Background Elements

All images ©Bivenne Staiger

Because we are often focused on subjects, backgrounds are sometimes not a major factor in deciding on, planning, or even painting a motif, which often leads to problems in painting. The above image of a female red-winged blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus), almost camouflaged in its natural wetland reeds habitat, shows the painting about half complete. (Males are much more showy and vocal.) These birds are welcome harbingers of spring, but here, though placed at a power point with linear shapes directing the eye to it, the bird is not actually particularly consequential to me. Rather, I find the pattern created by the reeds and the variety of greens and browns intriguing. Color varies from yellow to blue and orange to purple, and of course from pale to dark, and there is a beautiful, dominant line direction.

Paint is first loosely applied to wet paper. Light and mid-value negative space shapes are added gradually, layer by value layer, on dry paper, suggesting nuances in depth. Dominant vertical reed line elements are enhanced by diagonals that harmonize in general direction, while some are broken by a few perpendicular elements. The bird contrasts in shape and pattern.

All images ©Bivenne Staiger

As you can see, darker negative space shapes bring paler reed shapes visually forward.

Almost Incognito, Watercolor, 15×22″ © Bivenne Staiger 2020

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