This is the photo that I had used as a reference, thanks to ‘missmouse’ who had contributed in the reference image library of wetcanvas.com.
And here is my version of it. I made the rocks a little larger and put the reeds in the background in order that, there is a feel of a secluded niche` for the swan family. I think now though that, a little more earth at the base of the painting would give it more stability. One more step then….
Here is a quick look at how I made this:
The sketch is just a quick outline with no details which I had posted previously (along with the washes for the swans). I was too eager to start on the colors. I think, this allows for more spontainety, with this painting I lost my fear of backgrounds and of making mistakes. Really, even splotches and cauliflowers can be made to look like textures.
For the cygnets, I just wet individual areas and dropped in the same colors that I had used for the swans. For the rocks, I added other colors to the palette, usually I don’t use more than three or four but this time, I decided to break the rule and see if the painting still turns out harmonious. Scminke’s walnut brown is a color I like because it is opaque but still doesn’t look dull compared to the transparents. It is rich and thick and gets darker after drying, so I no longer have the problem I used to have in trying to get the ‘darks’ dark enough. It also has a nice texture. Mixed it with a delft blue that I got as a sample and never used, which is also opaque to get the blacks. Other colors that I used are raw umber, gruen erde (green earth)( which is creamy and light valued and which I still haven’t figured out what best to use it for), green gold and sap green.
Masked a few stems and leaves at the base of the rocks. Then, I dropped in light values of walnut brown, raw umber, sap green, krapprot tief (its a dark bluish red but still very bright) on a wet wash on the thin vertical strip of sunlit rock allowing the colors to blend. The top face of the rocks reflects the sky and looks bluish, so I dropped in weak mixes of pthalo blue and krapprot tief, again on a wet wash. The left portion of the rock is a little hollow and therefore in shadow, so I brushed in walnut brown and delft blue with a bit of sap green in the centre. While that area was still shiny, I sprinkled some salt. Wet the centre rock, and dropped in raw umber, weak mix of pthalo blue and krapprot tief and made streaks with walnuss braun. Soften the edge at the bottom with a damp brush. The rock at the right hand side is mossy and the texture looks spongy. Wet the area and dropped in most of the same colors, also adding green gold. Sprinkled salt evenly while it was still shiny. For the legs, layed in a weak gray wash made with pthalo blue and walnut brown, while it is still wet, moulded the form with a stronger color and after it got completely dry, drybrushed with the stronger color of walnut brown and a little delft blue.
I let the whole painting dry thoroughly and brushed away the salt, which for some reason stuck resolutely and made hard white spots after coming off. This wasn’t the effect I was after, and I layed in deeper colors on the rocks, with just a bit of salt while it was very wet. As it was starting to dry, I stroked in lines with walnut brown and green gold. The other roacks are painted in the same way but in lighter values. The tops are kept bluish and lighter valued than the sides to give them form. Cracks are painted dry with the pre mixed brown black.
I started on the foreground by first wetting the area, and laying in a mix of translucent orange and krapprottief and a small bit of blue. Also painted in some grass shapes in the left corner and some blue green for the water. A little red-orange-brown mix for the dried leaves. Let it dry and removed the masking.
The area beneath the swans is a bit of earth covered with dried leaves, twigs all sorts of things, and I wasn’t sure how to go about it. It is in shadow, so I layed in darker values of the colors that I used before and made some leaf shapes with darker shadows underneath and some twigs. Wet the entire white area of the bg, and layed in pthalo blue. Painted small plants with a mix of pthalo blue and indian yellow.
Painted the dried leaf on the rock with a weak mix of orange and red, then dropped in a little blue and brown and red for the shadows and the vein. Wet the bg again and stroked a few upwards strokes for reeds with blue greens and browns. Worked on the swan a little to get more roundness of form.
I had a lot of fun with this painting, this is the first time that I did rocks and used salt for texture. It got over quickly too, apart from the swans the rest of the painting took only a day, as my son was out most of the time with my mom.