Bright, colorful subjects, like this view painted outdoors of a weeping willow reflected in a tranquil pond in West Hartford, CT, are to me cheery despite the tree’s descriptive moniker in this motif.
I begin with a wash of clear water applied to the lower sky, which also covers the distant tree line. Blue is quickly painted at top and bleeds into the wet wash.
Meanwhile, the two trees and their reflections are also quickly painted.
Bright yellow in a cream consistency with hints of Winsor Green is the first wash for land masses that outline the pond shapes; it’s also a negative space below weeping willow fronds. A wash of neutral color suggests distant trees and their reflections at left.
Now that this painting is ready for mid-value shapes, several are created. First, a few reflections are added to a thin wash of reflected sky in the distant pond. Next, the local orange color of the foreground is laid down and allowed to dry. Reflected sky and clouds in the closer pond are painted behind or around the orange foreground shape. (I decided sky needed darkening, too, so reapplied clear water just above the tree line, and then painted another layer of blue at top.) At this point it doesn’t matter that blue and orange overlap slightly at bottom or don’t meet neatly because dark value will later cover the sloppy edges.
A note about sky and reflected sky: Since sky is palest at the horizon, its reflection is palest in the reverse. Dark at top, pale at bottom, sky’s reflection shape is pale at top, dark at bottom. So to paint the foreground reflection here, I added clear water to the top of the shape (water helps to lighten value in watercolor) and painted blue in a creamy consistency onto dry paper to keep the wash darker at bottom, while allowing it to bleed into wet. The reflected cloud is simply created by dropping blue around its wet edges.
I apologize for the poor quality of the above photo – competing with the wind was challenging! Anyway, as you can see, the sloppy edges described earlier are now obscured by dark grassy shapes at water’s edge. Tree trunks and main limbs at left are roughly laid in with neutral gray, a more natural hue for most than brown. Leaves are painted quickly with Naples Yellow here, Raw Umber and Burnt Sienna there, and without much fuss. Cast shadows using Cobalt in a coffee consistency cross land masses. I gave up painting more at this point because wind was drying paper and brush too quickly.
With my script brush and Cobalt, more definition is added to grasses in the middle land mass.
A round brush with script defines tree trunks, limbs and branches. I paint quickly and over and behind yellow leaves, then add very dark foliage. The base of the trees is softened with my finger.