Monday, November 21, 2011

The Making of Beautiful Glowing Luminous Leaf Paintings...

Here I am in my new studio doing the painstaking method of creating those magical, luminescent leaf paintings that are beginning to have a following. They look fantastic when they're done and here's how I make them. 

A nice over-the-shoulder view of me at work. I am about 
mid-way at this point.

Wide shot to give you an idea of my set up. There is another 
palette behind me, and a hair dryer. Tunes are on my computer 
(out of sight) and headphones are to keep the neighbours 
happy at night.
First, I should tell you WHY I make these paintings. It's because the longer I am alive the more I realize just how beautiful and wonderful the power, the life of Nature is. I just have to pay homage to that and to trees especially as I feel I have taken them for granted - especially when I was young. Maybe this is something that just comes with age or, perhaps, an ever-deepening awareness of things.

I have 4 palettes on the go (with one behind me out of view in this picture). All the paints you see are just a part of my acrylic supplies, and they are all professional grade (cha-ching). Aside from natural disasters (like a roving pack of wild monkeys ripping them apart) my paintings will far outlive me.

It first starts off as a visual in my mind's eye. I then sketch it out here using water color pencil crayons (Staedtler aquarelle brand which I got 20 years ago and I can't find any longer). The pigment is well saturated and gives me a pretty good idea how the final colors will look via acrylics.

A little thumbnail sketch to materialize my visualization and use
as a guide to execute the final paintings.

Note the first painting at the top of the photo 
(all green symbolizing the oak tree in the strength and glory of 
it's summer magnificence!) Also note the small sketch 
beside it.  I will actually refer to both throughout the painting 
series to make sure I am followingthe initial vision
that I worked out.
The process for these leaf paintings is to use the leaves as reference, as printing objects and as stencils. Layer after layer of color is put down, using the leaf to apply it and/or the leaf to mask out an area and color is painted around it. I have used dozens of layers of transparent and translucent color along with the initial layer of more opaque paint. This gives a deep luminosity to the finished piece. I also work with shimmering iridescent paints (in this piece both green and gold) and this adds to that luminosity and brilliance. The paintings literally GLOW and shift as you walk around them. 

Here I have several oak leaves down (to act as
stencils and masks) and am preparing another
for printing. I am applying a mix of raw sienna
and raw umber with a touch of quinacridone gold
onto the leaf with a very soft brush. 
The process for these leaf paintings is to use the leaves as reference, as printing objects and as stencils. Layer after layer of color is put down, using the leaf to apply it and/or the leaf to mask out an area and color is painted around it. I have used dozens of layers of transparent and translucent color along with the initial layer of more opaque paint. 

Here I am applying the paint-coated leaf over
the bottom and side oak leaf as to "print" it's
form over the other oak leaves that are laid
down as stencils or masks.

And again, I press the painted leaf down.

And now over here to the right, another leaf print.

And over and over and over again, I "print" the leaves. 
This creates the deep luminescence as well as a
lovely illusion of depth in the piece.

Just over half way finished this painting still has a ways 
to go but it is taking shape nicely!
I usually use a hair dryer to speed up the process but can work around the piece in a continual loop if you will, being careful not to smudge areas still wet. Sometimes though I have to just let the piece air dry. And the leaves are kept in containers of water to preserve and clean them. This painting (that at this point is about 3/5's done) has taken over 8 hours to get to this point. When finished it will have taken about 12-13 hours. 



And here is the finished work, a 12" x 12" original acrylic nature semi-abstract, post-post modern expressionistic gem of a painting. It just GLOWS. I love it, and I know it will sell and I know I will miss it just like I miss the last leaf triptych series I did (the maple leaf triptych).

So stay tuned for the last in the series and then the whole set together. I get the feeling it is going to take our breath away. 

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