Two of these leaves are real, and two on them are my paintings of leaves. I can’t tell you how the real leaves are made, because I am not a tree, but I canshow you how I made my facsimiles.
I chose these two leaves out of all the leaves that are in my neighbor’s front yard (after assuring my neighbor that no, I hadn’t lost anything, and OK OK, I’ll get off your grass!!) because they have things that are important to know, leaf-painting-wise.
Leaf No. 1:
The first thing you have to do when you look at a leaf with a painter’s eyes is to suss out your strategy. Because you do not paint a leaf all at once. You paint it in sections, sections (I call them “cells”) that are evident in its structure. And in this leaf, I see four cells:
This is how I’m going to paint this leaf; cell by cell. Step 1:
Step 1: You can’t quite see it in this picture, but I’ve outlined the leaf (I laid the leaf on my paper and dragged a pencil around it so that I have an exact-sized silhouette).
Now I’m ready to begin with the first cell:
While my first wash of the main color (in this case, it’s an ocher-yellow) is still wet, I will bleed in several other colors — in this leaf, it has green edges and brown rot spots inside the cells. And next, still while the paint is wet, I’m going to get out a straight pin and do this:
This is why I picked this leaf: it has great veins. And I’ve found that by using a straight pin to dig lines into the wet paper, I can make the best veins.
This is not hard to do. Just use the straight pin like an itty bitty pencil, and “draw” the veins into the wet watercolor. (Sorry that you can’t see it well in this pic — bet remember, I’m snapping photos with my right hand while I’m painting with my left and we should be grateful that I’m able to get even these crappy shots).
OK. Veins done, we skip to another cell while this one dries.
Cell 2, done. Step 3:
Cell 3, done. This is a good shot of what the straight pin does to wet watercolor paper — see the veins? Not bad, huh? Step 4:
The most boring part of painting a leaf is waiting for the watercolor to dry. So, to keep busy, I’ll do the stem. Step 5:
Final cell, done.
Yes, watercolor lightens when it dries: you might want to keep that in mind as you’re painting. Use lots of color! Use lots of red! Like this:
I chose this leaf because I want to show you a trick of the trade, namely Art Masking Fluid.
Art Masking Fluid comes in a little bottle (75ml for about $14.00) and it’s liquid stuff that you apply onto the parts of your picture where you want the paper to resist paint. I use a toothpick to “brush” it into small places — use whatever is easiest for you, but don’t use a paint brush. When this liquid dries it becomes waterproof, like rubber, and that is murder to get out of the bristles of your paint brush (I speak from experience). But since it’s waterproof, you can paint right over it and when your painting is done, you just peel off the mask and voila!
The reason I’m using mask here is because this leaf has some tiny holes in it:
I’ll be putting Art Masking Fluid on those little holes,because I paid $14.00 for the stuff and I want to get some use out of it.
Now we can begin to paint:
Remember, the key to getting your Fall leaves to look real is to paint wet-into-wet, to create bleeds, like this (up-close):
And so on:
And, finally, we peel off the Art Masking Fluid:
It’s very peaceful to paint these miniatures. I enjoy the concentration and smallness of painting one leaf at a time — it’s like meditation.
Just take your time, look closely at the leaf, get your strategy worked out before you start, let each cell dry before you paint the next one,and get lost in the details.
It takes sooooooo much longer to do all the admin work of cropping, re-sizing, and arranging all this info into this blog than it does to actually paint these things. It takes hours of computer-time…my least happy time. But I do all this nasty clerical work for you, dear readers, because you always cheer me up with your helpful and validating Comments, and this is my way of saying Thank You.
And here’s another big Merci from moi: if you’d like to have the 4-inch x 6-inch framed and signed original painting of this little red leaf, please leave a Comment below, requesting this prize. This blog is getting close — very, very close — to its 1,050th Comment and if you leave a note here, and you’re the lucky 1,050th Commenter, you’ll win this leaf painting!
See you Friday in the Winner’s Circle.