Mar 19, 2015

How to paint the background?


Ideas are flying for the subject
the plans are ready
what to do with the background?
It should be a simple answer 
but somehow 
it becomes the question of the century!

I am not sure but maybe it is more of problem for watercolour and dry medium work.  It always seems to plague me when working on my pencil work as well.
Spring Friendships - 13 x 17 - Watercolour
For Spring Friendships I decided to try something different.  Taking direction from oil painters, who block in  their values and shapes before moving forward, I decided to do some under painting. I wet my paper and laid in my colours in the background.  My main concerns were to keep the value in the low to mid value range and to have shapes that might suggest leaves and flowers.  I left the area for my bird open as I was still unclear how I was going to deal with it.  I also did not do the area of the leaves.  As you can see I changed my mind once I got under way and also did some light washes in the leaf area as well.

Just underway - note how the background wash is already beginning to suggest flowers, leaves and sky
 It really was quite amazing!  As I worked more and more on the flowers and leaves my background began to look more and more like flowers, leaves and sky.  It was like it was painting itself!!

Notice how the under painting adds interesting colours to the the leaves
The under painting in the area of the leaves also worked really well.  As I painted the leaves, some of the under painting showed through and they really took on a new life.  I was very pleased with what was happening. Looking back on it now, I am not sure I would do the under painting for both the background and the leaves at the same time. I did like having that control of where things went.  ( I know things need to be loose but I do like a little control!)

My little Chickadee - notice the pinks and greens on him to blend him into his setting
There was no under painting for the chickadee. This proved good and bad.  Once he was painted he stood out way too much.  I really had to work on blending him back into the picture.  I used pink and green for the reflections on him as well as graying down his white.  (Hard to believe as the white still reads as white.)  I also darken his surroundings so everything was a more similar value.

The final touch was to wet areas of the background and darken the colours and clean up a few edges.  The challenge here is not leave watermarks.  My solution was to wet a much larger area than I needed and use a light touch.  You don't want to lift that paint off!!
 Spring Friendships will be a favourite for me.  It combines two of my favourite subjects: the tulips coming up with all the bright promise of spring; and our friendly chickadees  the garden a feeling of life and excitement!  Enjoy.  

To see the planning process for this picture see my last post "Will a Tulip Leaf hold a Chickadee?"  

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Have a great day, 
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Brenda Hill CDM said...

Just in time for your Spring Shows, I'm sure this one will be snapped up quickly. I love everything about it!

Wendy Mould AFCA said...

Thanks, I loved how my little chickadee really worked into the picture so well. In the spring these are my two favourite things when I look out into our garden!

Marney Smithies said...

Lovely painting Wendy, i think you should be very happy with the end result. Thanks for sharing your experience.

Wendy Mould AFCA said...

I am happy and inspired to move on to new things. I have some ideas of a barn owl which I want to develop but the ideas are still percolating!!