Background foliage painting techniques

 

                  I think its worth taking as much time to master background techniques as you would take for learning foreground techniques. The background should subtly enhance the foreground without overpowering it.   

 

           The photos below are crops, I`ve put some numbers on them to mark the places:

1. After you have finished painting the foreground leaves and flowers, quickly mark some interesting shapes and patterns that the leaves behind make with a pencil. You don`t have to draw all of them. Now take a very dark value of green and starting painting the area around these shapes (your mix should have enough water that it flows well from the brush) Once this dark value is established, its amazing how easy it becomes to put in the values for the middle layers. You can push the leaves backward or forward to any plane.

2. See how if you put in the background color and value on the top (or to the side) of the leaves, it gives the appearance of them emerging from the shadows. These leaves form the connecting layer between planes. This is important, not all leaves are facing directly towards the viewer.

3. You can also leave out small white shapes in the dark value. After the bg has completely dried out, you can brush in a very light yellow green or green to give the impression of small flickers of light that have managed to penetrate the shadows.

4. Another trick is to simply lift out color with a damp brush leaving behind soft-edged leave shapes.

 

             Photo Below:  Its important to put in shadow areas on veins and stems too. Compare leaf 1 to the same leaf in the first photos. Here I`ve put in a shadow color on the top and bottom part of the vein. The highlight is only in the middle area and that is where it is the brightest yellow-green. The same goes for leaf 2. The middle portion of the vein is almost white just as the rest of the leaf in that area.

          For the stems and branches, don`t automatically reach out for the burnt sienna. You can get a wide range of green-browns, reddish browns and violet browns with the colors already used to make the branches look more interesting. Also you can take a little artistic licence and exaggerrate the colors whenever possible. In the reference photo, apart from the red of the roses, its largely a mass of uninterrupted green. I`ve used yellow brown and violets and reds for accents to make the area a whole lot more interesting.

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the background leaves..

 

             Here is a photo of the rest of the foreground leaves. They look very light but this will help in pushing them forward from the background plane. I`ve also started on a couple of veins for the main fg leaves. A fine dark line on one side will make the central vein look more prominent. For the rest of the veins I`ve used DS chinese white tinted with a yellow green.

  

                  Here I`ve done the bunch of leaves on the right side, they are somewhere in the middle layer; in shadow , so of a dark value. Done wet on dry, with few details like central veins here and there and a couple of shadows to establish some form for a few of them. 

 

             Started with a few of the background leaves..

 

                I`ve put in a very dark value in between the background leaves that I had painted (photo above), so this forms another plane. I`ve given the wall behind the foliage a rose-grey tinge instead of a neutral grey. Red is the complement of green and using this contrast makes both the colors (green in the leaves and red in the wall) appear more vivid than in any another combination.

 

                   Here (the portion to the right of the wing and above the larger rose), I`ve used another method; I took a dark value and put in that first, leaving white shapes for the leaves by negative painting.  Now I can either bring in the dark value of the bg into the white areas with a damp brush or use other colors (using other colors can be a bit tricky, you have to make sure that they are subdued enough so they don`t jump forward into the fg plane). You can also gently lay in a clear water wash over the bg leaves and drop in darker values (like I did on the right side of the buds). Whatever method you use, the aim is to create the illusion of foliage growing in multiple planes, one behind the other. Every area need not be perfectly understandable to the eye, that is not how you would see it in nature. Bits of information here and there lets the viewer construct reality but also give room for imagination.  

 

                 If you would like to follow along, here are my references….. The roses looked so beautiful that I just took pictures from every angle so now I have been able to construct this scene, but still I had missed a spot …….ha haaaaaaaa and I don`t have information for an area (top part, above photo) guess I`ll have to improvise..