Finished Painting, mango shoots


       Here is the finished painting; I wet the entire top area and dropped in pthalo blue and magenta. Added some middle ground leaves at the bottom.

finished painting , mango shoots


             Wet the thrushes again, and added shadows (mix of translucent orange, madder red dark and a little pthalo blue). The shadows on the upper bird are a little hard edged and I wet that area again (after it had dried) and blended it more smoothly.

top left of bg       

  I find sap green mixed with walnut brown is a better color for background foliage (top right of bg, with the white gaps left in between). It dries quite dark because walnut brown is quite opaque.



             Here I have started the background near the bottom of the painting, using the greens mixed with walnut brown, wet on dry in one wash.  Wet on wet could get quite tricky in all those tight spots.

background near the bottom


    almost finished foreground

      Here are the initial washes for the thrushes. I wet the paper and dropped in a diluted translucent orange and a bit of indian yellow near the belly. The wings are Pthalo blue and a bit of magenta to get the violet. A damp cotton bud works great for lifting out highlights.

first wash , bird

first wash , bird


Some more foreground leaves

sap green leaves, right  

first washes

extreme left; first washes

Progress on mango leaves painting


        These are the more mature leaves towards the bottom of the painting. Of the colors that I had mentioned, I ended up not using the pthalo green. Sap green is the perfect color for leaves just turned green from orange and a mix of pthalo blue and indian yellow was sufficient for the matured leaves with a little bit of the red or brown for the shadows.

green mango leaves


green leaves , details


        These are the tender leaves towards the top of the painting.

orange new growth , intital wash for green leaves


orange pink new growth

First groups of leaves


¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† I put out a lot of colors for this one. There’s such an amazing array of colors in the leaves. Schminke’s Indian Yellow, Raw Sienna, Green Gold, Hookers green, Pthalo green, Pthalo blue, Ruby Red, Magenta, Krapprot tief (which I found out is Madder Red Dark), Walnut Brown, Raw Umber, Translucent Orange ……whew… Here is the first groups of leaves done by first wetting the leaves and laying in the different colors to blend on the paper and picking out the veins while they are still damp.¬†

base wash - first bunch of leaves


        Finished most of the leaves in this group. Added some shadows with darker colors. The sunlit leaves are quite pale.



                First wash for the second group of leaves.  

base wash 


            Finished them in the next wash. Am not going to paint too many details. 

base wash

Orange headed Thrushes and mango shoots


    The mango trees in our neighbourhood had put out new growth in winter, and I took a couple of shots of this tree last month. The tender new leaves have the most lovely shades of orange, maroon and pink and they have a clean fragrant smell. By now, they have turned a light green and the tree would probably start flowering in a month or two.

mango tree

¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† On Diwali day, I was out admiring the early morning view, when I spotted these birds feeding on the ground searching for insects etc. I hurried to get my camera and snapped them from far as I didn’t want to scare them off. Pretty bad shots in the light of the dawn but with some cropping and adjusting the contrast in Picassa, I got enough of details of the birds to enable me to paint them. I found out that they are called Orange headed thrushes and are secretive birds feeding mostly at dawn or dusk¬†and prefer¬†building their nests in mango trees.¬†



       Here is the composition I made out of the mango tree and the birds:

thrush1mango shoots drawing

Finished painting of pale blue Iris


                               Here is the finished painting:  

finished painting


                          Continuing from the stage where I left off in the previous post, here I have done the first washes for the rest of the flower. The brown at the base of the left hand petal is a strong mix of orange and violet.   

back petals-first washes


                     Deepened the colors in the inner petals and added shadows.

inner petals- deepened colors


                              The leaf is done in one step, with a base wash of yellowish green, and stroking in stripes of darker greens before the first wash dried too much. The first wash of the base of the stem starts with a weak orange at the top, green at the right and yellow and green towards the bottom on a wet area.



                       In the second wash, deepened the colors and added a few details.





                  I wet the complete background with clear water and dropped in a strong mix of ultramarine blue, a bit magenta and a bit of yellow, leaving the left area a little lighter and adding some orange towards the bottom.

first wash- background


¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†After it had dried, the whole painting looked a similar value, and a tad boring ,¬†so I mixed¬†two pudddles one a weak solution of pthalo blue and payne’s grey and another the same mix but much more stronger. This I applied on dry paper using the weaker solution towards the left. ¬†¬†

final iris background


                      Now the background looked fine, but the flower looked on the violet side and after some hesitation, decided to wash the complete flower with a very weak solution of pthalo blue. With this, I lost some of the finer details but on the whole I am happy with the result. Lifted out a few highlights and rubbed out the pencil lines after it had dried.

blue wash

Updates on blue Iris


¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† I have begun painting the Iris and¬†chose Schminke’s pthalo blue, magenta, Indian yellow, translucent orange and ultramarine blue for a start. Wet the lower petal first, and dropped in a very weak solution of blue and magenta with more of the blue in the middle and more of the magenta towards the sides leaving the lower edge very pale. Also dropped in a little yellow at the base of the petal. Started with a few veins with¬†stronger colors as the wash was beginning to dry. If you have a good brush, painting the veins is easier with a number 2 round rather than a 0 round as you run out of paint very quickly with the smaller brush. The upper left petal is painted in the same way leaving a white highlight for the vein at the centre. Used a bit of ultramarine for the veins here.

first washes-iris


              Layed in the first washes for the upper petals in the same way. After the lower petal was completely dry, I wet small areas at the upper left and right hand side, and stroked in stronger violet colors for shadows. The veins at the upper right are of a darker value as they are at the base of the petal. The petal below the lower petal is in front of leaves and so there is a bit of grayish green showing through which I painted by adding a little yellow to the violet mix.

upper petals - iris


             Dropped in a weak solution of translucent orange in the wet areas of the inner petals adding a little blue in the vein area letting them blend together on the paper.

inner petals - iris


¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† Added a few more shadows and painted all the veins after the lower petal had dried. I think I am done with this petal, after rubbing out the pencil lines the veins wont look so prominent. I thoroughly enjoyed this painting upto now. It’s really fun to paint when the drawing underneath is accurate and complete. Was there really a time when I thought software programming was interesting?! It compares in no way to the joy of this.

last stage of lower petals - iris

Properties of Color ‚Äď value charts


         There are no sharp value changes nor too many values in the blue Iris that I have been working on. They are so close together that I thought it would be well worth the time to make a value chart to observe its range more closely.

¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† Here is a quick intro¬†on values for anyone of you who are a bit unsure on this.¬†Any color basically has three properties, hue, value and chroma. The hue is the name of the color like yellow ,red, blue etc. Value is the lightness or darkness of a color. Chroma is the¬†intensity or saturation or how ‘bright’ we perceive the color to be. In nature there are an infinite number of colors and values but we have to reduce them to something that we can manage in our art. A minimum of 3 values is required to define a form –¬†the highlight, where the sun rays directly hit the object which makes the color of the object look¬†paler than it actually is, the mid value which can be the actual color of the object and¬†a dark value on the opposite side, which is in shade and therefore looks darker and duller than the actual color. To make the object look more realistic, however, we need to use more values.¬†When you look at a black and white photograph, you are looking at¬†the values without the hue.¬†This gray scale version can be useful¬†in determining¬†the value of a color without the color distracting you. You can make¬†a¬†black and white¬†photo¬†from your reference photo with any image editing software, like Picasa which is free to download. Here is¬†a 9 scale value chart that I have made (the topmost row) with a mix of delft blue and walnut brown to get a black.¬†If you have trouble distinguishing between adjacent values, try a 6 scale value range. It’s easier to do it at first with a 6B pencil than in watercolors because of the drying shifts in watercolors. The blackest black you can make with a pencil is the sixth value and the white of the paper is the first value. All the values in between have to¬†get darker progressively towards black.¬†¬†



            You can make a chart of the most used colors in your palette in rows of one inch squares on a watercolor sheet, starting with a black or any dark color for reference. You will see that for some colors like yellow and oranges, you cannot get to the other end of the value range. The color that you see straight from the tube is the maximum value that you can get from that color. By diluting it with water step by step , you can get the values down to 1. Some colors like dark blues and browns go the entire way from 1 upto 9. In the three colors above, indian yellow , ruby red and phthalo blue you can observe an interesting fact. (I forgot to leave a white square at the beginning of each color) The yellow looks most intense at value 3, the red at 3 and 4, the blue at 3. Colors at their maximum chroma stand out in a painting and you need to be careful about where you place them. 

         Though knowledge of values and chroma and their use in a painting is very important; I feel that this develops in us instinctively through regular practice rather than through a detailed study.

        Anyways, getting back to my iris, I made some swatches to match colors as this is a very light valued flower and both the color and the value has to be got just right at the start, as there is not much need of glazing here.


             I felt the pale blue was tending towards green and so I tried mixing pthalo blue with a yellow and a green on the top row but I was wrong. It was tending towards red, mixing it with ruby red in the first two coloumns of the second row was the right color but looked dull, in other words the chroma was not at its best. I got it right in the next three coloumns by mixing pthalo blue with magenta. The third row consists of ultramarine and cobalt blue, I might use them to add interest to the painting.

Transferring the drawing


     On the other side of the paper on which I drew the Iris, I completely blackened with a 6B pencil. Maybe a graphite stick would do a better job at covering the area quickly. Then, with the right side up on the watercolor paper, I went over the complete drawing. It came out quite light, I could barely see it and so I went over the lines on the watercolor paper again. If you use too thin a paper for your drawing, you wont be able to see the lines properly when you blacken the other side. Here, you can see the other side of the iris drawing paper at the top of the photo.


Pale blue Iris – drawings


¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† I am starting on a beautiful dwarf blue Iris, the reference of which is from used with Mary’s kind permission. It is quite pale, but has a kind of silvery sheen which made the blue look very lovely¬†to me. Here is the initial drawing I made for this, blocking the main flower shape. This time, I made the drawing on a separate sheet of paper, so that I can be free to erase and¬†make¬†the drawing¬†as accurate as possible.¬†



         Next, I refined the shape of the petals and added details. The direction of the veins is very important in defining the form of the petal, so I put some extra effort there. I hope I will be able to transfer this onto the watercolor paper without too much hassle.