Practical Exercise 7 – Texture – Leaves

Materials

Paint: Pebeo acrylic – titanium white, cadmium red, cadmium yellow, process cyan, burnt sienna, phthalocyanine blue, Winsor and Newton white gesso
Tools: Palette knives, Brushes – flat 3/8”, Cryla, round No 4, Colour Shaper – Forsline and Starr
Other mediums: Liquitex Super Heavy Gel (Matte), Pritt PVA glue, Golden Coarse Pumice Gel
Collage material: Selection of pressed leaves
Support: Acrylic paper
Size: 40 x 30 cm (15” x 11”)


Aims

With this test piece I wanted to explore the idea of using organic material based on the trees in the garden of the family home. Two oak trees dominate the end of the back garden and I used leaves from the oak trees in particular to explore ideas around texture and layering.

Session 1

Initial layer adding dried leaves to gesso and gel medium mix

Initial layer adding dried leaves to gesso and gel medium mix

For the initial layer I painted the acrylic paper with a layer of white gesso. Once dry I added a thicker layer of white acrylic mixed with acrylic heavy gel using a palette knife in order to create a rougher surface to work over.

I had used the dried leaves to create small test pieces where I printed with the leaves and also scraped out the shapes of leaves into a thicker mix of paint and gel medium. While printing, I liked the colours of the paint on the leaves so decided to add them to the larger piece. A large oak leave was used as the main focus of the piece and over this I used a layer of white gesso, rubbing some off to reveal the colour of the leaf.

Other leaves were glued in place and I then used the palette knife to create different textures. Tapping with the back of the knife created a stippled effect and using a colour shaper I scraped out a partial outline around the larger oak leave. My aim at this stage was just to play around with texture before considering how the work could be developed.

Session 2

Adding leaves to develop texture

Adding leaves to develop texture

For session 2, I experimented a little with colour taking a wash of phthalocyanine blue across the area to the left of the larger oak leaf. I had an idea of trying to make it look as if the leaf was floating in water but wasn’t sure about the effect.

Next, in the bottom right-hand corner, I experimented with printing using other dried oak leaves. Again, I felt this wasn’t working as I had hoped, perhaps because the surface of the underlying layer of paint and gel medium wasn’t smooth enough.

I added a slight wash of blue across the main leaf and the veins in the leaf made me think of a map, an idea I had worked with for other exercises. I added some more oak leaves and began to consider using the leaves and a textured gel medium to work with this concept.

Addition of gesso and gel medium

Addition of gesso and gel medium

To develop this I mixed white gesso and Liquitex heavy texture gel and worked over areas around and across the leaves taking care that the texture of the leaves was retained.

Session 3

Adding light washes of colour

Adding light washes of colour

I added a light of wash of a mix of cadmium red, ultramarine and burnt sienna over the leaves and some of the surrounding textures. To try and build up textures I lifted out some of the colour but wasn’t too sure how to progress further at this stage.

Session 4

Adding in topographical details

Adding in topographical details

In session 4, I decided to keep developing the idea of the leaves as a map. I wasn’t happy with other areas of the image so used Golden Coarse Pumice Gel and titanium white to create textured areas. I worked over the oak leaves in the top right-hand corner with white paint and used the palette knife to create a skim of texture in other areas.

Detail of 'map'

Detail of ‘map’

I then played with the idea of using the natural features on the leaves and making minor adjustments to outline the main roads and the burn in the area of the family home. Finally, I took a further wash of the purple mix to darken the areas representing the woods.

Session 5

Development of idea of island

Development of idea of island

Reviewing the work from the previous day I began to stretch the theme of a map as the leaves looked as if they formed a small island. The village sits at the head of a loch to the south and is bordered by another loch to the west so, thinking of satellite images, and with tongue in cheek, I decided to experiment with this idea. I used cadmium yellow and titanium white to create a shore roughly where the land is bounded by the two lochs. I then used process cyan to create areas of darker and lighter blue to represent the sea. The wash extended over a leaf below the map which, in outline, was shaped like fish.

Final changes to shoreline and water

Final changes to shoreline and water

I worked a little more on the ‘topography’ of the island, thinking of it less as a representation of the village and more as a world in its own right. Feeling that the road and the water represented on the map were too dominant I used a wash of white to give the features a more faded appearance. The shoreline looked too yellow and I changed this using a mix of yellow ochre and white. Finally, I used a wash of cadmium red and ultramarine over the leaf with the fish-like shape to create more balance with the colours of the island.

Self-Assessment

Technical and visual skills and quality of outcome – This has been more successful as a test piece than I initially thought. I was trying to experiment more with texture and white paint, as suggested by my tutor. I have strayed a little from this concept but have tried to use colour only where it has been relevant to the actual image. Conscious of this, I deliberately left areas of white texture. I started the exercise just placing elements on the page and, as the idea of the map developed, the leaves at the top right-hand corner seemed out of sync with the rest of the work. Since the focus of this was experimenting with texture I decided to concentrate on the map concept rather than try to resolve the overall image.

Demonstration of creativity and context – I have enjoyed using the leaves in this way and, in effect, following through where they led. Using the different types of gel to create varying textures also ensured that I had to work with a greater element of chance and respond to the materials as I went along. I have strayed into using colour but think there is potential, perhaps, to develop this idea in different ways. In previous exercises I had been considering ways to represent the inner landscape of my childhood and this idea of the village as island has potential. Possible options for development include:

  • Considering the kind of materials more carefully in terms of texture, shape and size.
  • Thinking more about the placement of these to begin with.
  • Experimenting with other textures which could be used to create a ‘topography’ for the landscape.
  • Reducing the number of colours even further.
  • Working on a larger scale

Related Posts

Practical Exercise 5 – Artwork – Map – https://katespainting2.wordpress.com/outside-the-box/practical-exercise-5-artwork-map/

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