Sunday, October 21, 2012

Painting Leaves and Stems

Morning at Kealakekua Bay, aloha. Orchid painting participants Sue, Jane, and Robyn are gone: thanks to them for being such wonderful students and just lovely individuals. It is not yet 7 am, have been up since 5, I like to feel the day begin. It is now full on morning, birds are on the downside of their morning wake-up party. Surge of waves a bit calmer than earlier, but I still expect a splashy day. Amber, our magnificent chef (and proprietor of North Shore Cafe, in White Salmon, Washington) leaves this morning, I leave tomorrow. But let me share with you some of our last lessons, and the final paintings of Sue, Jane, and Robyn.

After some quick sketches and rough painting on hot and cold press paper, doing value studies of the flowers, and practicing painting white flowers, it was time to work on painting orchid foliage. Stems first. Below is my sample page where I worked on creating demos; as always I learn as much from preparing the demo as from the actual demonstration for others.

One of the first excercises before painting orchid stems (or other plant stems) is to practice brush work painting lines. Some stems can be brushed with one stroke only, making sure to hold the brush in line with the stem being painted, rather than the normal brush position. This is because when painting, one edge of the brush stroke (the top) often is smooth, whereas the other is rough (the bottom). See below:

Look at the stem you are painting: a common mistake is to start too dark, in that like other parts of the flower the color will (or can, your choice) be built up in layers. The first layer is to establish the stem's width and overall shading or value, the next is to emphasize values, the last to add lines for veins, or any color markings. The next image shows 4 stem paintings (note...these are very quick and rough). The first (farthest to left) was made by laying down a stroke for the stem, then lifting up paint with a brush with a little bit of water, and no pigment. Voila, three-dimmnsionality. The next (to right), was made by laying down one stroke for the stem, then adding a bit of darker green to one side, to emphasize that the stem is round. The stem second from the right has lines over preliminary layers, implying veins, and the final, rightmost stem, has a bit of red coloration as the final layer.

Bottom line, as per usual: practice, practice, practice! As for leaves, below is my practice demo sheet for painting orchid leaves (and pseudobulbs, below leaves):

First a nice clean drawing is done, with leaves folded and curved in various ways, for interest. Next light layers of green are applied, using a larger brush (7 or 8 round, Winsor Newton series 7), for the larger areas. Layers are let dry before the next is applied; each layer should show something about the shape of the leaves...indicated by the value of the areas to be painted. As with stems, the final layers can be line work to show veins. Below is a detail of the above demo:

Enough for now. My next entry will show Sue, Jane, and Robyn's final pieces. They each took only one day to do these: I was favorably impressed!

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