Let me begin by reminding readers that I'm just an ordinary person that enjoys the creative experience and sharing it with others via blogging - I'm not an instructor nor am I an accomplished artist by any stretch of the imagination! However, because I enjoy learning and reading about other artists' art process, I feel the need to do the same. But this and blogging for me, is also self-fulfilling, as it helps me to critique my work and rethink how to approach a painting or project.
watercolor, arches 140lb. cold press
11 1/8" x 7 5/8"
excluding the sky (I also used masking fluid for my signature-later regretted this b/cause I was unable to remove all of it for some odd reason), which would be painted first. I normally work from back to front when painting, but not always. With large objects such as this as the focal point, and since the painting is split almost evenly between sky and tree, I could have masked around the branches and leaves and painted the sky last. It's a matter of personal preference and habit, especially when painting landscapes for me to paint the sky first. Doing so creates a benchmark for my values. In other words, how dark or light I make the sky will predetermine my value scale for the rest of the painting, not to mention get rid of most of that annoying and dreaded 'white paper'! I can always go back however and change the sky to a different value or color if needed (which I did).
After making sure every thing was masked, I painted the sky, beginning at the top using cobalt blue. Working down the paper, I added a little yellow, alizarin crimson, and a touch of cadmium orange.
Next, I removed the masking fluid
using a 'rubber cement' eraser. Left-over masking fluid also works well for lifting, but I don't have enough yet to use, maybe after this project...
Notice I don't have my painting taped down. I wanted to be able to turn the painting around freely while painting. I've gotten used to working with the paper buckling and depending on the weight, brand, size and thickness of the paper, and how much water is used at a time, I can control the buckling enough for it to be manageable.
I painted everything, including the tree limb and branches with a light wash of yellow acrylic, Lemon Yellow Hue. All the other colors used in this painting were watercolors. I could have used a yellow watercolor, but wanted to try acrylic as the first wash to see how well it holds up to subsequent layers and my abuse without lifting from the paper. I took a workshop once where the artist uses cadmium yellow watercolor as the first layer everywhere that yellow will be in the painting because its opaqueness provides a partial barrier for layering. I personally don't use cadmium colors very often, call me paranoid, but I just prefer to use 'safer' paints in my studio, and I often use just a light yellow, like lemon yellow as my first color. That being said, although I have taken a course in color study, I do NOT claim to know color very well, so it's a personal choice.
After the yellow had completely dried (very important when painting with water-based media), I re-applied masking fluid to the leaves and their stems and along the outside edges of the tree limb and branches. Before adding a layer, to test for dryness, I touch the paper with the back of my fingers. If the paper feels the least bit cold to the tough, then it is too wet to add a layer.
Then I painted the tree and its limbs with alizarin crimson and touches of quinacridone gold:
Now comes painting the bark. Honestly, this is where I should practice what I preach, because I used a little of everything (without much pre-planning) trying to get a color I was satisfied with. I think I used both paynes gray and sepia to get the brownish color of the bark, with thalo blue and ultramarine blue added for the darker shades, mixing while paper was barely damp.
lightly, applying clean water with a dampened brush; watching for the glisten of the water to turn barely damp, then painting the shadow areas of the bark pieces using a very light touch of the brush-tip to the paper. Because I like to do this combo of techniques on top of previous layers when trying to achieve texture i.e. bark, is why I opted for acrylic as my first layer. I've seen artists who, to achieve soft edges by truly 'layering', paint over a previously painted dry area, then immediately come back with a clean, barely dampened brush and run it along the edges of the painted area to soften them. Sometimes this works for me but most of the time it doesn't, so I say, do what works. I usually do a combination of several techniques. I think the key is to get in and get out quickly (working on one area at a time), with thorough drying before going back in an area.
Now I can remove the masking fluid from the leaves and their stems. I used quin. gold on the tips of the larger leaves and along the stems using a 'touching' motion with the brush tip.
Painting the leaves was my biggest struggle in this painting. My whole objective was to say loose, and not get caught up in detail, yet I repeatedly found myself trying to paint individual veins and would have to stop and rethink how to portray just the essence of the sunlit leaves. I did end up indicating veins here and there but really tried hard not to obsess over them.