Friday, 7 February 2014

Tasty Tips on Tackling Leaves

Ah now, have you ever come across a really good tip and held onto it like a precious, warm blanket? Me too and I was really delighted that my recent post Tip Top and Top Tips came in handy for so many of you. The blog had so much traffic in one day, I thought the poor darling would need a lie down in a quiet, dark room. Of course, I am not reinventing the wheel here as many of the techniques and methods have all been done before and shared around, but it's nice to share the love.

So, onto the leaves. Tackling larger leaves like those of the bramble is actually quite nice, as you don't have to paint the whole thing at once. Leaves that have a really obvious mid-rib can be made into a game of two halves, with each side being painted separately.

Firstly,I apply a light 'tea wash' of a number of pale green washes To get the lightest tones in place and get a good foundation of colour that will glow from beneath the subsequent layers. Layering really is what it is all about with this kind of painting, and some paintings will have may layers of delicate washes, all melding together to create a glowing finish. The idea, is to get a harmonious blend of all the washes applied, not to cover them.

Laying on the first washes.
A mix of Indanthrene Blue and lemon Yellow.
The leaf on the left has a 'tea wash' of very pale spring green.

The leaf on the right has a second wash that also maps out the veining.
Adding a bit more blue to the spring green, strengthens the mix.
Light red was added for the 'rust' spots
All pencil marks can now be rubbed out. 

To do this, I wet an area of one side of the leaf and wait for the sheen of water to settle a bit before applying the paint and moving it about to achieve a nice, graded wash. Before it dries too much I can drop in another colour and let the colours 'bleed' into each other. Once this is dry, I can re-wet some areas and drop in more colour to strengthen the areas of light and shade. Always remembering not to apply too much where the light hits the leaf. At this stage, I map out the main veins using a fresh green mix and, once dry rub out any pencil marks. 

After the veins are mapped out, more washes give form to the leaf.
Whilst still wet, the colour is pulled down
to form the texture and pattern of the leaf surface.  

Details can be added wet-on-dry
Further blending of specific colours such as the rusty tones
gives a uniform appearance.

A bit of Cerulean in the pale green mix of Indanthrene and Lemon
gives a lovely bright feel to the palest highlighted areas.
There will be no white paper left for these leaves as they have more of a sheen
than a high shine. 

Colour, tone and shade can be built up with every wash applied, although I try not to overdo the re-wetting technique as this can quickly disturb the paint underneath, making work look overworked and muddy. Working from light to dark through the mid tones, I feel most comfortable in getting the balance of tonal values right. A successful painting achieves as many tonal values as possible with areas that are very light and shadows being as dark as you dare. To get the really dark areas and small details, I apply the paint wet onto dry and use a clean, damp brush to gently blur and blend any hard edges.

Just a few little touches here and there.

A little overworked at the edges but this can be tidied up.
A final light wash of the bright green mix with some Transparent Yellow
applied to the greener areas brings everything together.
The finished leaf and the two in progress.
Nibble holes and blemishes
keep to the natural characteristic of the bramble leaves

I may need to sharpen up a few points,
but this will all be wet-on-dry using a fairly dry brush.
Adding more water at this stage would lift and overwork the layers.

Using these techniques, I can tackle pretty much any leaf in much the same way.   



Janene said...

Thanks for the nice, clear description of your technique! The leaves are looking lovely!

sarasotalady said...

Can you suggest a color substitute for Indanthrene Blue?

Sketchbook Squirrel said...

Indanthrene Blue has the pigment number PB60. Colours often used to substitute include Indigo, but some of these contain black pigments, so do look carefully at the tube before buying

Stacy Pugh said...

I love your tips and am enjoying reading through your posts. They will be extremely helpful while I'm learning to paint. I am a member of your tutorials as well. Please keep sharing your tips. And do believe we all enjoy even more photo steps of your painting. Thanks so much!