Monday, 29 February 2016

Gardens and foliage a simple acrylic demo for beginners

If you fancy a go using acrylics but you are not sure where to begin, this is a simple little demo for you to try. The key is to keep things simple, understand the consistency of your paint and don't try and make things look too 'real'.
Think of the impressionists.... 

There are some fabulous gardens, many are open to the public and you can spend an enjoyable day taking photos or sketching, gathering reference for some wonderful painting projects to paint at home.
There is nothing wrong with using photos, but I also like to use sketches and I feel that using a sketch can often make me far more creative than having a photo in front of me. It makes me think differently about my subject, as well as the colours I use and can often lead to some surprising results.
This is the painting I am going to demonstrate, you can follow this demo even if you are a complete beginner.

A contour drawing or simple line drawing showing the shapes of foliage is an ideal start.

Drawing just the shapes can free up the desire to slavishly copy a view. The results are almost abstract and can be a good base for using acrylics. Edges can move and a painting can almost evolve during the painting progress.

Tonal drawings are vital and this sketch will help me to isolate the dark areas from the light ones. A hatching technique is a quick and simple way to do this, leaving plenty of time to wander round the garden and create more. This drawing will remind me of the tonal values when I come to paint, I can then use any colour combinations I choose.

Using a sketch also means that you only have your memory and a few lines on paper to work from, this means that the finished result is more a painting from memory rather than a copy of something and it can bring out the creative side in us.

Materials I used
Paper – Bockingford 140lb not surface A3 (you could use a canvas or any heavy weight paper to have a go on)

Paints – Daler Rowney in the following colours
Cadmium Yellow
Titanium White

 ½ “ Synthetic Oval (you could use a flat on its side)
My Classic Round, equivalent to a number 12 round squirrel (you could use a synthetic flat)
Water pot – nice big pot. Avoid a small jam jar.
Masking tape
Mixing palette, this can be plastic or a scrap piece of heavy weight paper if you don't have a palette. 
My working area, the finished painting.
Make sure you have a steady platform to put your paints and water pot. Using an easel and painting in an upright posture will result in a more dynamic painting and prevent the ability to fiddle with details.
If possible make sure there is enough space to walk back and view your painting in progress.
Tape the paper to a board using masking tape.

Step 1 Blocking in
Draw the contour drawing onto the Bockingford paper and block in the tonal areas as indicated on the sketch.
The dark areas are made up using Ultramarine, Emerald and Crimson and for the dark tone on the right add Cadmium Yellow. To lighten the tonal values, add a touch of white.
For the very light tonal areas, begin using Titanium White and add a little Emerald, Cadmium Yellow and a tiny touch of Crimson.
Use the Mock Mongoose brush and broad brushstrokes to block in the simple areas of colour. This should be simple, not overworked and shouldn't look 'coloured in'

 Step 2 Adding mid tones

Begin adding the mid tones using brighter colours. Into the dark areas add strong cool blues, Use Ultramarine and a touch of white, dabbing the brush onto the paper to create texture.
 Tip - Don’t worry if the colours merge on the brush leaving two colours on the paper, this all adds to the textures created.
 Avoid watering down the acrylic paint too much at this stage.

Once the mid tones are added, the very light tones can be placed where the sunlight falls. Use white and a touch of Cadmium Yellow and Ultramarine.
At this stage the painting looks very simplified, with no attention to detail. Already the main tonal shapes are evident and this helps to ensure that these bands are kept accurate.
 The paper is all covered, the paint is applied fairly thickly and all using the same brush.

Step 3 Adding blocks of interest

Change to the Classic Round brush, (you can use a synthetic round if you wish) this will result in blobs of colour rather than strokes.
Using the tonal drawing as reference, begin to separate the different shrubs.
Keep to the same mix of colours and add just enough water so that the paint comes off the brush. It should feel sticky so a blob of colour remains on the paper.

Pressing the brush against the paper onto its side rather than just using the tip will create pointed sections representing flowers. Use the brush in the direction that the flowers grow in to suggest movement.
Diluting the acrylic with just enough water so it flows off the brush will result in the colours underneath showing through. This technique of glazing can be very useful for adjusting colours without loosing the previously applied colour.

Step 4 Building up layers
Acrylic is so versatile that thin layers can add luminous lights on top of very dark areas as well as opaque colours sitting on top of perhaps unsuitable ones. This of course means that you can continue to work on a picture until you are satisfied with it.
 Tip – Avoid adding white if a thin transparent glaze is required. Add white to achieve opacity.

Step 5 Adding Interest

Using the Classic Round and a mixture of White with a tiny amount of Ultramarine, blob in tiny sky areas to suggest breaks in the foliage. (this bit is such fun and really makes your foliage look more convincing.

Once the shrub shapes are established, added colour can then be positioned to create more interest and colour. Use Crimson with a touch of White , or add Ultramarine to create mauves.
I hope I am not adding too many images here, but if you are new to acrylics, I hope they help you.

 Ensure the tonal values are maintained. If flowers are in shadows use very little white, even if they are pale flowers. Add more white to the flowers in the sunshine.
Tip - Avoid creating any specific detailed shapes as this will be out of keeping with the impressionistic style of painting.

Step 6 Developing the foreground

It is often tempting to add detail into the background, but this can lead to a cluttered painting, keep the background simple and concentrate on adding flowers into the foreground.
Drag the brush sideways slightly to create oval shaped flowers, place light colours over dark as well as covering some sections with bright green.

Add more blue, keeping it darker in the shadow areas adding white in the lighter areas. This bit should be lots of fun!

This is the painting just before the final highlights.
Final Step adding the finishing touches.
All that is needed are the light highlights on the flowers in the distance, this suddenly makes them more apparent, and the foreground flowers developing.

More darks are added 
Adding the flowers in layers creates a mass of textures and gives the impression of a full flower border.
Individual flowers merge into clumps and masses creating the busy foreground yet still simplified enough to work well against the garden backdrop.

Finished painting 10 x 12 inches
 Acrylics can be so rewarding. The ability to place one colour over another enables a vibrant build up of colours.

Sticking to just five colours also enforces unity in a painting and makes mixing much easier.
If you have enjoyed reading this page and would like me to show you more step by step paintings, please let me know. If I get a good response, I shall add more.
My next planned post is about using oil pastels - also for beginners.
Happy Painting!

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