Sunday, January 19, 2014

Painting a white flower with water droplets

I found painting the white Cherokee Rose particularly challenging.  The flower itself is very simple, five flat white petals surround a central ring of yellow stamens with yellow to brown anthers.  The simple beauty of the flower hid the challenges of painting it: delicate soft shadows, busy background, and several small water droplets.  Making a draft painting helped me find my way through these challenges.

As with the Iris I chose to crop the background close, letting some of the petals continue off the page.  The shadows that define the shape of the petals is very subtle and had a hint of green, which didn't translate well in the watercolor sketch.  Two of the five petals of the draft painting have yellow-green added to their shadows.  I used several light glazes on the petals, which over darkened the shadows.  The background was painted last, some areas show more definition then other areas and distract from the flower.

I used a three color palette of Lemon Yellow, Quinacridone Gold and Phthalocyanine Blue (upper color swatches).  To achieve the shadows I added a small amount of a color mix I learned about in Margaret Walsh Best's class.  Small amounts of this purplish mix can be added to any color to create nice shadows (lower mixed colors).
The other challenge were the water droplets on the petals.  Creating realistic water droplets can be difficult.  The white highlight and dark shadow need to match the direction light is coming from.  The darkest part is just below the water droplet.  The next darkest part is along the top of the droplet above the white highlight that marks the location where the light is reflecting back off of the droplet.  Using a wet mid-range value I painted a crescent.  Then I carefully pulled the paint around the white highlight allowing the color to fade towards the bottom of the droplet.  The dark line along the bottom of the droplet is pulled to forming a shadow.  Finally the top of the droplet and the bottom of the droplet are darkened to give it a three dimensional appearance.  Water droplets come in many shapes, and can have more then one highlight.

For the final painting I started with a wet-in-wet background, with less definition.  The center of the flower was painted next.  Then each petal was painted using the wet-in-wet technique to let the shadows blend evenly.  The water droplets were added to the petals after they were dry.  Finally the shadows were touched up to match the water droplets.  

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Watercolor cards

A while ago I purchased a pack of Strathmore watercolor cards.  I used two of them to create Easter cards.  This year I decided to use a few more to send out post Christmas thank you notes.  Flowers always seem like good candidates for cards, and I have numerous photos of flowers I can use as resources.  I reviewed several photos, and finally selected a purple-blue iris as the resource for the first card.  

Since the size of the finished watercolor will be small, I wanted a closeup of the iris that would fit fill the 5 x 7 card.  I developed a close cropped pencil sketch of the Iris, which I copied to my sketch pad.  I decided on a color palette of Quinacridone Rose and Lemon Yellow and Phthalocyanine Blue.  These pigments provided both the greens and purples I was looking for. 

Before painting the card I did a painting in my sketchbook to test colors and work out what I wanted for the background.  I painted the iris first, one petal at a time.  I wet the parts of the petal that would be purple then dropped in colors to let them mix.  As the petals dried I added darker lines.  Depending on how wet the paper was the new applications of color mixed with the previous colors.  I moved from petal to petal adding darker and darker purples and blues.  Finally added yellow and green to the Iris.  When the petals were dry I came back and added the background.  I used a wet wash and added impressions of leaves.  

I used both the photo and the painting from my sketchbook as references for painting the card.  The Iris on the card is a bluer purple, and the background has a more even wash of yellow-green.  I also was careful to leave white edges on the Iris petals (they got lost in the first painting).  The white edges are important elements that help shape the petals and provide depth.  By leaving the background lighter the Iris stands out more.  

Post painting, I decided to add the logo I use on my business cards (at the right) to the back of the watercolor card.  It didn't take long to put together the draft document to print the logo on the cards.  It did take a while to get the Cannon Pro9000 printer to actually print the logo.  It is a very good printer, but it can be picky about settings.  Once I had it working I went ahead and printed the logo on all the remaining blank cards.