Medium: Watercolor & gold leaf
Original painting is available via Tighnabruaich Gallery.
There were a number of paintings I did in the past month that led up to Descants, where I was exploring various aspects and elements of the painting in a smaller or more isolated form. Some pieces I was playing with texture, or exploring color combinations. But I finally felt ready to tackle the painting in its entirety that I had imagined.
After scribbling out and settling on a thumbnail, I transfer and finalize the sketch on my final painting surface.
And then begin the background textures. This is the tricky phase as I have to struggle with the chaos that my chosen medium presents me with, and my urge to try to contain it all and control things. It’s impossible to do so, but I try anyway. I lay in some gold leaf in the upper right areas, and the webwork texture of violet shadows in the lower left is created simply by using very liquid washes of Daniel Smith’s Lunar Violet. The natural quality of the pigment is to granulate. Many of the other Daniel Smith pigments also have this quality, and I love to experiment and use the resulting textures.
The granulated pigment provides a nice base texture to work from, but afterwards I built up on top of that, pushing the shadows back with more glazes, and pulling out highlights by either lifting pigment or applying sparing opaque whites. Foreground elements that are darker can be painted on top as well (the bugs), and I avoid as much as possible the larger light foreground areas.
After the background is mostly established, I start pulling out the foreground elements. The poppies are painted mostly with Cerulean Blue and Cobalt Blue. I have to be careful to keep my brush, water, and palette very clean when I paint these in so as not to dull the pure brightness of the colors.
I also continue to develop the background as I work because sometimes the colors and values of the foreground inform the surrounding and change what needs to happen with those elements.
Finally I get to the sylph. I start with her skin tones. Mostly very light washes of some Quinacridrone Coral, Quinacridrone Pink, Yellow Ochre, and very light touches of Burnt Umber.
The hair is blended into the surrounding areas very carefully with a dry brush, and then all of that smoothed over with a larger brush and clean water to soften the transition. I do this for the other wispy tendrils all over the piece as well.
And then her dress and wings. I went over in detail on a previous piece about dragonfly wings how I do that, and you can see it -here-.
The final element that pulled the painting together was the bright crimson bits. I didn’t know what the title to this piece was going to be until those fell into place, but as soon as I did them, I knew. All the elements of the piece — the poppies and the creatures, and even the swirls of the background — these were visible symphonies that existed in their own space and for their own purposes. But tying their world together is an rhythm, a hidden descant. Separate from, and yet integral to creation of harmony.