Scapes anyone?

farmer's maket photo

My own photo reference of scapes, pepper and kale from farmer’s market

No, not EScapes, but scapes.  Have you heard of them?  I hadn’t until visiting a farmer’s market recently and picking up these curvy stems of the garlic plant that just make me smile!  You can chop them up into salads (very strong) or saute them as a milder garlic taste.  And when their heads pop open with a bit of the flower beginning — see the bulge to the left of the pepper — it’s enchanting.

Knowing I wouldn’t be able to do these in life before they wilted and dried, I decided to pose some still lifes, with the light source to the left.  For “fun” I added the kale bunch, and that’s proving to be QUITE the challenge to paint!

preparatory sketch of scapes, pepper and kale

Value sketch of scapes, pepper and kale

I thought I’d share a bit of the process with you on how I go from a photo to starting the painting. I first make a small sketch with values to understand the shapes, curves, shadows and other elements that will make the objects recognizable. This was in my sketch book.  I added the grid on top later, in order to enlarge the drawing to fit the selected paper size, in this case 11″ x 15″ (or what is called a “quarter sheet” of watercolor paper, that has traditionally been made in sheets that are 22″ x 30″.

By making the grid and putting in a grid on the larger paper, it’s a matter of transferring lines from one square to a larger one, by seeing where the drawing of the left bulge of the pepper, for example, intersects the grid lines in the smaller version and making it fit a similar dimension in the larger grid opening.

enlarged sketch for quarter sheet of watercolor paper

enlarged sketch for quarter sheet of watercolor paper. Simplified connection of darker and lighter values

enlarged sketch on the lightbox to transfer to watercolor paper

portion of enlarged sketch on the lightbox to transfer to watercolor paper.

While I’m doing this I’m not restricted to how I drew it originally but because I’m understanding it better, I can omit some lines, make less but cleaner shapes, connect shapes of certain values together to make other more interesting shapes, etc.  This is an ongoing learning process for me on how to do that, and I perhaps didn’t do it enough.

Then I trace the major lines with a darker pen or maker in order to see them more clearly when I place them on my light box and put the thicker watercolor paper on top to trace the image with a mechanical pencil onto the paper.  here’s a snippet of how that looks.

in progress watercolor

early stage of watercolor painting of scapes, pepper, and kale

And now the fun part, to start painting!  Here’s the first pass of building up color on the pepper and the scapes and putting in lights for the kale.  I’m using hansa yellow  and clear water for the highlights with warm reds (pyrrol orange and pyrrol scarlet) with a neutral Quinacridone red for the areas of each bulge that are facing the light.  I use cooler reds for the sides away from the light (permanent rose, quinacridone magenta).  I do each bulge (there must be a more precise word for these?) individually, charging them wet into wet to mingle the colors and the hard edges that form help separate one bulge from its neighbor.

Yellows glow through colors layered on top of them, such as blues or greens in this case, so we want the glow of the warm greens to contrast with the color blue greens and shadows in the kale leaves.

Stay tuned because I’ve done more work on this that I’ll talk about in the next post, on how I got “lost” in the kale leaves and found my way out!  Thanks for stopping by.  If you’d like to leave me a comment, I’d love to read it!

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6 thoughts on “Scapes anyone?

  1. wow Rachel, seeing how much you have progressed this year already, I love love the glow of the pepper and the whole is so interesting and exciting But why did you use such a small piece of paper? This should be double mounted and framed and on someones wall……..

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    • Wendy thanks!!! I am really thrilled with the pepper too. As for the size of the paper when this is matted and framed it will be 16″ x 20″ and will fit into standard precut mats. I havent done larger than this size yet because of framing costs i guess. Maybe soon i will try a larger piece. Thx for the vote of confidence that I should work bigger!

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    • I think it is very interesting…. Especially how you go step by step… Now I will wait for the finishing touch of your beautiful work….Love, Nana 💞bobbieestrada333@gmail.com

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    • Thanks so much Diane. I really procrastinated on the kale. I put down other colors thinking i needed to do the thing as a whole but then realized i should develop each section at a time. But that is in the next post!

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  2. Pingback: Farmer’s Market Scapes | Rachel Murphree Watercolors

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