Hanging On

There are many reasons to appreciate stately, solid oaks. Raking their late-dropping leaves in December is not one of them. Persistent and tenacious, they hang on despite autumn gusts and rain storms that shake other trees bare by October’s end. And yet, as I rake pile after pile, I think: maybe we should be more like oak leaves, resolved to hang on as long as we can. Savoring each day of sun, knowing that the dark and silent winter will come all too soon.

Tips & Techniques– I’m testing a new box of Schmincke watercolors, so I decided to use “negative” painting techniques with this journal page as a way to figure out the range of colors I could get with a triad of Ultramarine Blue, English Venetian Red, and Yellow Ochre. I began with a very loose wet-in-wet wash of those three colors. Once it dried, I began to pick out the shapes of the leaves with smaller, but still very wet washes. You can lay lots of layers on top of one another with this technique to build values, depth and interest. The trick is to stop before overworking it or losing the spontaneity of the original wash.

Here’s how it looked along the way (sorry I didn’t take more photos toward the end; I got absorbed and forgot)…

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Get to know your paints! I haven’t used English Venetian Red before, and though it looks similar to Burnt Sienna, it is less transparent and mixes very differently. Look how it becomes more purple when mixed with Ultramarine Blue. Burnt Sienna creates beautiful browns and grays with Ultramarine, a mix I use all the time. The purple toned darks worked nicely for the oak leaves, creating a lively triad with the Yellow Ochre.

20 Comments on “Hanging On

  1. I love those leaves! Beautiful! And yes, knowing your tools (paints, cameras, knife, etc) you work with is essential!

  2. It will make you very happy to know that all bugs and butterflies prefer that you DON’T rake the leaves 🙂 Get rid of that rake! Now I’m going to go try out this wash idea, I am sorely lacking in my washing experience!!

    • There a lots of places where we are creating naturalized areas, but we do want some lawn and oak leaves will quickly smother it! Now– about the wash- yes, this is a perfect exercise for mastering washes.

  3. Always enjoy looking at your work and reading your thoughts and tips. Very inspiring.

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  4. Beautiful Jean. I especially enjoy how the leaves appear and then disappear with new images underneath that I missed at first glance. Such depth.

  5. I plan to include a link to your blog on the gift of watercolours I am giving my cousin this year. Lots of great info here.

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