More buds and leaves


                  This leaf behind the bird has some of the darkest values. The first layer is a greyed yellow, the second one has the shadow green flowing into the first wet in wet.

first layers for leaf in shadow


              Here I`ve brightened the green a bit:

second layers for leaf in shadow


                The darkest values are put in here. Tint the veins to a dull yellow green:

details for leaf in shadow

first layers for bud

second layers for bud


                  If you compare this bud to the foreground bud in my previous post, you can see how far back into the picture this one looks. Its not only because these colors are paler but also because the highlights have been subdued. This differentiation in planes is necessary in order to give depth to the picture plane, that is the third dimension:  

bud details


             One half of this leaf has an yellow underwash, the other half is bent in another way to catch the light differently, it is bluish grey:

first layers

                 Here I`ve wet the leaf leaving the lines for the veins dry. Don`t worry if some of them merge a bit, they will look more natural that way. Then I dropped in a green mix at the corners of each segment. They make beautiful shapes on their own which look very natural and unforced, the beauty of watercolors!

second layers

 second layers


            Drop in darker mixes in the same way and tint the veins. Paint the stem in yellow greens and pale pinks.

final details


                  I`ve done these leaves in a different way. I had painted the entire leaf that is at the corner without leaving the whites for the veins. This is a watercolor technique that is not used so much. The lighter valued yellow veins have been painted on a damp wash. Usually while a wash is damp, it is at a delicate stage where you would not want to mess around too much, since that would cause streaks and `cauliflowers` in an otherwise smooth wash. But it is a perfect stage where you can paint in details like veins or other growths with a stronger mixture (that is less water on the brush than on the paper) to get darker valued elements in the leaf. You can get lighter values like the yellow veins in this leaf if you take a watery mix (more water on the brush than on the paper) and stroke the veins in carefully on a damp wash. The water pushes away the darker color on the wash giving lighter colored veins. Experiment a little with the amount of water you are using. This method is useful for details which need not be too prominent. I`ve also put in the yellow spots this way. On the leaf to the right, the spots are in colored pencil. The effect looks quite different on both the leaves:

light veins painted on darker wash 




About painting whites and mixing greys


                 It promises to be a beautiful, white christmas, here, this year. The mornings are beautiful with the soft, white light in the mornings and evenings sparkling with necklaces of  tiny, yellow  lights dancing in the wind. Have you noticed when it snows, that it is lighter and brighter than you would normally expect with such a weak and watery sun? Its the light reflecting and bouncing off the snow on the ground, bushes and low roofs (that is normally absorbed) that makes it look like there is more light than there actually is.

                 The three primary colors mixed so that they are  equally dominant gives a grey. Equal dominance is not the same as equal quantity;  ruby red, cobalt blue tone and hansa yellow medium mixed in equal quantities will not give a grey, it will give only a dull red since the red in this instance is much stronger than the blue or yellow. Usually you will need more of the yellow to yield a grey but here you need more of both the blue and yellow. Once you have made a true grey, you will notice that it looks rather boring and you wont find the true grey so much in shadows anyway (except in shadows cast by black objects). So instead of making them equally dominant, shift the mixture so that you have one or two dominant. Having the blue dominate gives a blue-grey; having the yellow and blue dominate gives a green-grey; having the red and blue dominate gives a violet-grey etc. Having these colors in shadows makes the subject much more alive. This is especially true when painting whites. Keep all the layers for the bud very light and soften the edges. I`ve also used a bit of cerulean blue for the green areas.

Passion Flower bud

first layers for the bud

second layers for the bud

                 The petals marked 1,2 and 3 below have pure white or pale yellow highlights. This makes them look as though they are sitting on top of the other petals which are in shadow and whose highlights should not be as bright as the  ones on top so as to give that three-dimensional look.

Final Layers

                   This leaf catches the light and is the most yellow-green of all the leaves in the painting. Paint the first layers with yellow and blue.

first layers

                 Mix a yellow-green for this step with just a hint of blue. While the wash is still damp, stroke in the veins with  red-violet and violet mixes. The veins should gently flare into the wash while still keeping their shape.

paint the veins

Painting the Passion flower


               This flower is not completely white, it has soft hints of violet and red-violets as well. The highlights should be kept white even if they are small areas. Even small areas will tell that it is a white flower and not a pale lilac or light colored flower. There are very few shadows in the reference photo of this flower, you can strengthen the values of a couple of them and even invent a few more to define the form of the petals a little better.

Blue Passion Flower


                 I started painting the petals and sepals here, wet in wet. The mixes are from S cobalt blue tone and S ruby red. Add a little DS hansa yellow medium to tone the violet down to get shadow mixes. Favour the red for the red-violet mix. Paint with a darker mixture on a damp wash to get the streaks. The yellow areas are yellow green made from DS  hansa yellow medium and S cerulean blue tone.

first layers for the petals and sepals


                 The filaments have the same violet and red-violet mixes. They have a small white band somewhere aound their centres, so draw an elliptical shape passing through all of them and leave white areas. The lower portions of the filaments have red-violet bands and the upper portions, violet bands or dots.

starting on the filaments

more filaments

                  Fill the centre area of the flower with a yellow green mix. The white bands of the filaments also have individual shadows to them, make one side darker than the other with a toned down violet mix.

darker values for the filaments

                    The anthers are a little warmer, I added some translucent orange to the yellow-violet mix. Paint the stigmas with yellow and yellow green mixes. Add shadows with cobalt blue tone and put it some violet dots while the wash is still damp.

second layers for the petals and sepals

                 Add a layer of greenish- yellow and also a red violet shadow mix to the centre of the flower and add details.

Blue Passion Flower

Principles in Art – Balance


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There is more swing or freedom of movement in a composition when balance is felt intuitively rather than when having followed strict rules, but having a basic knowledge of some guidelines is always useful when making our own compositions, this is particularly true to Still Life paintings.

The painting below made by the Dutch artist, Willem Van Aelst, is a simple arrangement where the stem of the main foreground rose, the rose itself and the red carnation facing backwards form a flat S shape which is very pleasing. The three light pink flowers above the marble structure are balanced by the downward facing carnation, the four of which form a stable triangle. S formations and triangular compositions are very common in Still Lifes.

William Van Aelst; Group of flowers (1675)

                       This painting is a very complex assymmetrical composition arranged marvellously by the renowed Dutch artist, Gerard Van Spaendock.  It consists of a lavish group of flowers and foliage arranged in a basket  along with aan alabaster urn on a marble pedestal. We can make out the triangular composition where the structure at the right forms one side of the right-angled triangle, the marble pedestal forms the base side and connecting the tip of the urn on the right with the tip of the marble structure on the left forms the diagonal side. The edges of the flowers and the foliage also lie on this diagonal.

The urn on the right seems heavier than the group of flowers on the left but notice that the top left hand side has a very dark background. This is how the visually-heavier dark value on the left balances the heavy object in terms of weight on the right.

Color, value,weight of objects, size or area all have visual weights and by placing them on an imaginary physical balance in our minds, we can bring refinement to our compositions.

Smaller flowers and tiny buds are made to support the larger heads of flowers and intercepted by twigs and vines to scatter or diffuse the composition, to add interest and variety and keep the eye moving about the whole picture. Dragonflies, butterflies, a fly and a beetle placed strategically add to the opulent extravagance of this composition.

Gerard Van Spaendonck; Still Life

                   The painting below, is made by Cornelius van Spaendonck, brother of Gerard van Spaendock. This painting is exceptional not only in its composition but also in his treatement of light. Notice how the eye is pulled first towards the area of the three light colored roses and the brightly lit urn. From there, he has diffused the brightness of the light radially towards the edges.  The lilac branch is made progressively darker as it moves upwards, the same is true for the blue sprig of flowers just below the lilacs, the peony, the brown urn at the bottom, the grapes and grape leaves at the right etc. In this way, the eye is made to move softly from the outer edges to the centre and focus on the roses. The large, red peony and its leaf balance the larger group of flowers diagonally towards their right.  The morning glory twig connects the two urns gracefully. If you have a large mass of flowers, its important that the vase or urn holding them appears stable and large enough to support the flowers and not look as though it would topple over.

Cornelius van Spaendonck, Still Life of Flowers

                     This painting is an unusual composition but one that still works well. The main area of interest consisting of the pink roses, rose buds and butterflies is placed quite low, at the lower left hand corner. The eye meanders up, to the white lilacs, white and red striped tulip; the red poppy pulls the eye upwards to the right corner and from there it moves towards the left to the blue iris which is not as strident as the red poppy.

Willem van Aelst; Flowers in a Silver Vase (1663)

This painting consists of a luscious arrangement of fruits and flowers by Jan Davidsz de Heem. It is a symmetrical composition, the two shapes on either side of a vertical line drawn through the centre are near identical as it forms an oval shape. But this symmetrical composition is anything but monotonous, it is delightfully varied and absolutely seething with activity, with butterflies, moths, beetles and flies darting about in every direction. This festoon is suspended from a bronze ring and tied with a blue ribbon. The textures are beautifully rendered, from the rough skin of the lemon, the glittering water drops, spilling pemogranate seeds, soft centifolia rose, shiny cherries and grapes. The elements at the front, closest to the viewer, brightly lit up and gradually disappearing as they recede, the realisitic textures and darting insects all give us the impression of the whole mass as being real and alive and breathing.

Jan Davidsz de Heem


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