Gently falling leaves
Gently falling leaves with PA Sue Ellen Wilder
In this article Sue Ellen Wilder takes you on a gentle wet-into-wet stroll kicking up beautiful autumn leaves
With summer a distant memory we can still take great pleasure in the beauty all around us as we home in on our observations of the subtle changes and sumptious colours in autumn foliage. As you increase your sensitivity to your surroundings you will find so many beautiful things to paint; lovely patterns and changing shades in everything around you from doorways to clouds, patterns on fabric or flowers and foliage created by nature. And don't forget your artistic license - you cannot do it wrong - this is your own artistic interpretation not a photo.
Wet into wet
Autumn leaves provide the perfect subject to allow wet paint to kiss wet paper. Allow the water and paint to flow and smile as things go their own way. In other words, leave the paint alone and let the water conduct it. One of the most common mistakes I notice in my students is their going back to the same small area again and again. Try giving yourself (and the paper) a break - and remember that space can lead to freshness and vitality.
Tip: When using more water for wet-into-wet more paint is necessary. Try it on scrap paper to get the right ratio and consistency and to see how the colours dry. Wet your paper first and pat it gently to help the flow.
Try picking up two colours on the side of your brush - don't mix them up completely allowing the different shades to show, yet blend.
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Draw a light broken pencil line sketch of your leaf. This does not want to be solid, dark or heavy.
Lay in a light wash of Cadmium Yellow with a no 10 or 12 brush. Allow 'breathing spaces' of white paper to twinkle through and give sparkle. Resist the temptation to go over the same spot again. Using the side of the brush will give good coverage. Note that some areas will have more or less paint or darker or lighter Cadmium.
Float on some Cadmium Orange while still damp with the side of your brush as in step two, and let one area blend into another. The yellow can shine through from underneath.
When the shine starts to go, do an overlay while it is still damp, with Burnt Sienna, Alizarin Crimson and or Light Red. If you have a no. 10 or 12 filbert brush it is perfect to use. Let the paint flow. Don't worry if the darker areas are not exactly in the same place as on the leaf you are looking at. Smooth in with a small about of water (shake your brush twice so that it is not too wet). Try moving and tilting the paper to help the watercolour flow.
While still damp, float on any combination of Burnt Umber, Burnt Umber Dark, or Warm Sepia. Usually leaves tend to be darker towards the centre. Try two colours together on your brush. You could also add a touch of Sap Green to one corner. Again try to retain small areas of yellow or white paper. With a bamboo tool or stick, scrape in the veins of your leaf. If the paint is quite wet you will get a darker line. If it is slightly drier the veins will come out lighter. The veins will not work if the paper is completely dry. Loose any edges by touching a damp no. 5 brush to a damp edge of the leaf. The water will conduct the paint outwards - just touch the edge gently once - don't go back to it. Add a stem with a no. 2 brush (damp the area first) with Raw Sienna and touch into some of edges around the leaf with Burnt Umber in just a few important places. Soften the edge with a small amount of water if necessary.
Try a leaf with a turned edge
Create a harder definition at the top of a turned edge - when the edge is completely dry, shade in the damp turned area with a light tone with only one or two strokes with the side of the brush.
Make sure you give yourself a relaxing enjoyable time with this freedom painting and a willingness to experiment. We actually learn more from our mistakes and can benefit from the growth that can occur even if you are outside your comfort zone. Keep in mind the lightness of touch, not trying too hard and no gritted teeth! Creative art is uplifting - so just let it happen and enjoy the journey.
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