Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Painting invasive plants

I recently attended a workshop by Newfoundland wildflower artist Margaret Walsh Best at the Georgia State Botanical Garden.  The beautiful paintings of Margaret's "Balancing Act: Invasive Alien Plants" exhibition are on display at the State Botanical Garden of Georgia until April 28, 2013.

During the one day workshop Margaret led us through the process of watercolor painting from composition to completion.  She discussed the paintings in her exhibit and what went into the creation of each.  Margaret provided inspiring demonstrations as well as tips for painting and shading berries, leaves and stems.  She  shared color recipes she likes and uses in her own paintings, as well as, techniques for adding a landscaped background to the painting.  

For our workshop paintings we used branches of Nandina domestica, an invasive plant in Georgia which is native to China and Japan.  Nandina is planted for its attractive foliage and fruit, however it soon becomes a nuisance as it quickly grows into a tall ever-widening dense thicket. 

Nandina have alternate tri-pinnately compound leaves. Individual ovate leaflets are 1 to 2 inches long.  The entire leaf is 10 to 20 inches long.  New leaves are reddish bronze, turning green as they mature, and then reddish again in the fall. Panicles of small white flowers at the end of the stem appear in early summer, followed by red fruit that persists through the winter.  The fruit are consumed by birds and other wildlife.  

Our palette included transparent and non-staining pigments: Cobalt Blue, Aureolin Yellow, Quinacridone Gold, Rose Madder, Alizarin Crimson.

We started by painting vibrant larger then life foreground berries.  Painting yellow around an expanded white space for the highlight, adding mid orange red, then finally darker red at edges.  The wet yellows and reds subtly mixed across the berries.  Next we painted the stems, leaving white where the berries attach.  Finally we worked on the leaves.  Nandina leaves have a wonderful mix of green, yellow and red.  Each leaf could be a painting all by itself.  

The workshop wasn't long enough to finish the paintings, but everyone had a great time and were well on their way to developing their paintings.  Just before the workshop ended we did a review and critique of the class paintings.

I finished my painting at home over the next few days.  Adding additional layers to the wet-on-wet background.  The layers of colors mixed on the paper but still give the impression of a landscape.  Glazing add additional color and depth to the painting.  Adding the darkest shadows and final sharper details help the berries stand out.

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