suburbia doesn’t have its good points, like modern plumbing and electricity, but it’s not that visually exciting.
Okay, so I got our my Faber-Castell watercolor pencils. I have a tin of 60 that I have been meaning to try on a serious level. So, here is the first layer. I used iron gall ink on a dip pen for the lines, and then just a quick scribble of pencils to lay down the basic colors. Next, I will wet the pencils and let it dry. Then, off to work. Bye!
A while back I read an article that a 19th century artist – it may be John Singer Sargent – used wax as a resist in watercolor painting. That was a bit of a surprise as I never thought a “professional” painter would do that. We used crayons and watercolors together in elementary school, and it was a lot of fun. Not having any crayons, I got out a white candle and scribbled away in a palm tree sort of shape. Then I painted, beginning with the yellows and then moving into darker colors. I don’t recall many of the colors I used, but they do include Yellow Ochre, Hooker’s Green, May Green, Payne’s Grey, Ruby Red, Cerulean Blue, Ultramarine Blue. The wax served to keep white spaces white, obviously. And, I actually used negative painting ti create some of the shapes in the fronds and trunk of the tree.
Today has been a day of frustrations. Nothing seems to be going right. Everyone has those days, yeah, I know, but I rather other people have them, not me! But, they do serve a purpose in that they do make you realize … something.
That said, let’s get on to the negative painting scene. It is not easy. I think to create a painting like this, practice and experience play an important part. Practice is what I keep doing. And then I reach a point where I am just irritated beyond measure, and need to break loose. I’ll come back to practice, but by nature, I am a gaudy color lover, and having a monochrome study makes me feel trapped. I wonder if others feel the same way. So, pink daisies, a la the hydrangea, and I am ready to go nuts. Here they are – the first round.
And then the second one from this morning . . .
Some success. And then I did the third layer . . . and had to just mess with it as I was ready to scream. Part of it was just frustration in that I didn’t really like this process at all. Maybe it’s not for me. In the end, just playing with some colors on my palette, some which I just recently got. It was a total color mess – so lines were added. It’s sort of cheery, but it also reminds me of what I cannot do.
The good news, no mud. It’s kind of fun. But I also know what I want to accomplish, and doing this stuff is not going to get me there. The colors are fun, and good practice, but I also know that my impatience and scatterbrained-ness don’t help me, either. Ongoing practice will improve my skills, I hope. So, I keep playing.
A part of me wonders if / when I reach my desired “look” if I will become extremely boring to myself.