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Watercolor triptych, painting trees and leaves with watercolor: Stick Figures

watercolor and mixed media on paper mounted on board

Stick Figures
Watercolor and mixed media on paper mounted on board,
3 times 24 x 24 inches



My latest watercolor and mixed media landscape, I wanted to try painting a bigger sized watercolor but was limited by the size of my paper and the boards I had available so I thought painting a triptych was a way to paint bigger while keeping my process of mounting paper on board manageable. I also thought the interruption introduced by the 3 boards would add some rhythm to the existing rhythm of the tree trunks.

For this painting I decided to use two different techniques : I painted the leaves directly, having colors mingle wet in wet for interesting effects and bright colors  and I used a layering technique for the trunks to have more control on color and tone variation. Here are, in more details the steps I took.

mounting watercolor paper on board

I started by mounting my paper on board, to see a step by step tutorial of this process, click here: https://paintingdemos.com/2012/10/16/mountin-watercolor-paper-on-board/

limited palette

I will use a limited palette for this landscape

watercolor palette

Holbein: cobalt turquoise light, permanent red,
Daniel Smith : Burnt Sienna
Da Vinci Prussian blue, Cadmium Lemon Yellow and Viridian Green
Rembrandt : Medium yellow,
Van Gogh: Madder Lake Light
Reeves Payne Grey

painting a light background

I start by painting very light washes on the background, painting around the tree trunks areas.

painting leaves wet in wet

I paint the background leaves, mixing colors wet in wet so the colors are mixing on the paper rather than on my palette and are producing nice textures and changes of color.

painting leaves wet on wet

Here is a close up of the leaves area

foliage painted

Here is the triptych with all the background and foliage painted

masking leaves

Before painting the trunks I need to protect the few areas where leaves are in front of the trunk area, as it would take too much time to paint around.I paint over those leaves with masking fluid. I am also masking a few lines in between trees.

layering watercolors

Then I can start painting the first layer of yellow.

painting the blue layer

Once it is totally dry I continue layering the primary colors, painting now a blue layer ( Prussian Blue)

red layer of watercolor

Then I paint a layer of red, using the Holbein Permanent red.

adding more layers

The next step is to paint more layers to adjust the colors until I am satisfied with the final color. I added many successive layers, always waiting in between for the previous layer to be thoroughly dried, so the colors stay vibrant.

removing masking fluid

I the take off the masking fluid on all the paintings, it is leaving very hard edges that would look unnatural if left as is.

softening edges

To soften those hard edges left by the masking fluid, I will use a very stiff brush and a bit of water. This is an old brush that I did cut closer to the handle so it stays very stiff.

softened edges

Here are some edges softened.

splashing with colors and gouache

Finally, the last step is to splash the watercolor and add some drips, the fun part!
I am using a wash of yellow and red and some of the cobalt blue mixed with China white (gouache) as I like the milky appearance it is adding to that blue. Some of those colors will mix on the paper.

splashing with watercolor and gouache

To achieve an even and continuous splashing effect, I lay the triptych panels side by side on the floor and start splashing. I will also lay the panels at a 30 degrees angle and add some drips along the trunks.

close up

Here are a few close ups of the drips and textures.

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Watch a time lapse video :



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