Painting Feathers on a Cormorant

Painting feathers on a cormorant with a liner brush.
Painting feathers on a cormorant with a liner brush. (Close up)

I am beginning to paint some highlights and shadows on the feathers of the first cormorant. Again I am using Winsor & Newton gouache paint with liner brush. For the highlights, I use Yellow Cadmium Pale mixed with Permanent White to make a highlight colors for the feathers in sunlight. Some of the darker highlight colors will have Jet Black and less Permanent White. For the shadow, I took Pthalo Blue, Cyan Blue, Jet Black and Permanent White to make a variety of shades for the feathers in shadow.

For the brushes, I used several liner brushes that ranged in sizes from 0, 1 or 2.

Continue reading “Painting Feathers on a Cormorant”

Painting Shadows on the Cypress Trees

Using my #1 series 540 Windsor & Newton Regency Gold to paint the sky blue highlights in the shadow.
Using my #1 series 540 Windsor & Newton Regency Gold to paint the sky blue highlights in the shadow.

Painting Shadows on the Cypress Trees – Last time, we painted the bark on the Cypress trees that are in sunlight. Now we will paint the side of the trees that are in shadow. Although they are in shadow, there is still the opportunity to show lots of color by creating a warm/cool bias between the side of the tree in shadow with the side that is in sunlight. Back in the “old days”, before computers and color photography, artwork was photographed with black and white film. Having a strong warm and cool colors was advantageous because they would help provide contrast when being photographed with black and white film.

For the shadows on Cypress trees I am painting, I use four different shades of bark color. The basic recipe for my bark shadow color is Windsor & Newton Gouache Cyan Blue, Sepia, Ochre, Jet Black and Permanent White. The lighter of the colors have no Jet Black, more Sepia, more Ochre, more Permanent White and less Cyan Blue. More Sepia, Ochre and less Cyan Blue makes for a warmer lighter color. The darker shadow colors are just the opposite. More Cyan Blue, more Jet Black and less Permanent White, Ochre and Sepia. The complete the shadow colors I take a thin liner and add a highlight made up of the color of the sky, a mixture of Cyan Blue and Permanent White. This gives the shadow color a colorful realistic look (see top photo). If an object is not in direct sunlight, the shadow will still have color. It will reflect colors from the sky. Anyone who has taken lots of night photography in the city has knows this. A good digital camera picks up colors that the naked eye doesn’t see. Objects that aren’t in direct light still have lots of color. The colors are just much cooler with lots of blue.

This is where we left off. The two trees to the left and right of the big tree are the ones we will be working on.
This is where we left off. The two trees to the left and right of the big tree are the ones we will be working on.
Here is our glass palette of tree bark colors.
Here is our glass palette of tree bark colors.
Here is the palette of water reflection colors. I will recycle one of the blues for the highlight shadow color.
Here is the palette of water reflection colors. I will recycle one of the blues for the highlight shadow color.
This is one of my thinnest liners. The #1 series 540 Windsor & Newton Regency Gold. I was using this in the top photo.
This is one of my thinnest liners. The #1 series 540 Windsor & Newton Regency Gold. I was using this in the top photo.
This is the painting after working on the shadow side of the trees.
This is the painting after working on the shadow side of the trees.
A detailed closeup of the tree on the left.
A detailed closeup of the tree on the left.
A detailed closeup of the tree on the right.
A detailed closeup of the tree on the right.

Painting Cypress Tree Bark

Using my liner to paint the outer most edge of a cypress tree using a highlight bark color.
Using my liner to paint the outer most edge of a cypress tree using a highlight bark color.

Painting Cypress Tree Bark – The bark on the Cypress trees are painted their light and shadow colors with lots of yellow for the light and blue for the shade. My goal is to finish what is in the background first and work my way forward to the stuff that is in the foreground. Therefore anything that is close up, gets painted last. The Cypress trees being painted in this post are in what’s called “middle distance”. Not quite background and not quite foreground. Their colors need to make them stand out from the trees in the background but not be so bright that they look like they are close up. The trees, plants and wood stork in the foreground will have the brightest colors.

The two cypress trees that I painted in this post started with a base shadow color and a base light color. For each plant or species, I mix an overall base color. In other words, there is a base common denominator color that you should see in all the trees. Trees in the background will have very little of this color and more sky blue and white. Trees in the middle distance and foreground have more of this base color.

Mixing a base common denominator color helps save time when you begin to add the highlights and shadow. When I need to mix the shadow colors, I take the base color and add blue and black or blue and brown and this gives me a realistic looking shadow color. For the tree bark that’s in light, I take the base color, and add Permanent White and Yellow and now I have a realistic bark color that looks like it’s in the morning light.

In the next post, we’ll discuss the highlight colors for the shadow color…

Photos Showing the Progression of the Cypress Tree Bark

Here is the painting before I began the work performed in this post.
Here is the painting before I began the work performed in this post.
Here is the painting after completing the work performed in this post.
Here is the painting after completing the work performed in this post.
Another view of me painting the sunlight edge of the Cypress tree with my E51 series liner.
Another view of me painting the sunlight edge of the Cypress tree with my E51 series liner.
A closeup of the bark of the Cypress tree on the right.
A closeup of the bark of the Cypress tree on the right.
A closeup of the bark of the Cypress tree on the right.
A closeup of the bark of the Cypress tree on the right.

Wood Stork and Water Lilies Painting Trees And A Lake

Painting a gradient using a liner, a 24 inch steel rule and gouache paint.
Painting a gradient using a liner, a 24 inch steel rule and gouache paint.

Wood Stork and Waterlilies Painting Trees And A Lake – Here is where we apply base coats of gouache paint for the lake and the tree bark. Generally I like to paint from the darkest color to the lightest color. For me, painting that way is preferable because the gradients are easier to paint with less brush strokes being visible. For the the lake, I put a base coat of gouache Windsor & Newton Jet Black and also in the large cypress tree in the foreground. I’m putting the Jet Black only on the tree in the foreground so the other trees will appear “off in the distance”. Adding more white and whatever color your sky is will push elements in your painting off into the distance. Whereas darker or brighter colors will bring elements forward.

Painting a Gradient

A closeup of the reflection on the water.
A closeup of the reflection on the water.

We want to add a reflection of the blue sky to the lake. Since we are painting on the pre existing coat of Jet Black, using a large brush like an oval or flat wash and lots of wet paint would cause that Jet Black to mix into our the blue. That would cause undesirable results in painting the reflection of the sky. Therefore we are going to use a liner brush instead of using an oval or flat wash brush. I will mix the various colors of blue on my glass palette from the darkest color to the lightest.

Using A Bridge To Paint Straight Lines

Painting a Gradient - Another view of painting a gradient using a liner, a 24 inch steel rule and gouache paint.
Painting a Gradient – Different view of painting a gradient using a liner, a 24 inch steel rule and gouache paint.

Using a steel rule or a “bridge”, I paint the thin horizontal lines until the paint in the bristles are used up. As the paint in the bristles gets low, the paint as it appears on the paper becomes less opaque creating a gradient. From there I move on to the next color going from dark to light with the darkest color being slightly lighter than pure Jet Black and the lightest color being almost as bright as the sky. Because the brush strokes are thin, they dry fast and easily create a smooth “gradient look” without giving you a “brush stroke” look.

Robert Simmons E51 Liner Brushes

From this view you can see the unique shape of the handles that the E51 series liners have.
From this view you can see the unique shape of the handles that the E51 series liners have.

As this is the first time using this brand of liners, I wanted to bring special attention to them because of how well they perform. Because I love to paint with liners (most watercolor, gouache and acrylic painters don’t like them), I’m always on the look out for a good quality liner. I found that the Robert Simmons Expression Liner (E51 Series) may be the best series of liners I’ve ever used. It is a soft synthetic bristle brush. According to the Dick Blick website, “The brush hair is hand-shaped, then tied, glued, and hand-crimped into seamless, 22-karat gold-plated ferrules. Every beech wood handle receives five coats of matte, stain-resistant turquoise lacquer.

Liner Brushes With A Thick Handle

A closeup of the #2 Robert Simmons E51 Expression Liner.
A closeup of the #2 Robert Simmons E51 Expression Liner.

Additionally, the E51 liners are generously sized and perfectly balanced. The thick handles alleviate hand and finger fatigue during long painting sessions”. Unlike most liners whose handles are reed thin, the Robert Simmons Expression liner has a thick handle which is good in for gripping. From personal experience, gripping super thin liner handles over 20 years will give you carpal tunnel syndrome. The handles on the Robert Simmons E51 Series Expression liner saves your hand from that sort of nerve damage. The Robert Simmons E51 series offers six different sizes and thicknesses to choose from. If you like to paint with liner brushes, go get some.

A base coat of Windsor & Newton Jet Black paint has been applied for the water.
Before Painting a Gradient – a base coat of Windsor & Newton Jet Black paint has been applied for the water.
Painting a Gradient - Brown, tan and yellows have been painted as a base coat for the tree bark.
Brown, tan and yellows have been painted as a base coat for the tree bark.
My glass palette of blue sky reflection colors.
Painting a Gradient – My glass palette of blue sky reflection colors.
Painting a Gradient - The finished reflection of blue sky on the lake all done with Robert Simmons E51 Expression liners.
Painting a Gradient – The finished reflection of blue sky on the lake all done with Robert Simmons E51 Expression liners.
A closeup of the #0 Robert Simmons E51 Expression Liner.
A closeup of the #0 Robert Simmons E51 Expression Liner.
Another view of the closeup of the reflection on the water.
Another view of the closeup of the reflection on the water.

Wood Stork and Water Lilies Beginning The Painting

Painting the warm color highlights on the trees.
Painting the warm color highlights on the trees.

Wood Stork and Waterlilies Beginning The Painting – The pencil drawings have been completed so it’s time to mix paint and start painting. I’ll be using Strathmore 400 Series 140lb press watercolor paper for this painting. To keep the paper from buckling, I tape the corners of the paper to the corners of the watercolor paper tablet (see photo). At the top of the painting I tape hinge a tracing of the drawing so I can flip the tracing up and down several times without losing alignment. Then, I mark the top and bottom (height) of the painting on the paper with a hard 2H pencil.

Mixing Colors For The Sky

Wood Stork and Water Lilies Beginning The Painting - My three colors for painting the sky. Permanent White, Permanent White with a little Cyan, and Permanent White with a little more Cyan (darkest blue).
My three colors for painting the sky. Permanent White, Permanent White with a little Cyan, and Permanent White with a little more Cyan (darkest blue).

Now I mix three colors using Permanent White, Permanent White with a little Cyan, and Permanent White with a little more Cyan (darkest blue) using an Italian made palette knife that I’ve had for almost 30 years (see photo). I take my Robert Simmons 3/4 flat oval and wet the paper with a lot of water. Then, beginning with my darkest sky blue that I mixed, I start painting. Evenly covering the wet paper from left to right. Once two or three inches of paper are covered, I start in with the next lightest color. I continue that process until I have worked my way to the lightest color, Permanent White. When painting gradients, I always start with the darker colors and work my way to the lightest color.

Replacing The Drawing After Its Been Painted Over

Wood Stork and Water Lilies Beginning The Painting - Hinged tracing paper in the down position showing the drawing overlaid on top of the painting.
Hinged tracing paper in the down position showing the drawing overlaid on top of the painting.

After that gradient is complete, I flip my tracing down and draw over the next items to be painted immediately on top of the sky. In this case it is a tree line that will be added. I color the tree line the same colors as the sky to make them look far away. As I add trees that come closer to the foreground I will add less white and blue those trees closest to the front so that they will appear closer than the scenery in the background.

Photos of Beginning the Painting

Wood Stork and Water Lilies Beginning The Painting - My Robert Simmons white sable 3/4 flat round oval.
My Robert Simmons white sable 3/4 flat round oval.
Wood Stork and Water Lilies Beginning The Painting - Strathmore 400 Series 140lb. watercolor paper with the painted background.
Strathmore 400 Series 140lb. watercolor paper with the painted background.
Another view of the hinged tracing paper on top of the painting.
Another view of the hinged tracing paper on top of the painting.
My nearly 30 year old Italian made palette knife.
My nearly 30 year old Italian made palette knife.
The painted sky beneath the tracing paper.
The painted sky beneath the tracing paper.
The beginning of the painted skyline on the horizon.
The beginning of the painted skyline on the horizon.
A progression of the skyline.
A progression of the skyline.
A progression of the skyline.
A progression of the skyline.
A progression of the skyline.
A progression of the skyline.
A palette of new colors for the trees.
A palette of new colors for the trees.
A close up of my Robert Simmons #2 white sable round.
A close up of my Robert Simmons #2 white sable round.
More progression of the background and the water.
More progression of the background and the water.