I did this painting for the watercolor biennale coming up at the Federation of Canadian Artists in Granville Island ( Vancouver ). I had a few guidelines to follow : the size had to be 19 x 27 which is the size of the IKEA Ribba frame, most artists will use that frame so the exhibition looks more uniform. The painting had to be framed, these days I really like to mount my watercolors on board and varnish them but well, most watercolor societies and exhibitions won’t accept varnished or mounted watercolors.
Supplies to paint trees and leaves with watercolor:
I am using a limited palette, Yellow Lemon and Yellow Ocher, Burnt Umber, Viridian green, Ultramarine blue, Cobalt Turquoise light, Permanent Alazarin Crimson and Payne’s grey. With those colors I can mix an array of green, blue, and brown tones that will make most of the picture.
My favorite brush is an angular flat brush as I find it very versatile. I will also use a small brush for details like tiny branches, a large flat brush for larger washes like the trees trunk first layer of painting.
Finally I will use my old stiff brush for scrubbing off paint, it is a flat brush that I did cut closer to the ferrule to make it very stiff.
Start by stretching your paper on a board so it won’t buckle once you start painting.
You will also need to transfer your drawing. If your drawings is very detailed, you might want to consider using a lightbox.
You might also be interested in: How to make your own lightbox for tracing on watercolor paper
Once I have my drawing on the paper ( Arches 140 lb, hot press), I start by reserving a few whites with masking fluid, and then I wait for the masking fluid to air dry.
I then start painting the background around the trees, starting from light yellow to darker greens. I also paint the few leaves in front of the trunks. I am looking at my reference picture, trying to reproduce the sequence of colors I see on the picture
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This fluid is used to create striking white highlights or to mask areas for overpainting at a later stage. It forms a fast-drying, water-resistant film on watercolor paper and board, and is easily removed when dry.
Working one section at a time I paint the background looking at my reference picture reproducing the tones of yellow, green, browns and the blue. I am also paying attention to the quality of edges trying to paint a variety of soft and hard edges as I see them on my reference picture.
For the next step, I apply liquid frisquet on the leaves I painted that are located in front of the tree trunks. Then I am applying a first light wash on the trees trunks. I let that wash dry, before painting another watercolor layer on top, wet on dry, to build the bark texture.
I then work on the bark of the trees, rendering the textures by scrumbling the paint wet on dry.
I am taking off the masking fluid, and will now paint the tiny branches
The next step for me is to soften the edges that were around the liquid frisket areas. Those areas will often have very hard unnatural edges. I soften most of those edges with my stiff brush and a bit of water
I am keeping some edges very sharp on the lower part of the painting to represent the light shining on the river water.
Watch the whole process on this time lapse video, in about 3 minutes.