More About Shapes

Aspen trees lit from the right front - what interesting shapes were added?
  Aspen trees lit from the right front – what interesting shapes were added?

Sometimes we need to add a few things that are missing in a landscape painted plein air (on location, or, in French, “in the open air”). One of the most important things is some shapes to lead the viewer through the painting. Notice in the foreground the dark shape of the grass that begins at the bottom and kind of zig-zags to the left, then to the right and “happens” to end up at the major aspen. That wasn’t there – I added it, and also the small rocks that lead up to the aspen. I completed this little watercolor (approximately 10×7″) last week in Rocky Mountain National Park.

Notice, also, the shapes of the foliage:

Tip of the DayEdgar A. Whitney,                     sometimes called “the father of watercolor,” gave a great definition for a good shape, one which I teach in all my classes:

“A good shape is two different dimensions (longer than it is wide)

placed obliquely on the page (not completely horizontal or vertical)

with interlocking edges.”

The interlocking edges part means that the edge of the shape kind of interacts with the background like pieces of a puzzle – they don’t just boringly meet each other in a lot of hard, straight lines. Notice how the aspen foliage in “First in Line” follows this definition. The masses of foliage are also, for the most part, different sizes. :>)

Hope you’ve enjoyed this post as much as I have enjoyed writing it!

 

Tip of the day: Aspens need contrast in a painting to stand out!

More contrast behind the main aspen helps make him the star!
More contrast behind the main aspen helps make him the star!

Sometimes your photos of aspens will not have much contrast, so you have to add it by adding some dark shapes behind the aspens. The background of this watercolor didn’t have hardly any darks in the photos I worked from, so I had to add them. Weave the darks through in an interesting and varied pattern. Another idea is to make the background a solid dark with variety in the darks. Even spatter or salt dropped into a wet background will add interest. Another idea is to suggest pine tree trunks and some reds or red-oranges (I like Burnt Sienna) for variety in the dark greens.