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.
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
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
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!