View Full Version : Bamboo Study

10-30-2015, 06:08 PM
8x11 watercolor on 140lb Arches CP paper.
I did this from a photo my daughter-in-law recently took in Australia. I really struggled with the values and contrast (which is why this is so over-worked!) I'm still not sure if the values I used are working as is. I tried to keep the front bamboo stalks light in color and sunlit. Then the more distant bamboo is darker, in shadow. But then I was afraid I would lose all contrast if I went dark on the background, so I kept it light in the distance. I'm wondering if maybe I should just go very dark - almost black- in the distance? I would really love some critique/suggestions for how I can improve this when I paint the final version. Thanks for looking!


10-30-2015, 08:05 PM
Well done! Bamboo is notorious for difficulty to paint. I have a very long drive with 26 varieties of bamboo cos I just love them with their wave finger leaves at me as we drive home. :D But as to your painting - good it is but may need a little help I would soften the edges at top of painting as that helps the eye stay inside your work. And I would carry out your darkening of background. Put in some leaf and culms shadow about the place. Get a center of interest going - such as the leaves I have created in sharp focus. The thing is, you have the colours really well but the work has a bit of 'photograph' about it and that doesn't sit with the languid painterly style you have employed. Anyway, again - well done! See leftside of images as a comparison to the original on the right side.


10-30-2015, 08:15 PM
Thanks so much, Marie! That is all very helpful. And I see from your bio that you actually live in Australia! Here is my reference photo. You can see in the photo that the bamboo has all been "tagged" (not sure if that's what you call it "down-under"!) I am debating whether to add some initials here and there. What do you think?

10-30-2015, 09:35 PM
Your painting is lovely and I would not change a thing! So beautiful and masterfully approached.

10-30-2015, 09:45 PM
[QUOTE=LouMcK]Thanks so much, Marie! That is all very helpful. And I see from your bio that you actually live in Australia! Here is my reference photo. You can see in the photo that the bamboo has all been "tagged" (not sure if that's what you call it "down-under"!) I am debating whether to add some initials here and there. What do you think?

Please dont do that. Your painting of bamboos reflects the sway and the integrity of the most wonder plants. To show graffitti would be awful and ruin your work.

Mark Szymanski
11-03-2015, 03:23 PM
A few thoughts...

Greensyster has some great thoughts on how to treat certain areas.

The design of the piece seems to be lacking a definite idea... The bamboo is laid out "however", but has no rhyme or unity to it. There is little in the way of grouped masses. If I posterize the photo it breaks into two distinct groups.

Posterized above...

Bunching the groups gives you the ability to make one or the other the subject. Making one more important than the other is helpful.

The biggest problem I see so far is you have not quite captured the "character" of bamboo. I'm thinking along these lines... what is the shape of the bamboo... when you think of bamboo bunched like this what effect does growing together so closely have on the shapes of the shoots... how does it curve... how do you make the curving accented enough to show how the whole plant is growing. There is a lot of line work, but it doesn't describe a property of bamboo. Are you describing the graceful lines of the plant, the energy of the growth, the way the sunlight falls on the shoots through the thin graceful leaves, the differing colors and growth of individuals... this overarching idea isn't quite making it in the type of line nor the length and confidence of the brush work. If you are going for grace, the brushwork should have graceful long(ish) strokes, not staccato short strokes.

Currently, I see in your painting a thought process that appears to consider more of the nodes of the plant how it is broken into small sections at the curves of the nodes rather than the thought of the curve or straightness of the whole plant. Because of this, the flow of the eye is interrupted continually, rather then moved in a direction which is interesting, and perhaps describes the growth of the plant.
When you wish to emphasize a curve, having a straighter line nearby will help to show off the curve. For example the shoot on the right side has some nice graceful lines, by straightening the shoot of bamboo a bit and de-emphasizing the nodal lines, it helps to give grace to the curves. If one minimizes the bulging in the nodes, then you can emphasize the graceful curve of the line.

A quick workup on part of the painting kind of shows what I am referring to above... working on the grace of one line, emphasizing the curve by having a straight to the right. Cooler colors in the background to push the sunlight areas forward.

Its a great idea and you have done some great color interpretation.

11-18-2015, 09:49 PM
So I gave this bamboo another try. Still not satisfied with it. I guess I really just never had a true "vision" for where I wanted to go with it. I like this one better, but it's still just not there somehow. Oh well. I think I will chalk this up to experience and move on! Thanks for all the comments and help.

11-18-2015, 10:04 PM
really love this last one!

11-19-2015, 12:30 PM
Beautiful bamboo! I did one a few years ago but yours has turned out much more beautiful :)

11-19-2015, 01:52 PM
Hi LouMck,
What if you tweaked just the lit part of the bamboo lower left corner, to emphasize the light falling on it... lovely painting, I see the bamboo stand as being in a mist, with a little bit of light hitting front, lower left. I toned down the violet/purples in the middle ground, as in the misty subdued light back there, they might not be that vivid. Excellent painting!

Cheers, hope this helps in some small way.

11-20-2015, 05:56 AM
I like very much your painting. I would care a bit more in making consistent lines for the stem divisions, as also to really sharpen the edges that the stem segments look straight.
Here a fast digital alteration:

See how it makes it more real ?

11-20-2015, 02:51 PM
I agree - beautiful as is! NO GRAFFITI!