Another painting from a photo I took. Here, I am looking up into a tall, stately sycamore tree during its summer season.
I did a few things here. First, I tried to use complementary colors for shadows and dark spots on the tree trunk and branches. I used zinc white and a bit of ochre for the trunk, and for the dark spots threw in some violet and white and dark blue, eventually touching up dark areas with black and brighter areas with titanium white. The thin branches are straight black.
Right now my palette is pretty muddy, so I sort of wash the colors left behind with a brush to find the remains of the pure color. I decided to do this as I want to try a stay-wet type of palette to see if that helps me keep my colors cleaner, but I want to use up these colors as I practice.
I am also rinsing my brush out between colors, and drying it, too. Little details like this are not something I think about, and so I am trying to create better habits for keeping my paints clean, whether gouache or watercolor, as it really does make a big difference. For practice, though, my muddy palette will do as I practice techniques.
Now that I feel a bit more accomplished in some of my watercolor skills, I have taken the time to think about a few things. Specifically, what to do next. I think negative space, or negative painting, seems like the next best step. I am not sure why – it just feels right. That is how I painted my two moonlit sycamores. Now it is time to paint their leaves. Below is a photo I took the other day, which is my reference point.
I started out with three primary colors: Cobalt Blue, Cadmium Yellow, and Permanent Rose. First, I wet the paper and then made a few distinct areas for each color. Then I tipped the paper around (it’s mounted on a board) so the colors would blend and bleed. As it is probably only 90# paper, there was buckling and pooling, but decided to just let things happen. After it dried, I drew in the shapes of the leaves, and then worked around the leaves and twigs with a wash of varying strengths that combined Cobalt Blue and Burnt Sienna. The veins were a bit of Hookers, Sap, and Cobalt Green. Altogether, there are multiple layers of washes / glazes – some successful, some not. The final overlaying wash was a mixture of Carbazole Violet, Cobalt and Ultramarine Blues.
This painting has a lot of problems – too tight, too overdone – but the problems also present future solutions, which I hope to visit in the not-too-distant future. I feel like it is moving toward mud, too, which is something I always have to watch out for.
My original “Moonlit Sycamore” is below. I like it a lot – except for the squiggly black lines I put into it. They ruined the painting for me.
So, a second attempt, this time on 12×15 paper rather than 9×12. No squiggles in front of the main trunk. Instead, this new version is much darker, and the squiggly lines don’t exist, but dark lines, to suggest other trees and branches, exist, but not across the main trunk. Here is the new version below.
The scan doesn’t really do it justice – the burnt sienna is a bit less intense in the original.
Both painting were designed to work on negative painting. This is not easy and I expect it takes a lot of practice to do it well. Years ago, I did take a workshop and saw negative painting and masking fluid for the first time. It was quite impressive and looked deceptively easy. I am finding it is not – but it will improve with time! Funny how a scan makes you see a painting so differently . . . flaws are more apparent, as are areas of success.
Night is always mysterious and exciting. The moon overhead – clouds – wind- the creaking of branches – the rustles in the undergrowth. This is what I decided to try, using an old sycamore tree as the subject, and a bit of my imagination.
First step was to decide on colors, and approach. I decided warm undertones for the tree and the sky. I used a bit of Quinacridone gold and Yellow Ochre for a thin wash. From there, successive glazes in Ultramarine Blue, Indrathene Blue, and Carbazole Violet. As things progressed, some Burnt Sienna. You can see the different layers below.
At times I used a hair dryer to dry the layers . . . other times I painted as I held the hair dryer. I used rounds, flats, and finally a rigger brush (for the very first time!) It was okay to use the rigger in the background, but crossing it along the bottom of the tree – I don’t know – I think it detracts from the rest of the tree – hard to say at the moment.