Updates on the painting

lower branches



The bg and mg is almost complete. I will do some final adjustments,¬†some more work on the river¬†after I have done the flowers…….

sacred fig tree


Starting on the painting….


¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† I loved the voilet shades on a hummingbird and planned to use them on the birds here though I had not added that particular bird here. I mixed some colors with the blues and reds that I had, namely ultramarine blue, phthalo blue and cobalt blue ton with magenta and ruby red. Phthalo blue is little towards the green side and it didn’t make a particularly good violet; I chose ultramarine blue and magenta. The last two squares on the top row are Schminke’s gold and silver. The third last one is violet mixed with silver, its not too sparkling…. like I would need for the hummingbirds. The colors in the chart below look slightly different on screen.

chart for violets (bottom two rows)


               I masked the birds and a bud or two of the fuschias and left it to air dry thoroughly.    

              The background wet into wet wash is the most exciting and scariest part of the whole painting for me. I mixed puddles of

pthalo blue,

 indian yellow (this is for the top of the huge tree on the other side of the bank which catches the sunlight),

a mix of pthalo blue and indian yellow for the bottom of the tree, 


magenta mixed with ultramarine blue (I plan to change the colors of the flowers in the reference photos to go with this theme),

burnt sienna mixed with a tiny bit of violet (UB + magenta) for the bank ,

 ruby red,

 pthalo green for the water.

          After giving a strong warning to my son not to disturb me for 15 mins, I spray the whole paper with clean water, brush it in evenly with a large flat brush and as this is the last paper on this block, I stick the paper to the cardboard with gummed tape. The paper had already started to dry and I wet it again with the flat brush, also using a small round one to go around the edges of the flowers neatly. I do this for 5 to 6 times as the paper keeps drying out in places. When I have the sheet evenly wet, (the flowers are dry) I begin at the top of the sheet dropping in the blue with the flat brush. My son chooses this moment (I am sure, on purpose) to come and demand me to fix his toy. Yikes!! I freak out and holding him with one hand at arms length, manage to drop in the rest of the colors. After giving him some hard stares (which he shakes off quite easily, he just loves to see me irritated, the little rascal) and fixing his toy, I check the state of my painting. No streaks, thank god. I would have liked it if the phthalo green at the bottom was stronger. This would have been a great time, to start adding slightly deeper values which would blend softly as the paper is slowly drying; for the background trees etc. No chance of that on this paper. But I am satisfied with this. I leave it to dry.



              For the tree on the other bank, I use the sponge technique to add some texture with slightly stronger values. This is done on dry paper.

picture taken at night; shadow at the bottom


                      For this top bunch of leaves, I mix greens from the yellow and pthalo blue adding a bit of the violet. I also have a puddle of sap green of medium consistency for the small number of leaves catching the light. Its amazing that you can see the atmospheric perspective even in this single tree. The branches towards the top left are facing away from the viewer and hence the leaves on them are more blue-gray than the the leaves at the right bottom which are nearer to the viewer. So I added some more blue and red to my mixes.  

leaves at the top left


                     I work on the branches and leaves simultaneously, so that I know where to place groups of leaves. I also alternate between the full image and the zoomed in image windows on the screen, so that I can see the detail as well as get a sense of proportion of the whole. For the branches, I wet portions, drop in burnt sienna and add the violet on the undersides just as it loses its sheen. This is just the first layer, I have to darken them a bit more.

still on the left side


                     I wet the area of the background tree and add layers of pale mixes of ultramarine blue mixed with aeurolin yellow. Also sponge in the tree next to this one.

layers on the back ground tree


¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† The leaves towards the bottom are sap green and sap green mixed with ruby red for the darker values. There are a lot of tiny branches weaving in and around the leaves. Added some of them. The leaves on the right are in deep shadow and I used a lot of violet there mixed with a bit of yellow to grey it down. Lot of repetitive work here, I painted this listening to the songs of the Hindi version of ‘Slumdog Millionaire’. A.R Rehman always manages to make some thing new and different.

this photo has come out redder than the others

New Painting – Earthly Paradise


¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† We had been to this river bank recently, and as we sat and watched the river flowing¬†tranquilly , thousands of yellow chrysanthemum petals started flowing along with the waters. They were flowers with which puja had been performed in the temple way¬†upstream.¬†Looking at them reminded me¬†of a spiritual experience that I had had (a little more than a year back)¬†after coming out of the Sivalayam in the Kanaka Durga temple (it sits on top of a hill and is an important temple here).¬†I was gazing at this river in the same way and¬†the Sacred Fig tree¬†had spread out¬†its vast canopy under which I was standing. This tree, which¬†lives for hundreds of years¬†has a religious significance and is found near many temples. What I cannot convey in words, the¬†bliss that I had experienced that evening, and¬†along with it the assurance¬†of it coming into¬†this earthly¬†life is what I wish to convey through this painting…¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†

Sacred Fig tree


                These two snaps are of the opposite bank.  

the other bank

  the other bank


               I took a paper the same size as that of my watercolor sheet and fixed the main limbs and branches of the tree accurately. I then started placing humming birds and basically played around sketching flower shapes etc. to let my muse flow. 

rough sketch


¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† I then transferred the main lines on to the watercolor sheet and drew the morning glories, rhododendron onto the sheet directly, the fuschias were a temptation that I couldn’t resist adding to an otherwise complete composition. I don’t know if I will keep them. Hummingbirds’ feathers show beautiful metallic iridescence, i.e the colors change according to the angle from which they are viewed. They hover in the air by flapping their wings rapidly and can even fly backwards. They have long thin bills¬†and bifurcated tongues adapted to¬†feeding on¬†nectar from long tubular flowers. They like to drink from all¬†of these flowers that I mentioned but they¬†especially¬†like the¬†bright pink, red to¬†orange range of colors. They are found only in the Americas, not over here, but I did name this Paradise, didnt I?¬†



¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† Photo Credits: Thanks Char for the reference of morning glories, Andy for the Fuschia. Rhododendron, Mary of mooseyscountrygarden.com has let me use her photos. For the ‘Othello Roses’ and ‘Pale blue Iris’ , I had taken refs¬†from her site and she had liked them and said she wanted to take print outs of the paintings and hang them on her office wall, and I said she could. ¬†

                         For the humming birds, thanks to the public domain images of DLS, and Deb, Aleks, Aries of wetcanvas.com.

Color chart (Schminke and Lukas) and some thoughts‚Ķ‚Ķ


       A reader of this blog has written to me asking for a larger version of my color chart. It is rather smudged, (I like to blame these type of things on my son) Srishti, hope you can read the names this time.

names of colors

color wheel


¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†I have to mention here that I¬†have stopped using many of these colors now. The colors that I mentioned in the demos are all that I paint with. Colors like brilliant purple and mauve are real pretty¬†but don’t have good lightfastness. Green earth (gruen erde) is¬†of such a light value, you¬†need¬†to mix lots of it ……. I haven’t yet figured out¬†what it would be good for. Ditto for rose madder (krapp lack rosa).¬†Translucent orange is really nice but in heavy washes,¬†it¬†starts looking a bit¬†opaque. Actually,¬†I have made a new selection of¬† paper and paints (Daniel Smith, Winsor and Newton, MGraham, Maimeri Blu in addition to Schminke)

Some close ups of the painting





Some changes on the ‘Grapes and Robin’

Grapes and Robin


           After posting, I noticed on the screen (as I usually do, after I do the Final Painting post!), some values that needed correction. The grape vine was not clearly distinguishable, as the light values of the leaves were in front of the light values of the horizontal slat of the fence. I darkened the area around this region and lightened the value of the vertical slat above the robin. Also painted a light wash of red madder dark and burnt sienna on the fence in the middle and towards the left of the painting.

Finished Painting – Grapes and Robin


¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† I’ve finished adding the final details today. Here it is, you can see the larger version of it in my other blog, www.neeluswatercolors.wordpress.com¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†

  Grapes and Robin


                I have removed the mask and painted a pale brown over it. Added some background leaves and deepened the shadows. Added fine feathers with translucent orange on the chest of the robin as I was not getting the vivid orange by mixing the yellow and red. Added the grape vine climbling towards the top of the tree in the bg.(above photo)

some more details

Updates on the painting


           For the area behind the leaves, I layed in a diluted wash of pthalo blue, the green of the leaves and indian yellow at the center on dry paper. Fill the brush completely with the paint pixture  to avoid  streaks when you are working on dry paper, especially for washes. Dropped in some stronger greens in the wet wash at the base of the fence and towards the right to simulate plant growth.   

background , grapes and robin


              The fence is a mixture of indian yellow, red madder dark and Lukas burnt sienna. The vertical slats were done after the horizontal ones were fully dry. Masked a few thin lines for the string like growth on the top and sides of the trees. After the masking had dried, I wet the areas of the tree trunks and dropped in a mixture of burnt sienna and a bit of pthalo blue, also a bit of red madder dark. I softened the edges with a damp brush so that there are no hard lines showing. Layed in some pale colors for the walls, dry brushing in some places.      

fence and tree etc


            For the leaves on the grape vine, I used sap green, indian yellow and pthalo blue, also a slight bit of the red, wetting the areas first and dropping in the colors. The chest of the robin is a vivid orange color, for the first layer I put in an orange made of indian yellow and red madder dark. The grapes were done individually, dampening the circle and stroking in colors taking care to leave a highlight towards the top. 

first layers for grape vine


                     The next layer is done after the first one had dried, with the same colors, only stronger.

second layers for grape vine and robin

Final details of main palm leaves

¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† The main leaves are done; here’s how the painting looks at this stage. I will¬†add the rest of the leaves as I paint the background, I don’t want¬†the painting¬†to look¬†complicated by adding too many of¬†the leaves¬†as these foreground leaves already have a lot of detail.

the painting so far ...


              Some close up shots:

top right

 top center


 center left

 bottom left

Second layers for plam leaves

       These are the second layers for the leaves. Nothing much to write about, the photos show how I have proceeded.

front leaf




         This is the first layer for the leaf on the extreme right. Wet each leaflet separately and stroked in the colors just as I did for all the leaves in all layers.

top , extreme right leaf

top, extreme right , second layer


center, left

top center

First layers for palm leaves


¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† These are the colors that I have¬† used so far for the palm leaves : Schminke’s phthalo blue, indian yellow, red madder dark, payne’s grey and Lukas burnt sienna. The centres of the leaves are complicated and I have painted them separately from the leaflets by softening the edges and letting the layers dry in between. Here is centre of the main frontal leaf, in which I wet the area first and dropped in Indian Yellow, so that I donot lose the lighter, pure¬†value there. The four leaflets towards the right reflect the sky and are bluish, dropped in phthalo blue after wetting them.¬†

center of main palm leaf


      Here is the first layer for the entire leaf. The tips are yellowed and some of them burnt. Dropped in the yellow and then burnt sienna at the extreme end.



¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† I have not painted the leaves in the order shown here but for clarity’s sake, I have put all the first layers in this post. This lower leaf is in shade and I mixed a bit of payne’s grey to the blue to dull it down a bit.

upper left leaf


¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† The left portion of the leaf is¬†not yet separated into leaflets. I wet the entire area and dropped in the different shades of green mixed¬†from the yellow and blue, as¬†it was drying, I lifted out some highlight lines with a stiff brush and¬†stroked in some directional lines with stronger colors.¬†I let it dry completely and dropped in the violet mixed from red madder dark and the green in the wet centre area. The forward facing leaves have v-shaped highlights at places where they are facing downwards. For the¬†upward leaves, I dampened the area and¬†stroked in payne’s grey mixed with a little blue taking care to leave the whites of the highlights.¬†

upper left leaf1


            Below is the upper left leaf and there is more of violet here. Used the same technique and colors as for the others.

upper left leaf


top left leaf

New Painting – Grapes and Robin


       This painting, I had started a while back. The inspiration is from this scene, the photos of which I had taken in our back yard, while living in Weil Am Rhein, Germany. Its a small garden with a pond and waterfall next to these palm trees. The red geraniums (Spiritual Happiness) that I grew in pots, flowered abundantly and it was a pleasurable spot to enjoy in the summer.

      I liked the cascade of light in the photo below but the photo below this one is the one I chose for the painting. The diagonal lines below the fence takes us into the scene where as the first photo has a rather flat look. Also the light in the second photo is focussed more on the grape vine which is what I wanted.



¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† I then made a sketch, calculating a few measurements of the main palm leaves (the painting is roughly 2.5 times the photo) so that I don’t end up with some parts larger than the others.

rough sketch


         Here is the final drawing transfered to watercolor paper, the grape vine was too straight , I changed it into a more pleasing slightly downward curve and added a bunch of grapes and a robin from parts of  photos from the RIL of wetcanvas.com. Thanks to Marita and Pete for the same.

Drawing - grapes and robin