On Friday, Jeff Knecht and I had a critique session in which he mentioned that the trees on the left of this sketch were difficult to distinguish.Â He thought they were one tree and thought that the details were a bit jumbled.Â My lovely young bride and I had been talking about that very thing just that morning and I asked her for some pointers.Â She suggested that I try to distinguish the colors more and that I incorporate a bit more atmospheric perspective.Â I asked her if she would be willing to write out a lesson for me to post here.Â Alas, it was the last week of school for my art teaching lover, and she was too busy with clearing her room for summer.
I did find a cool tutorial online that I thought I would share with you, along with my step by step version.Â Kristen Godsey wrote has an article that is hosted at The Artistic Network called Getting Greenery Right.Â She suggested that I should wash my foreground color first.Â After that dries, paint in my background tree.Â Once the background tree dries, then I should lift the background paint off of my foreground image.Â Mercer Island HUH? Not to worry.Â It’s not as complicated as it seems.Â In her demonstration, she is lifting blades of grass to create a lighter foreground.Â She uses a very stiff brush and a full pallet of transparent and opaque paints.Â I use a waterbrush and a set of transparent pans.Â Let’s see if I can modify this technique to work for me.
washing the foreground color
First, I use a warm green for the leaves of the cottonwood tree in the foreground.Â This is strictly from memory, so you’ll just have to believe me when I tell you it is a cottonwood.Â Anyway, I apply a wash in the full overall shape of the cottonwood tree.Â Then I went to play on Twitter while I waited for the paint to dry.Â I know that it was not very zen of me, I should have been of one mind and all that.Â But seriously, waiting for paint to dry is not one of my strong suits.
Painting in the background tree OVER the foreground wash
Next, I use a cooler and darker green for the cypress tree in the background.Â This is kind of the confusing part for me because usually if you want something to stand out in the foreground you make it darker.Â But this type of tree actually is darker.Â You can tell, I am easily confused.Â Anyway, that’s the point of using the cooler color to give it a little push to the background.Â That’s where the atmospheric perspective comes in to play.Â Less detail and more subdued colors move an item to the back or off to the side out of focus.Â If I had wanted this in the foreground, I would have used bolder colors but still less detail so that the focus would have remained on the cottonwood, and subsequently the chapel (remember the chapel?).
"Lifting" the foreground
“Lifting” the foreground is especially simple with a waterbrush.Â The constant supply of fresh water easily lifts the pigment off the paper.Â The only thing I had to be careful of was lifting off the foreground color as well.Â Also, just like with a regular brush, after you pick some paint up, you have to remove it from your brush or you just keep redistributing it.Â So unless you want to lay that same color back down on your painting, best to wipe your brush off after every lifting stroke.
Re-apply warmer foreground
Almost finished now.Â I have reapplied the foreground color.Â I’ve added a little more heat to it (a little red and a little sienna) and brushed it around the whole of the area of the cottonwood.Â Also, I’ve used it to define some of the shading on the tree. Â It has already made a distinction and now I’m excited to see how it’s going to turn out.Â I’m off to play on Twitter while the paint dries again.
Finally, I went back in and added the tree trunks, branches, highlights on the leaves, etc.Â This time, I think it’s quite obvious that they are two different trees.
I’m eager now for a chance to try this in the field.Â It is supposed to be beautiful weather all week so I may ride down to a creek by my day job and try this out on location.
I hope I can twitter from my phone while the paint dries, though.