In our part of Canada, Labour Day (September 3rd this year), represents the end of summer and the return to whatever constitutes normal for most families. As I'm retired I don't have to go back to "work", but it does mean the start of the serious painting months ahead. In preparation for a couple of workshops I'll be leading in October, I've been experimenting with a Fall version of "Painting Negative
Spaces", and it occurred to me some beginners out there might find this little exercise useful. This sort of thing has been done many times I'm sure, but Wet Canvas! is a great learning tool - so here goes. The original green leaf version of this is at http://watercoloursforfun.com/Negati...%20Spaces.html
My paper size was 10 1/2" x 7", 300lb Arches cold pressed. Using a wet-in-wet technique I covered the paper with a basic wash of orange with a few dashes of darker tones to make the background more interesting. I hasten to add this is not a study of leaves as such, but a leaf shape. To do a proper leaf painting would require too much detail and time for a three-hour workshop. You may adapt this technique any way you wish of course, using oak, maple or even holly leaves for a Christmas motif.
Now draw in several slender branches with leaves attached as shown. Use a soft pencil to get a good image and to allow for easy erasing later. I've shown a simplified way of shaping these leaves. Draw the spine in first and add leaves to taste. The shape is up to you.
Now use the next darker tone of your basic orange wash and paint around the leaves. Cover the whole sheet with this wash.
Having fun? Next draw in other clusters of leaves to appear behind the first bunch. This is your first new layer. Mix up the next tonal value and cover the whole sheet except for the leaves you drew in. Also leave in the first bunch of leaves.
Erase all the pencil lines and now draw in another layer of leaves and repeat the process. The more layers you use the more complex the painting becomes and you may not want to devote time and energy to exact details, and if you vary the types of leaves it can be quite tiresome. You see what I mean? You aren't painting the leaves, you are painting between the leaves to make them appear in layers. The illusion becomes more real as you progress with each layer.
If you wish you can make your subsequent layers cross from the other direction, but be aware that this becomes more complex by the layer!
Here's a tip: if you start getting cross-eyed and confused by all the layers turn your board upside down. You'll get a different perspective on what you're doing.
The final layers are in and the illusion complete. This is a technique you can adapt to many watercolour paintings, and much of the time this sort of thing will be in the background and not the centre of interest as we've made this. You could spatter this with other Fall colours or put more detail in the front leaves - it's up to you really. This simple exercise may prove useful in many ways.
I hope this will help with future paintings.