Friday, April 16, 2021

Wild Tomato Plant...

Something about this time of year pushes me toward the brightest colors on my palette –– especially on a day like this, when we've had a few inches of unexpected snow. Last summer, I took photos at Tower Hill Botanic Garden in Boylston, Mass., and have had my eye on this image, as the subject of a painting, ever since. I love the vivid contrast between red foliage and the surrounding grasses. The plant is a variety of solanum lycospersicum, a wild tomato named "Barry's Crazy Cherry." 

My goal for this painting is to capture the sunlight and shadow that enlivens the ruffled leaves, and to play up the strong contrast between greens and reds (two colors almost directly opposite each other on the color wheel).  After lightly sketching the plant shape, I painted the background around it, carefully leaving the plant shape white. I'm aiming for a sun-drenched feel overall, rather than an exact copy of the grasses and other leaves surrounding the wild tomato plant. The pigment mingled freely on wet paper and resulted in interesting "blooms" (dreaded when doing a flat wash, but in this painting very deliberately invited to form by adding drops of wet wash here and there on top of the background layer which was slightly damp. 

The background wash is done in stages by working from bottom to top, primarily in different intensities of Winsor & Newton Green Gold, sometimes slightly modified with W&N Winsor Blue GS (green shade). I mixed a few puddles of these colors on my palette, keeping them wet and making sure the surface of the paper was damp as I moved upwards. To keep the visual weight at the bottom of the painting, as I neared the top the wash was thinned out as I added more and more water until I reached the top edge where the yellow-green color is very pale. 

When the background was completely dry, I erased any visible pencil lines and applied a pale wash of W&N Carmine to give the plant shape an underlying pink tone. Once that dried I began putting darker tones on each leaf, again working from the bottom up. There are plenty of interesting shapes in this subject, because of the shadows and the backlighting (the late-afternoon sun was slanting low, behind the plant). 

I'm giving attention to adding detail in the leaf veins, but aiming for restraint when working on the shadow details. I'm using only a few colors throughout –– mostly on transparent or semi-transparent staining pigments, so adding successive layers of glazing on the background the underneath layers won't lift.

Stay tuned... 

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