Sassafras Leaf

Sassafras Leaf

 

This was one of the most enjoyable paintings I have done in a while. Each layer was a delicious, lovely, earthy color that captured a beautiful autumn afternoon in the woods! Autumn is my favorite time of year and I adore every one of changing shifting colors. I also love the challenge of painting textures in a way that makes them alive. If you would like to see a brief step by step view of the color layering with notes on the process just forward to the next page.

Line Drawing

I began by completing a line drawing in H2 graphite. Subtly drawing in the major veins and edges of the shadow. I used masking fluid to seal off any areas like fungal blemishes or holes in the leaf.

Quinacridone Gold

Next, I added a base layer of Quinacridone Gold, which is the base tone of the specimen I found and acts as an underpainting for the transparent pigments that are layered over it.

Burnt Sienna

Another transparent pigment, as the second layer goes on I begin to form more vein details with negative space.

Burnt Sienna

More Burnt Sienna goes on being layered in a semi-uniform application. I allow it to be thicker and thinner alternately to enrich texture and shape as I observe it in the specimen.

Indian Red

Next is Indian Red similarly, applied as thinly as possible as it is not transparent. It should not be applied as a complete wash but selectively based on the sample specimen. I applied washes of either Burnt Sienna or Indian red over the veins while varying the intensity of the pigment.

Final Details

The last color washes I applied was Alizarin Crimson and Pyrelene Maroon in only some areas of the leaf, again with variance on the intensity and thickness of the pigment. I then layered in the shadow with washes of Neutral Tint.Last I removed the masking flued from the fungal blemishes and painted them in with Naples Yellow and Raw Umber.

🍂 Sassafras Leaf StudyReally enjoyed working with all these warm earthy tones. If you ask me, the colors of sassafras…

Posted by Branna O'Dea on Tuesday, March 24, 2020

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Antithetical Exercises

Monotone Skull Ink Painting

Monotone Skull Ink Painting

Recently, I was challenged to be more raw with my style and also portray “not pretty”.  Apparently, the world and life are not all colorful butterflies. So I started this, a skull in black monotone, as the antithesis. 

Not my thing. It is really kicking my @$$! I know because I am avoiding it. Well, as artists go, I like to paint things as they are. It starts as a leaning in toward listening and intimacy and then becomes an attempt to convey the unknowable and essential nature of a subject. 

Usually, I paint still life, or from photos of things that won’t stay still that I encounter in the natural world. Sometimes, I dabble into fantasy and whimsy in a more illustrative style, often centric to mythical themes. Those myths too are deeply wound in the natural world.

My technical approach here is half-blind. You begin with no sketching or drawing. You study the reference for a few minutes and have to paint from memory for more than double that time and then back. When you look back to study a reference again,  you are not allowed to glance at your work at all, nor study your work before. 

It guarantees a more raw expression, aka ‘mistakes’. It keeps idealism and perfectionism on the shelf and away from the work at hand. It also keeps hand-eye coordination strong. As there is no literal object I am portraying, I also can not get trapped in proportions or physical distinctions with this method. No getting drunk on details, in other words.

When I paint from nature, I am listening to the butterfly, ie, observing it’s movement and habit, studying color and texture and so on.  What is there here then? Just a wide-open channel for the subconscious.

The subconscious is always painting in between the lines, and in an exercise like this which aims at the “not pretty” there is so much unspoken if I am honest about my own nature. So we have a skull, not a proper skull as there are intimations of sinew and tongue, screaming.  In short, a half-blind exercise really allows the subconscious to do most of the driving, all the way home.

I have told myself for about 5 days now that I am just too busy to finish. Oh, what a pretty lie it is. I have been busy, but not so much not spend a quick ten minutes doing the next wash or a quick few details.

I’ll have to pluck up and work with it till I stop feeling uncomfortable. Till it is all MU. I have a sneaking suspicion, that it may mean a few more exercises.

 

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Hackberry Emperor

Finishing Details

Finishing Details

 

I have been polishing up some of the paintings in my Watercolor Journal. This Hackberry Emperor is one of several butterfly species I had the pleasure of having as a guest in my garden. This fellow landed on the deck furniture and just serenely hung out for the evening. It was a delight and inspiration. As I painted the butterfly I took to identifying the trees in my yard and getting to know them better. It was a wonderful adventure! I learned that many used the Hackberry tree as a larval plant.

Hackberry Emperor

Hackberry Emperor

Hackberry Emperor Profile

Hackberry Emperor Profile

It took a short time to identify the two large trees straddling the driveway entrance as Hackberry Trees. Question Mark Butterflies, American Longsnout, Hackberry Emperor, and other Nettle loving butterflies use this tree. I have found that Question Mark Butterflies like to find a Hackberry Sappling between 2 and 4 feet and lay one egg on each about 4 leaves down from the top. I will eventually get to painting those guys.

Hackberry Close Up

Hackberry Close Up

I enjoyed tasting the fruit of the tree, which native Americans also used as a food source. The flavor, to me, was between that of a date and a sour cherry. The fruits do not produce much flesh to cover the seed, but it is a nice flavor. Below are images from the work in progress and my notes.

First Wash

 

Second Wash

Second Wash

Third Wash

Third Wash

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