4–>Fall Fig step by step


Detailed value sketch

Here are some of my preliminary sketches, more detailed than I expect a lot of more experienced painters would do, but it helped me to fully understand what I was seeing, how the leaves and the shadows looked.


It was interesting to see that the larger sketch reinforced the thumbnail value sketch I made previously.  It helped me to do a line sketch another day.


Other sketches



So I felt that I “knew” the fig leaves and light and I had the painted value sketch hanging around on the easel over several days and I was still excited about translating it into a real painting.

Step one was to put a light under-painting to define and isolate the whites and put down warms and cools in a very pale wash. As usual in this stage, I lost my place and left whites on different leaves than my original plan, sigh!, so I just adjusted my thoughts and went with the whites I was “given”.


Stage one of Fall Fig

Once that wash dried, I put in the darks of the Italian cypress behind it because I knew that the effect of sunlight making jewels of select yellowing leaves relied on the dark values around them.

Then I started putting in the next layer, trying to mix pigments on the paper rather than in the palette, keeping in mind that cooler colors receded so I used them in the leaves in the back and keeping focal leaves pale and warm.  I also warmed up the leaves in bottom front.

Fig Stage Two

Fig Stage Two



I deliberately left the foreground suggestive rather than detailed. But I am open to suggestions that it might need a bit more definition, or warmth?  I really like it now because as I was bringing color down into the bottom and then just brushed it aside with a sweeping motion mixing colors at the same time, as I often see in professional painting videos.

I thought I was finished before I really was, at the stage three photo, but my daughter suggested (and I saw it when she mentioned it) that she knew I was trying to have the yellows pop, but the values behind them weren’t dark enough…and sure enough, it didn’t match my value sketch.  Once she’s left the house for college, I will have to figure these things out on my own!   I’m sure with fresh eyes on another day, I would have seen it.  If you squint at this stage three, you see that the a lot of the leaves all have the same value of darkness.

Stage three of fig

Stage three of fig

I wasn’t crazy about adding more layers to those leaves because I would be losing some of the transparency, so in the future I have to practice, practice to get the values spot on the first time.  It’s hard to do because paint dries lighter than when it’s wet, so it’s a matter of more painting and paying attention to that.

So when I was deciding what dark value blue to use, I tried out indigo and indanthrone  blue on a separate piece of paper, and noticed that indanthrone was warmer, so I chose that one to let the cooler cerulean chromium layered leaves at the very back look further away.


Fall Fig in its final stage

So I would love to hear your comments and suggestions.  Do you think the foreground, left corner, needs more?  is there anything confusing that bothers you?  I really appreciate your comments and suggestions and hearing from you!






12 thoughts on “4–>Fall Fig step by step

  1. Rachel, One thing that distracts me is the fairly straight diagonal line formed by the dark green Cypress, in back. You might want to vary it a little more and perhaps tinge an edge with some yellow to indicate the sun shining through or past that plant to hit the bright leaves in the foreground. Nice work, I commend your focus on this project. Barbara


    • Thanks for that suggestion Barbara. I hadn’t seen that and I’ll have to consider what I could do now, or do when I repaint the scene. I will try out some ideas on wet acetate over top of it. Perhaps I could have a varied edge tucked in behind the area near the yellows of a lighter green. Or there’s always cropping (a la the Riordan workshop!) but I think it needs the sky area. Thanks so much for the constructive criticism and suggestions.


  2. I love your painting Rachel. The light source on your leaves is beautiful. One idea to check you composition…Use an 8×10 mat and move it around the painting. When I zoomed in on you painting, the bottom left hand corner that you asked about wasn’t needed in the painting.


  3. Ha! I deal with this all the time, sometimes to the point that I go too far. I have learned to tell myself that each painting is a step in the right direction. Very few end up my favorites in the long run. The ones that stand the test of time for me are the ones that are a little different and I usually don’t like them at first, Rachel. There is something about time. I think several of the images, above are finished. I even like your beginning reference sketches. This whole post tells a story and how good is that. The thing I get asked all the time by my students is when is a painting done? I tell my students, “When you the artist says it is.” At some point, the artist has taken that image to the best of his or her ability and that is when it is finished. Excellent post!


    • Leslie, thanks so much for your detailed comment. Thanks for giving me the long view of how you view your paintings, and what to expect. Whether this is a favorite or not, I thoroughly enjoyed the process. It gripped me and kept me interested and intrigued which was a great experience for me. Thank you for your encouragement…I really appreciate it!!


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