I managed to squeeze in a bit of work on this painting before I left for a week up north. I was surprised how rapidly it moved forward. Reasons? Well…
…it could be because it’s my backyard and I see it every day. It could be because I’ve been plotting out my process and color choices for over a month. It’s most likely that I’ve been obsessing recently over Kevin MacPherson’s Fill Your Oil Paintings with Light & Color. If you’re new to painting, I cannot recommend it highly enough. His theories can be understood by just about anyone. More than that, he’ll give you the confidence you need to take on something more challenging than you might otherwise.
First thing I did is lay down all my colors with basic underpainting. I water down my colors and scrub them in gently. First I establish my darkest dark and then my lightest light. From there I work between those two. I start filling in major shapes with large blocks of color. Most of this underpainting will get plowed over with other colors anyway, but here and there some of it will still show through and add depth to the painting.
I don’t worry about staying in the lines. I don’t worry about laying down that perfect shade of green. I don’t have enough knowledge of green to know exactly what I’m going to do yet anyway. But I see a picture developing and it looks right to me. If it doesn’t, I stay in this stage until it does. It will save me considerable grief later.
And I make sure I have fun. I sing along with my music. I leave my phone outside the studio. I don’t surf the web. I work.
Thalo Blue and Cad Yellow are the colors I’m mixing to get the basic green I’ll be varying throughout the painting. I have multiple tones of it on my palette: one that is heavier on the Thalo Blue, one that is an even mix with Cad Yellow, followed by one that is heavier on the yellow, and another with even more yellow for bright highlights. I’ll also take that brightest green and add white to it for an extra accent color. I lay in darker leaves at the top of the painting with a small filbert. Once that dries, I switch between a small round brush and a liner, and use the lighter greens, painting wet into wet gives me the dappled look of the leaves.
I was so pleased with how the leaves in the top third of the painting were working, I ended up running them all the way across the top of the canvas… and I eliminated my natural light source. So for now, I dabbed in a faint mixture of Payne’s Gray, with white and a lot of water. I’ll go back to that later.
The shading under the leaves in the upper third is a mixture of the Thalo Blue-heavy green color and Burnt Umber. Just below that, the ridge of exposed soil is Burnt Umber with some Raw Umber here and there and some flecks of white. For the red mulch I made a puddle Alizarin Crimson, Raw Umber and Cad Orange (my earth tone mixture for this painting) all swirled just faintly together. Then I used a round brush to stipple in the color, topping it with some flecks of green once it had dried. I used a fan brush to gently sweep in the white gravel, and then some light stippling of my earth tone mixture on top of that. I also used the fan brush for the green hillside on the left.
The fence is primarily Titanium White with a little Thalo Blue mixed in. The wall in our yard is really that vibrant and I love the nice contrast it creates between all the green in the upper and lower halves of the canvas. And it directs the eye right to the bench, which as you can see, currently looks like something that should be outside an abandoned Antebellum mansion. That will be the last thing I work on.
The leaf patches in the lower half of the painting were straight dabs from my variety of greens (the darkest underneath – you can see it peaking through and helping me create the illusion of shade between the leaves), one patch was from a small filbert and the other from a small flat brush. I wanted them to look similar, but not identical.
Still a long way to go. The entire painting needs more work, but the jumps from one session to the next have been significant, especially for me. I am pleased with the progress of “Granberry’s Garden.”