Watercolor Class Studies: Leaf and Rock
When ever you are doing a watercolor with detail like the curl on this leaf, be sure that you have a good drawing before you start, it acts like a road map so you don't get too lost.
Once you have the major features of the leaf sketched in, you will want to wet the entire leaf with just water because this first under painting you will want the colors to blend and mix.
Once you paper is wet you will be adding the veins first with a mix of yellow and a touch of sap green. Use enough water with your paint so that it is very pale in value. Remember you need to to work from light to dark in watercolor so this first part will be very light.
I use an angled brush but a round brush will work well here. With the yellow-green on your brush barely touch the tip of the brush to the paper and go over the lines, they should spread out as you paint because of the wet paper. This is what you want it to do.
Once you have the veins in then start dripping or touching in other colors like orange, red or crimson even yellow to the main body of the leaf. Where you have the curl keep a paper towel handy and use mostly red or crimson with lots of water, this should just be a tint. If it is too dark, wipe it out while it is still wet what color is left will probably be about right.
The key here is wet paper and thin paint. Once that is done, let it dry completely before moving on.
When your paper has dried completely you can now start deepening the color and increasing the value. You will be working on dry paper this time so no need to wet it first.
You will be using the same colors as before for the red parts of the leaf but when you are in the shadow areas you will add ultramarine blue. the blue mixed with the red will give a purplish color which is perfect for the shadows.
Start in the areas which will be the darkest part of the leaf, paint in sections so you can avoid leaving hard lines. Lay down some of the darker color (this may not be the final color remember we work in thin layers) and as you move away from the dark area, use water to bleed the color out. What you should end up with is a graded color going from dark to lighter. Let it dry before trying to go over it again or you could be mixing mud.
Don't for get to leave the veins unpainted and tap your brush around them to leave some of the green.
The curl is painted much the same way but the shadows are a bit lighter (see above).
Because we have to wait for things to dry with watercolor we stretched this to another week. The first 2 examples were done on the first week, the next 2 will be what was done in the next class.
I continued to add layers of color to bring up the color and increase the value in the shadows just like I did in the previous demo. I also added a bit of dark blue behind the curl so I could see the contrast between the light of the leaf and what is behind it.
When it was dry, I added details to the upper part of the curl using very light washes to show some texture in the leaf.
I also went around the edges with a darker color and sharpened the edges of the leaf and well as using the dry brush technique - little water and little paint on the brush - and lightly skimming the surface of the paper with my brush to add color and texture to the leaf.
I also used my liner brush to add some suggestions of lines around the veins so they would stand out but I did not outline the veins, more like dots and dashes.
Keeping in mind that this is only a study I really didn't need to do much more to the leaf so this is where I stopped.
One of the things about doing a study like this is you get to find out what works and what doesn't. If I were to do this again for real, I think there are different techniques I would use such as using masking out the veins for instance. Studies are not a waste of time because you can learn so much from them and you can practice techniques you might otherwise be afraid to try if you were working on your "masterpiece".
The Rock was started much the same way as the leaf: I wet the whole area of the rock with clear water then added in very thin washes of color. The colors this time are yellow, touches or orange and sienna. In the shadow areas a gray which was a mix of blue and sienna. You can see my test of the gray along the side and the bottom and note that the actual color may very a little bit, I am looking for the value.
Once you have this under painting done you must let it dry. This is one of the hardest things for the novice watercolor student to learn: Letting the paper dry before adding more layers but it is an important lesson to learn.
Once the paper has dried it is time for the next layer of color, however, you will need to leave the areas that are the lightest value alone because what you have now is that lightest value.
The color AND the value will be the same as before because watercolor is transparent the color you just put on will affect the next layer by making in darker in value and more intense in color.
I used the sienna and yellow with the occasional touch of orange and worked in sections. I put down the color, rinsed my brush, then with the damp brush I went around the edges of the area I painted to soften and blend.
This rock has a lot of texture so don't be afraid to be a bit more patchy with you paint. That doesn't mean making it look like a patchwork quilt, it means not worrying about totally blending areas together or having dark, light or even different color patches, it will add to your rock's character.
The gray for the shadows is the same and the same value as before but now you start defining some of the structures in the shadows by painting around them with this next layer
leaving the previous color as the lighter areas within the shadows.
Your brush is your multi-tool, once you learn how to use it to your best advantage you will be amazed what it can do and studies like this will let you have the freedom to experiment. by tapping with the side or using the thin edge (angle or flat brushes) or the very tip of a round brush, you can create all kinds of texture.
Remember to let things dry before adding more layers and if you want you can use a liner brush to put in the cracks. I think that I will stop here for now, if I have time next class I may do some more but this is only a study so I may just leave it like this and call it good.
Next time I think we will be working on skies and maybe getting started on the final study which will be the desert scene where we will use value to create distance in a landscape. Keep painting and I will see you in class.