November Field

The treachery, at last, too late, is plain;
Bare are the places where the sweet flowers dwelt.
From November, by Helen Hunt Jackson

An early snow took me by surprise. Not that I hadn’t heard the forecast, just that I wasn’t ready to give up fall. The fields still held a bit of green, there were leaves yet to rake, and 20 daffodils to go in the ground. Alas, that was before. Now, the ground is white but for a scattering of russet oak leaves, and the season of browns and blues has begun.

Tips and Techniques: I have been doing a lot of illustration work lately, and although I could have done a detailed drawing of grasses and seed heads, I wanted to change gears and get at the patterns and layers of the field. I started by taping the edges with low tack artist tape, then drew the outlines of several seed pods and goldenrod galls I collected. I painted the entire page with a loose wash of burnt umber and ultramarine blue and let it dry. Then I painted successive layers of blue and brown, darkening the space between the shapes and adding new plant stalks to add depth.

Initially, I painted around the shapes, but later I used liquid masking fluid to reserve the lighter layers. Along the way, I added burnt sienna and quin gold to warm up the page. Once I was satisfied with the depth of color, I removed all the mask and added just a few details on some of the lightest seed heads. This technique requires patience as you wait for the washes to dry completely between layers; it helps to have a second project going at the same time!

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21 thoughts on “November Field

  1. I love negative painting. When someone else does it. I love this. But as you note, it requires patience. Therein is my problem. I lack patience. This is beautiful. It makes me want to give it another shot. Thank you as always for the tips.

  2. It DOES sound like one would need an extra dose of patience to proceed through the steps in the technique as you describe it, but oh, what a terrific result! It’s good to change things up!

    • Maybe it’s not so much patience as the ability to wait while things dry. It just can’t be hurried. I’m pleased with the outcome…now I want to do a detailed sketch again! Thanks for always offering such nice feedback!

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