The second part of the mud and Hogweed demo, using the same photo as in the last blog post, to create an exercise in negative painting, something that watercolour is preeminently suited for. The photo was taken in a steep field on the South Downs where many years of cattle trampling has turned it into real ankle breaker terrain. In the middle is a broken down flintstone enclosure (for sheep?) and at one entrance is a very old ash tree that casts a long shadow up the hill in the early morning sun. The Hogweed was lit up against the dark soil behind and provided a good subject for this exercise
I begin in the same way by laying down a thin wash of raw sienna, yellow ochre and green-gold, then dropping in water and a slightly richer mix of paint, then leaving it to dry. I then ‘find’ the pale stalks of the Hogweed by painting the darker areas behind them, using a much loved sable brush, and dropping in more rich wet paint to ensure these dark areas will be dark enough once dry. Watercolour tends to lose between 20-30% of its tone once dry, which can cause a lot of disappointment until you learn/remember to correct for it.
The colours I’m using are burnt sienna, burnt umber, ultramarine blue and Old Holland deep blue, which is black in all but name. Deep blues and deep browns make gorgeous deep almost-blacks, and once you have painted the area you’re describing with your mix, dropping in a little of each colour you’ve used for that mix separately into that area allows the paint to combine on the paper and creates a more dynamic effect. Once this layer of paint dries I ‘pull out’ more stalks and seed heads using richer deeper colour, again dropping more paint into these areas. It always looks more lively to paint pretty wet and just keep adding more of that wet paint to the puddle, rather than paint with dry or dryish paint, so by richer and deeper I don’t mean drier, just more pigment in your nice wet mix; once the shape you are painting is down you can keep dropping in more of the paint mix into that area till the cows come home, it won’t go beyond that defined area. I can only hope that makes sense!