Wandering around the garden in late autumn I discovered some rather gorgeous looking Magnolia leaves still hanging onto our tree. There was a golden carpet beneath too which took my eye. I collected 3 leaves and decided to paint them. Thankfully there were still some on the tree if these ones started to fade.
The first thing to do was to try and protect them from drying up. I took reference photos and then into the fridge they went in a plastic bag! Sadly overnight they had gone very brown and the lovely gold hues I wanted to paint had disappeared. Thank goodness there will still some on the tree for colour reference.
I started by drawing up my three leaves onto tracing paper then used a black fine liner to outline my drawings. From here I could then put them on my lightbox in position and trace off carefully with an H pencil onto my watercolour paper.
Once transferred onto my watercolour paper I very carefully used a Faber Castell gum rubber to remove excess graphite. Take care not to rub, just press it onto the graphite and then lift it up as you go. If you rub you’ll ruin the surface of the paper. You also only need to do this where the painted areas are pale. You can use Bluetac to do this too.
Mixing the colours
The next stage was to mix up my colours, the lovely golden hues and browns. For your reference all are W&N colours unlelss specified: Burnt Sienna (BS), Burnt Umber (BU), Indanthrine Blue (Ind), Quinacridone Gold (QG), Indigo (I), Transparent Yellow (Trans Y), Winsor Lemon (LY or WL), Permanent Rose (PR), Sennelier Rose Madder Lake (S.RML). Also 2+QG (top row far right) equals Brown no. 2 plus QG. See photo of my swatches below.
You may notice in the next photos that I have cut out the shape of my leaves on some tracing paper and laid it over the top of my painting. This is to protect it from splashes. It’s better to use cartridge paper as tracing paper curls up a little and I have been known to catch the paintbrush on the curled edge!
The first wet-in-wet wash!
To begin with I added a pale transparent yellow wash all over to enhance the brightness of all that followed. on the next layer of wet-in-wet I started to introduce some of the tones from my palette. On the second layer I took each section of the leaf individually adding in more colour to strengthen it all up and then a little of the shadowing on the leaf ridges. This highlighted the veins a little more. There are some more videos later in this blog explaining these techniques so scroll down now if you want to know now!
Once I was happy with the intensity of the gold shades over the leaf I again worked on enhancing the veining and adding in small details, smaller veins and dots. Gradually working my way across the leaf and the furled edge. I also added more of my gold/burnt sienna mix to strengthen up the background layers in places, washing it out at the edges so it didn’t give an edge line.
I then used my Eraser brush (Eradicator) to enhance the light veins. Here is a little video which explains how I approached this. Once you’ve done this the whole thing starts to appear more 3D. I used to use 2 types, Jacksons Icon 1/8th inch series 702 and a stiffer one which is white synthetic – ProArte sterling 201 oil acrylic short flat size 0 (this is a long handled brush so I cut the end off!). Now (2020) I use a Billy Showell Eradicator brush which is perfect. It has a nice small stiff tip and is slightly shaped so you can erase really fine veins as well as bring out highlights with a very gentle circular motion. The image here shows a Rosemary & Co. Eradicator to the left and a Billy Showell Eradicator, right.
After this I started to work on the twisted broken part of the leaf. This was a challenge as I needed to show the curves and twists to get a good effect. It’s all in the shading and highlights. I painted the brown first leaving a nice highlight along it. Then added other colours as they appeared. Finally, I used my eraser brush to lift out lighter parts and darker paint to create the veined areas. It’s a case of looking carefully at where the shadows are and deepening the colour in those areas.
To get the papery effect on the little bits sticking out at the base of the leaf I used a very pale beigh tone and dotted grey into it. Painting a darker grey very occasionally along the very edge on the smaller bits.
Lastly, I strengthened up the golden areas of the leaf with a thin wash of my gold mix. Now onto the right side of the leaf using the same methods! Once both sides were done, I noticed a little green tone over some of the leaf so I added my green mix in a very thin wash to those areas. Leaf no. 1 finished!
Leaf no. 2 – lots of videos here!
As this leaf was quite large I used wet-in-wet technique on each section between the veins rather than go over the whole thing. I do each section alternately so that they don’t bleed into one another. Firstly I laid a thin layer of Transparent yellow down to keep the overlying layers nice a bright. Here’s a video to explain the process.
Once I’d completed three sections I continued into the bottom right part of the leaf. Here’s a little video explaining how I did this part.
Now for the top part, an area which thins and is very intricate. You need to be very careful to not go over the edges when wetting the paper. I’ve erased some of the fine vein lines with a soft rubber on the dry finished areas. They will erase at this stage but not after the next coat. If you leave them too dark they will interfere with your painting. Here’s a video explaining.
Here’s the right side of the leaf finished and dry. Now you just need to apply the same method to the left side of the leaf. Notice on the picture below I have left out a very small area half way down. This part of the leaf is far too small for wet-in-wet so I will fill this in later with dry brush. By the way, you can if you prefer, start with the left side, I just happen to prefer working from right to left.
I got carried away and started doing some of the dry brush work at the top of the leaf, my favourite part! The dark area with a papery feel I will also do later in dry brush. This part will be challenging and make for very interesting painting!
Well that’s the gist of it so far. I hope this blog and videos have helped you and I’ll be back soon with another Blog.
Until next time happy painting!
*All photos, content, text and videos are subject to copyright – Jackie Isard Botanicals 2017