Greens

There’s a giant collard plant in my backyard. I know it’s not going to be there forever and it’s so pretty I’ve asked my husband not to harvest it until I get a chance to paint it. The problem is, my skills are not up to painting my backyard garden. I did a small study about a week ago and it frustrated me enough that I immediately pulled out a piece of printer paper and tried again. I used printer paper in the hope that I could relax about the outcome, since it was obviously not going to be anything permanent. I was just trying to figure out that big collard plant. Here’s the small study:

Greens study

Greens study


Here’s the printer paper version:
Greens study 2

Greens study 2


That was as far as I got last week. I needed to breathe for a while and stop feeling so frustrated about my lack of skill. I could see some of the problems right away but others were just completely mysterious. How do I make the background agree to be background and stop trying to be foreground? How do I shut up my left brain, which knows exactly how big the trellis is, and just paint what I can see, which is a lot less of it than I know is there? How do I do that gorgeous collard plant justice?

I tried again today, with a real canvas, and I still have all my questions. I do like this one a little better than the study, but problems are pretty much all I can see. I’m sharing it anyway. It’s a painting and it counts, even if it was an exercise in frustration. I want to paint landscapes, so I have to try, but I sure have a lot to learn. Learning takes time. Even if I don’t much care for the painting, I am learning how to hold a brush and how to pick up paint and how to cover empty spaces with it. I’m trying things. If they don’t work, I’m learning that I need to try other things. It’s called “trial and error” for a reason. Even if it makes me uncomfortable (and oh, it does make me uncomfortable), it’s helping me learn how to paint. The important thing is that I am not giving up.

Greens

Greens


I don’t absolutely hate the whole painting. I do like the bird feeder, which is interesting because I hadn’t originally planned to include it. You may be wondering why I didn’t include any birds. That’s one question that’s easy to answer. The cardinals didn’t show up and there was no way I was going to paint those big, fat, greedy doves.

14 thoughts on “Greens

  1. fairywebmother

    I like the painting and may be able to answer your question. In the day time, as a general rule, the further away something is the lighter and less in focus it is. Think about depth of field with a camera. As an experiment, try putting lots of matte medium on your brush with just a smidge of white or Titan buff. Then paint over anything you want to drop to the rear. That’s not a perfect solution, but you will get my drift.

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  2. fairywebmother

    Oh, and I probably don’t have to say this, but don’t do it on your canvas painting. This is a practice assignment and would be perfect for an art journal. A Canson mixed media 9×12 would have strong enough paper to handle the paint well, and they are not expensive. My garden painting was done on mixed media paper in my journal.

    Reply
  3. releaf1954 Post author

    Thank you for the tip, Bettina. I will give it a try. I need more medium. All I have is gel medium, which I bought for trying mixed media projects, but it’s too thick for what I want to do with acrylics. I guess I need to find time to take coupons to Michael’s and JoAnn. 🙂

    Reply
  4. LadyGrave

    I really like the way you’ve handled the trees in the background, and I think you’re doing an excellent job delineating all the folds and leaves of the collard itself. I always lose patience with that sort of thing (it’s why I don’t do landscapes unless I have to) so I’m impressed with how well-observed the plant is. To continue on what Bettina said… There’s a lot of things that differentiate foreground from background, and another big one is contrast. It can help to blur your eyes when you’re looking at a painting—look at it with your eyes almost closed so you can’t see any of the detail— and see what stands out. In your painting, the most contrast is in the background tree in the top right and in the bird feeder. The collard is the same brightness level as the background, so it sort of blends in, and it definitely fights for attention with the little crinkly-leaved plants below and behind it. To make it stand out you might exaggerate the shadows under the leaves and give it more of a full range of brightness. It would also help to drop back the background; I think the simplification of the background and the yellow flowers looks great, but the bright green hue in the middle of the canvas is so saturated that it catches the eye before the collard green itself… which isn’t what you want. If you get some of that color out of there and move it towards a grey (a purple-grey or a blue-grey or a green-grey) it will help the foreground colors to stand out. You might try just getting some other colors on your brush while you’re working with so much green; most shadows have some purple in them, and a lot of yellow-greens tend towards brown in the shadows.

    Sorry if that’s some long-winded advice! This was a really challenging subject and I do think you did a great job with it. It sounds like you’re learning a lot on every painting, and they’re looking better and better. 🙂

    Reply
    1. releaf1954 Post author

      Thank you for your long-winded advice. I need it! I feel excited about trying the things you’ve suggested. I had already thought about that bright green being part of the problem; I’m glad to have that thought confirmed. I am having a lot of fun. I just hope I can keep a little bit of it going during the yearly tie-dye rush. 🙂

      Reply
  5. fairywebmother

    For experimenting, I use glazing liquid from the hardware store in place of matte medium. It seems to do the same job, but is usually less expensive … but then it comes by the gallon, so I put mine in small dish soap squirty bottles. This medium is also good for “undos”. You won’t be able to erase things, completely, but scubbing them with matte medium on an old brush, then daubing the excess away with your paint rag can work wonders to correct errors. At least it will thin the layer of paint, so it’s easier to paint over. 🙂

    Reply
      1. fairywebmother

        It’s a water based medium used in Interior glazing techniques and works much like matte medium, or clear gesso. Not for finishing, or varnishing, but great for mixing.

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