Feb 16, 2017

Painting Those Pesky Backgrounds - Painting and Drawing Tips


Somehow you run into trouble on every picture.  You have a great subject, you definitely know how to paint but What to do with the Background?

It can't be too dark. Too light. Too busy. Too plain.  Don't you just want to give up!!

Take heart, you are not alone.  This is something every artist struggles with.

Flowery Treats for Hummingbirds - Watercolour, 7.5 x 9.5 Available
Flowery Treats for Hummingbirds started out in one of my favourite ways; an ink drawing of my flowers.  I love the combination of ink with watercolour.  But what to do with the background.  Blackeyed Susie flowers are not very helpful.  They stand up tall, well about their foliage so you can't sneak that in the background.  You are just on your own.

I like to start with layers, just like in my drawings. 

First I lay a light wash of all my colours for the flowers and background around my flowers. (note my small sample piece below.  Sorry I got so caught up in my original picture I forgot to take those early shots)  No, I didn't use frisket, just wet everything and laid down colours letting them mix or not on the paper.  I let this dry.  I don't use a blow dryer at this point as I want the paint to do it thing.  Don't worry if you get a bit on your subject, use your scrubber brush to gently work the colour off when it is dry and do the same to tidy up the edges.  Note the soft scrubbing done on the lower stem.
Sample: First wash with all my colours - 5 x 7
Once this was dry, I drew in my hummingbird.
Again I used my scrubber brush to lighten up my bird but did leave some colour.  The hummingbird is going to reflect the colours in the picture so I needed it to have some of them in his body.
My Scrubber - a #8 Chisel Blender.  Firm enough to shrub the paint but soft enough not to hurt the paper. 
Paint your Flowers (Subject)
At this point I stopped and painted my flowers and my hummingbird. It is much easier to see what is happening in your subject when you don't have the white paper all around.  Also it gave me a check that I have all my colours in the background. 

More Layers added to the background
Yes, you can add layers and layers to the background.  But there are a few simple rules to follow. Make sure it is totally dry before you start.  Use a soft wet brush to wet the area first.  Make sure it is wet enough to skip over the surface.  You don't want to be dragging the under painting around. Then glaze over the background with your paint.  I like to use thin layers each time rather than one thick one as I like the underlying colours to show through.  Very similar to the shading we did in the drawing, adding the value in layers rather than pressing hard and going to the darkest dark all at once.  (See the last post series on Drawing A Seagull with Pencil for more thoughts on this)

Watch what is happening
As you add each layer, watch how your colours are changing.  They are talking to you.  I like to study it after each layer in different lights.  The colours become very rich with the other layers shining through.  As I get darker I also begin to leave some areas light.  For those areas I used a wet brush to keep the edges soft as I moved from glazing to non glazing areas.  If you leave dry edges you will have sharp edges in the background once everything dries.  

Finally Flowery Treats for Hummingbirds is complete!

Are backgrounds a problem for you? Do you have a few tricks that work well?
My next post has a very complex background with lots of tall grass.  Certainly a challenge to work with that.

Etsy Shop now Open: WendyMouldsArt  Come on In!!

Special Note to Artists: 
February is Marketing Month for Artists, time to really work on your Business Plan. Join me for a full day of getting ready to make 2017 your Best Sales Year ever.  (Still one or two spaces left for each day)

All day Marketing Workshop - Let's Get Your Art Out There - Sunday, Feb 26 or March 5, 10-3pm.  This is an opportunity to work with a small group focusing on ways that work for you, to market your art.  Whether you are looking at full time or part Art Sales, there are effective, proven strategies that will get your work out the door. $70 Limited to 8 per session.  Art by Wendy Studio/Gallery, N. Surrey, BC.  REGISTER NOW  with Wendy.   Out of Towners  & Skytrainers give me a call and we can set something up.

 Be sure to like and share my posts.
 You won't miss a single one if you Follow by Email or Like my Facebook Page. Keep up with all the art events by joining my email list (see sidebar on my blog)
 Have a great artful day,


Brenda Hill CDM said...

simple and bold at the same time, well done

Wendy Mould AFCA said...

Thanks Brenda, I was trying for a more bold look.