I really love ferns, and it's been on my bucket list of specimens to paint for a long time.  I actually finally completed two of them this spring!  Although I think they're so fascinating, getting into painting one really was quite a challenge, seriously SO MUCH GREEN!  I love the design in them, the whole big leaf is really duplicated smaller and smaller on each leaf stem as you look closely.  Then there's the fiddle heads' sweet little curls, oh so intricate, AND SO GREEN!  

Painting it really became a study in value.  This is something I learned about in a pastel class of all places years ago, but when I started to understand values, looking at your subject in grey tones to see light and dark shades, it was like a light bulb moment.  I tell my students to look through a piece of red acetate, or take a photo and convert to black and white to check if you're going dark enough with your colors for contrast.  Once you can see and adjust that, your painting almost paints itself, whether your working with many many colors, or mostly just one.


Something that I've learned (through much trial and error) is that one of the easiest ways to ruin a watercolor painting is to overwork it.  If you've ever tried this medium, I'm sure you know what I mean.  Maybe trying to finish a piece too quickly in one sitting, or by bringing in too many colors and not letting the previous colors dry, over-mixing, MUD.  Yep, been there!  So here's a little trick I often tell my students to make sure that doesn't happen... multitask!  

I often have 3-5 projects on my desk (or desks) at the same time so that I can jump between them. This allows the layers of paint to dry completely before adding another.  With watercolor being a transparent medium, it's all about the layers, and building them up slowly to maintain the integrity of those beautiful colors.  So there's my little nugget of art advice for the day...keep on painting!

Native plants and pollinators project - works in progress.

Native plants and pollinators project - works in progress.




Before I began painting much of the elements of nature, flowers, botanicals, and the like, I had never given much thought to how much time would be needed just waiting for things to bloom!  This is not something that can be rushed, coaxed or prodded generally, but just requires learning patience, which is also something watercolors demand as well, and something that was never one of my strong suits.  The word "bloom" in watercolor can be good or bad, it's when the water spreads and dries the pigment into an unexpected shape, which might be a beautiful surprise!  Or it might be a disaster.  In the case of working with colored pencils, you want to avoid the "bloom" of wax or oil build up that can end a piece of art before it's time.  (Patience my love!)

Capturing the many stages of a flower's progression has now become a fascination and fabulous mission to me instead. Waiting for the growth, enjoying the journey, and then watching as something blooms... when it's really good and ready, is always worth the wait.  My sketchbook / journal has become a fun place to record the journey and take notes of what happened along the way and when.  Then when something finally does bloom, I can be ready to jump into action and capture the moment!  I'm still working on the patience part, but I'm slowly learning the beauty of experiencing every step of the process.  I hope you're enjoying your summer...and your journey!