Monthly Archives: October 2009

Spinning Oak Leaves Sketch

This morning I was fascinated with the simple act of falling leaves. I had a mouth dropping discovery. Stopped at a red light, I noticed something that never really occurred to me…autumn leaves don’t just fall, they spin like tops when they fall! They spin and fall and spin and fall. It was like watching poetry…for me anyway. It warmed my heart so much I thought, “Is there something wrong with me? Do other people get this excited over an expired leaf making its flight towards death?”

I was so inspired I had to sketch this scene:

Spinning Oak Leaves - Watercolor Sketch

 The leaves spin as they descend in the direction of the clouds, in the direction of the wind.    ckane

Oh how I love active weather! You might look at this painting and say, “Oh yuck what a gloomy day.” But I smell the rain and see the clouds and smile when I say, “Oh I love such a day as today!”

Autumn leaves don’t drop like bricks. They spin like tops as the wind carries them where ever it wants to take them. Thank you God for such a simple revelation. Beauty is everywhere.



Difference Between Cold Press and Hot Press

In watercolor world, what’s the difference between cold press and hot press watercolor paper? Why, let me show you…

Do you remember the red maple leaf we painted the other day? Well, I painted two of them at the same time using the same steps and the same paints. Here is what they look like:

Cold press watercolor paper (left) has texture. Little bumps and grooves holds in the water and pigment. It really sucks up the water pretty quickly. Cold press is a good choice when you want to convey texture in your subject.

Hot press (right) is super smooth. No texture with this paper. This paper doesn’t suck up the water as fast as the cold press, allowing you to play around more, like re-wetting edges of pigment.

Notice the colors of the two leaves! This is what I discovered when painting them side-by-side, the hot press is more vivid and bright. The cold press is a little more dull…but I used the same paints! Does it have to do with the absorbance of the paper? Maybe? Maybe the pigment gets imbedded in the cold press paper and soaks thoroughly and perhaps the pigment on the hot press dries closer to the surface. Or maybe the tiny groves in the cold press creates an overall shadow to the eye? Hmmm…interesting.

Here is a close up of the upper right section:

Cold Press. Can you see the texture in the paper?

Hot Press. Really smooth.

Buy both papers, don’t limit yourself to just one type…play…have fun! I hope this helps clear up the confusion about cold and hot press watercolor paper.

Injured Squirrel (I didn’t do it)

Everybody knows I hate squirrels. I hate them because they clear out my bird feeder within 10 minutes of me filling it always. I especially hate them because my neighbor hand feeds them peanuts. Ohhh, let’s reward the little snots with a big juicy peanut!

Anyway, even though this particular varmint is my enemy, I would never do anything to harm one of them…even if I kind of want to. Look at this poor fellow who was again caught in the act of clearing out my feeder:

EWWWWWW, look at that poor sap’s tail! Gross!
He had an extremely hard time balancing as he was up to no good. He almost fell several times and then finally did.

What do you think happened to him? Maybe he was running across the street and a car got his tail? Maybe he got stuck in a trap? Stupid squirrel.



Let’s Paint an Autumn Maple Leaf!

I can tell by search information that a lot of people are trying to learn how to paint autumn trees and such right now. I don’t blame them! What a wonderful idea to take advantage of the season. To tell you the truth, I think autumn has more to offer than any other season. The colors are exploding and there is so much to choose from.

In my quest to make it simple for the beginning watercolor artist, I want to show a very easy step-by-step demonstration on how to paint an autumn leaf. You can do this! Try it out…

Step 1: I am using cold press watercolor paper. I sketched my leaf larger than life size with a #2 pencil. I taped the actual leaf down next to my sketch because the leaf was curly and I couldn’t see the entire top surface.

Step 2: Wet the entire leaf. Wait until your paper is no longer shiny and paint the veins winsor yellow. Remember, with watercolors you paint the lightest color first, then you layer with darker colors.

Step 3: While your paper is still wet, take some permanent rose and paint the leaf around the veins. Why am I using permanent rose (a pink color) for a red maple leaf? I use the pink under the red to give the red color brightness and life. If I do not use the pink, the red will look dull and lifeless.

Step 4: While the perm. rose is still wet, paint the outer edge of your leaf alizarin crimson. The paint will mix and move around…we like that. Take a sharp stick and scrape out the veins.

Step 5: Wait until everything is dry then take winsor yellow and a rigger brush and paint the veins yellow again. Next make a watercolor mixture of alizarin crimson and burnt sienna and paint inside the leaf in between the veins and around the edges.  Almost done!

Step 6: With a mixture of alizarin crimson, burnt sienna, and ultramarine blue, paint the outer most edge of the leaf and along some of the veins with a small rigger brush.

Step 7 Final: Today I decided to outline with my black micron pen. I didn’t do every single vein, just some of them. Next, take cobalt blue and paint in the shadow to make it look like your leaf is not floating in the air, but resting on a surface. The stem is perm rose and green gold at the very tip.
We are done!

I hope one way you can celebrate autumn is by painting this easy maple leaf. Maybe you would like to find your own autumn leaf and try to paint it by using the lightest-to-darkest watercolor layering method as shown in this demonstration? Take the blessings God gave you to document what’s going on around you. It is so much fun!

Let’s Paint an Autumn Tree!

Did I ever tell you how much I love Autumn?!? I love it, I love it, I looooove it! Maybe you have heard me say it a million times, but Autumn is the most glorious, mysterious time of the year. Beautiful aspects of nature are revealing itself right now and its victory time is very short, so we have to savor it now.

Let’s enjoy autumn by learning how to paint a basswood tree before all of it’s leaves disappear.

Here is our reference photo:

Notice most of its leaves are already gone. No worries, we are going to celebrate the stage this tree is in right now. I am going to show you how to paint this tree with watercolors as a background and pastels as a foreground to create a 3-D effect.

Step 1: I am using Ampersand’s Pastelbord to paint my subject. Why? It’s not cheap when you consider that this is your “paper”, but Pastelbord will never, ever warp on me. I like to use a ton of water on my underwash. I love to splash it, and drip it, and squeeze the watercolors out, all that water tends to buckle my water “acceptable” pastel paper. Using Pastelbord, I never have to worry about buckling.
Using a charcoal vine, I sketched my basswood tree.

Step 2: This is SO much fun! I sprayed my board with clean water to wet the surface. Next, using a wide brush I mixed ultramarine blue and a touch of burnt sienna watercolor paint and painted the top of the board and above the horizon line. Notice I left the middle open. With clean water and a brush I touched the two layers so they can meet. Let the watercolors drip if they want to, don’t be in such “control”. Half the fun is watching what the paint wants to do, let it flow where it wants to flow.

Step 3: Next, I painted the ground green gold, blue, and alizarin. Don’t worry about exact color, remember you will paint over this with pastels. When the background is completely dry, use a mixture of blue, sap green, and sepia watercolors and paint in the skeleton of the tree. I like the “S” pattern of our tree, I noticed it right away.

Step 4: We are still using watercolors. With alizarin, paint in some leaf groupings. On the bottom of your groupings, paint shadow color, mixing your alizarin with ultramarine blue. On the ground paint some sap green. While wet, take a sharp edge and scrape in some lines. Really dig in…this is fun. I had no preconceived idea of where my lines were going to be placed. I just started scratching. This step creates nice texture.

Step 5: Oh BOY! Now it’s really going to POP! When everything is dry, we are going to start using our pastels. I am using Unison pastels the orange variety box. Paint right over the watercolors, leaving some peep holes. I used 4 orange colors. The lightest is almost yellow, the darkest is almost purple/red.

Step 6: Now paint the grass and the dirt mound. I used a yellow/green pastel to scrape in some shapes. I used a brown for the dirt mound highlights and a blue for the shadow.
Do you see this painting taking on a 3-D shape? Can you just almost touch it!!! I LOVE IT! This is the benefit of using watercolors as an underwash and pastels as the final touch. I feel as if I am sitting right in front of this beautiful autumn tree.

Step 7 Final: Let loose and throw in some color! I used a bright green in the grass and also some blue colors to match the sky. Don’t forget to place some leaves on the ground. I added a touch of purple for an electric shadow and now I’m done.

I hope you enjoyed this free step by step painting demonstration on how to paint an autumn tree!

“Almost Gone, Autumn Basswood”

This painting will be on display at the LaGrange Art Gallery in November and December.