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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red roses and rose leaves..

 

               I have started painting the roses in the foreground in the somewhat loose style as they are not the main focus here in this painting. In the first wash, I dropped in S ruby red(cool) and WN winsor red(warm). 

 

                 In these second washes, I`ve left the areas or petals having the lightest value (from the first wash) alone and strengthened the  remaining areas.

 

                   Here, I`ve put in shadows with S madder red dark and also with a mix of  ruby red with S cerulean blue tone.

 

              This rose is nearest to the viewer and has more of details to it than the others. I used some S translucent orange too, for the sunlit petals.

 

                    The first washes for the leaves contain DS hansa yellow medium, S cerulean blue tone and a bit of the reds. Mix three puddles – yellow green, green and blue green and also puddles of the primary colors. Now you can add any of the primaries to any of your three green mixes to get the exact tone or shade of green that you need in each area. You need to add the red too to these particular green mixes to tone them down; if they were new, young leaves they would have those bright colors but not here. I`ve left a fine white line for the main veins. 

 

                 I`ve layed in stronger colors and also started with shadows. The shadows make a beautiful pattern here on the leaves, its a good idea to draw them in first. Shadows too have colors, they are not grey but they should always be duller than the sunlit areas. Add more of the reds for them but not so much that they dominate the greens and start looking grey. 

 

               Strengthened the shadows a bit more with the same colors.