Adding Interest to Green Foliage

Country Road In Wethersfield, watercolor 15×22″, ©Bivenne Staiger

One way to sustain a viewer’s attention in a painting is to vary its elements. Green is a dominant color in this landscape and varies from pale to dark and from yellow to blue. I decided to contrast the dark foreground with a very pale, bright middle ground (the yellow field) and a mid-value background (distant trees). The value arrangement of these three spaces can easily be altered to emphasize certain shapes, suggest depth, and to change mood. For instance, I could’ve painted the foreground palest, middle ground darkest and distant trees mid-value, or the same spaces mid-value, palest, and darkest, respectively. These are among six such options using just value.

all images ©Bivenne Staiger

In this painting foreground foliage mass is dominant in size, texture, value, and color, requiring variation. Begin painting green shapes like this with pale value and bright yellow color; these will eventually suggest lit foliage. Twist and gently push a rough-edged sponge loaded with paint to establish the lacy silhouette of leaves. A very gentle application yields more success! Use more pressure and squeeze paint onto the paper in thicker interior foliage shapes. Meanwhile, cover shapes (here, tree trunks) that will later be dark but paint around brightly lit shapes (posts), as seen in the yellow field and blue-green wash representing distant trees.

all images ©Bivenne Staiger

Next, quickly paint the road in a pale warm gray, covering the shaded grassy foreground area edges. Note that shaded, darker foliage at upper right is more blue and interior foliage less lacy and more solid, varying the foliage mass. Also, some foliage appears as large solid polka dots; this was unintentional and caused by too much sponge pressure.

all images ©Bivenne Staiger

Work quickly so that interior foliage shapes stay wet, allowing contrasting value to bleed in some areas. Keep other spaces within the solid mass open and airy. With just a wet script brush and no or minimal color, pull thin upper branches toward the trunk, adding more pressure as branches become thicker. Let foliage color bleed into them. Paler value in some helps suggest thin twigs.

all images ©Bivenne Staiger

On dry paper, paint the cast shadows crossing the foreground grass and road very quickly and with horizontal strokes. I used Cobalt in a coffee- to cream-consistency. While still wet, drop in unexpected color like purple and Raw Umber in a cream consistency to vary the Cobalt. Pull silhouetted grass shapes from the wet paint with the script brush, as shown.

all images ©Bivenne Staiger

Now add darkest shapes and details and spatter to suggest random leaves. Some foliage will appear more forward in space if you paint dark tree branches and trunks behind paler and mid-value foliage masses, as seen in the trees at right. By contrast, dark foliage at left mostly blends with darkest trunks and branches.

all images ©Bivenne Staiger

Dark value wraps the painting together because foliage varies in texture, value and color and lighting direction is now clarified.

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