This, my Dear Readers, is Paulownia tree, of which there are many in bloom in Paris in May:
And this is the Paulownia tree in Monet’s garden at Giverny (back view):
And this is my study of the Paulownia tree in Monet’s garden at Giverny (front view):
Our Dear Reader Felicia mentioned in a Comment recently that she’s been working on trees, and how they give her fits — they give me fits, too — so I am dedicating this post to BARK for Felicia, and I hope that you’ll all paint along with us.
As much as it gives me fits to do trees (all those branches branching off in unpredictable ways) the one thing that I just love to paint is bark, because I know the secret! And the secret is that simply by letting watercolors do what they want to do naturally, you can let the paint do most of the work when it comes to painting bark! And it’s FUN!!
The key color when you are painting bark is gray. Bark is barely brown: it is mostly gray :
And the good news is that making gray from scratch is one of the most fun things to do with watercolor paint! Here’s how:
I start with this color, called “Flesh”, for reasons that I don’t want to get into:
Then I mix in some brown:
Next I mix in some blue — pretty much any hue from ultramarine to turquoise will do, whatever you have at hand or whatever blue is the one you prefer to work with:
I’m a big fan of my Grumbacher Prussian blue:
Then I add a tiny tiny bit of black:
I like to keep my grays on the blue-side, but that’s just me. You might have a totally different taste in gray:
And then I’m going to throw in some Burnt Sienna:
So now I have all the shades of gray that I’ll need for my bark — I will keep switching the palette ever so slightly, because the one thing you want when you paint bark is a lot of subtle gradations of color. I showed you my paint mix on paper so you can see the range of colors that will be possible, but in reality I will be working from a pan, in which I will have mixed all those flesh, brown, blue, and black paints to make an interesting gray:
And now, Let’s Paint!
First, lay down a few strips of color:
Vary the width of your strips by pressing down or lightening up on your paint brush. Do not paint them too close together, and vary the color of the strips (I’m working with browns and grays here):
The reason that you don’t want to paint your strips too close together is because this is the secret about watercolor:
When watercolor dries, you can stroke another strip of color right next to it and just because it’s watercolor, that edge of dry paint meeting the other edge of wet paint will form a nice texture, which in this case, looks exactly like bark — you don’t have to “paint” the texture at all..the texture IS THE PAINT!
Is that nifty or what?!?!
Once I have most of the strips painted in, I load my brush with just plain, clear water and I run it down one side (the right side) of the tree trunck, to blend and soften that one area just a bit:
And while the tree is still wet, I dab in some pure black paint:
Again, I’m not going to work it much — I’m just going to let it do what it wants to do, which is bleed and pool in interesting places. Then I’ll let it dry, and voila:
The bark practically painted itself!
Now, this is just a basic technique. If your tree has a different bark texture, or it has twists and burls in it, or it is smooth and kind of green, or it is sun-dappled :
Well, that takes practice and variations…but this painting-in-strips-thing is the basic way that I paint bark.
Yes, I expect to have to re-paint the Paulownia tree that I showed you at the top of this post, or just to re-work some more darkness and girth into the trunk and branches, but to keep things interesting for me I have been taking a stab at painting Monet’s flowers lately…and next week I’ll show you how that’s coming along.
Have a great Super Bowl Weekend everybody! Go Peyton!