Among Dogwoods

Standing among sunlit dogwood blossoms is a treat: white petals bright against a backdrop of dappled greens, blue sky, and bird song. The moment would be perfect but for the gnats that bite the back of my neck while sketching. They force me to draw fast and loose and then retreat to the house. Still, when I look at this painting months or years from now, it will not be the insects I remember, but the long-awaited spring day and the blank sheet of paper bright with promise.
Among Dogwoods, 5×7″, watercolor on Fabriano 300lb cold press watercolor paper.

Tips and Techniques– I took advantage of negative painting techniques for this, starting with a wet in wet wash of phthalo blue, Hansa yellow medium, and quin rose over my pencil drawing. I left a lot of white for the flowers, but you can see that I wasn’t exact with every edge. Once dry, I proceeded to do a long series of varied washes to define to foliage and create a sense of depth. I find that this type of painting takes a while to develop, and doesn’t fully take shape until I add the darkest layers and final details (e.g., the moth, shadows, and red highlights on the flowers). I worked on it over the course of a week. Stepping away is not only important for letting the paint dry between layers, but helps me come back and see it fresh.

Here’s a second painting that I started that will give you a sense of what this looks like in the early stages. You can see where I’m just beginning to pick out the shapes from the pencil drawing. Patience is key!

 

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Why Sketchbooks Work

“The reason that sketchbooks work is that they don’t count.” –Craig Frazier, illustrator

The beauty of a sketchbook is that it is simply that: a sketchbook. It’s a place to do what you want as an artist. It is ideas and experience and creativity and experimentation crammed between two covers. One blank page after another, it becomes something extraordinary when filled earnestly and honestly. Yet, in the end, it doesn’t really count. And that is a beautiful thing, too. There is no price tag, no commission, no gallery wall waiting for it. It’s just for you…and so, it is one of the freest places for an artist to make a mark.

Click to view larger.

Click to view larger.

This page was an experiment in capturing dogwood blossoms using “negative painting” techniques. I like the effect and look forward to trying it again on higher quality paper. Unfortunately, the pages of this spread came stuck together with a bit of glue seepage at the gutter, so it’s pretty rough there.  But, it’s just my sketchbook, so it doesn’t really matter.